In a significant order, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has laid down certain rules for filing of Regular Second Appeals, with the aim of enabling easier understanding of the facts of the case.
"It is the counsel's job to make court understand the case in the fewest words for which he is paid", the Court remarked, while issuing directions for including synopsis, chronology, citations etc, in the appeal memorandu,
From March 16, 2020, the filing counsel will be required to:
The court has clarified that the registry must entertain the RSA to save limitation but it should not list the same for hearing until compliance of the abovementioned directions.
It has also held that the high court should contemplate necessary and consequential amendments to the High Court Rules and Orders [CPC] for making the service law disputes in civil courts affidavit-based, with summary powers invested in the civil courts.
The directions have been issued in a RSA titled Sarjeewan Rani v. State of Punjab & Ors., whereby Justice Rajiv Narain Raina said that these directions were aimed for proper and timely assistance of the Court in rapidly coming to grips with the issue/s arising for determination in a second appeal.
He said that the courts should not be expected to wade through voluminous paper-books and lower court judgments or the testimonies. "It is the counsel's job to make court understand the case in the fewest words for which he is paid. It is virtually impossible to cull out the issues required to be addressed in a RSA (Service) in the format hitherto adopted in second appeal on a memorandum without a head or tail. Even the prayers in the suit are often not available till the page is pointed out. This wastes a lot of court time," he remarked.
In his comprehensive order, Justice Raina further said that the directions were being issued only for service law disputes because they are fundamentally different from resolution of civil law disputes. He then went on to give the following recommendations for speedy disposal of service law matters:
Production of government documents & witnesses before the court
Unlike civil, personal and private law disputes where a need arises to lead both oral and documentary evidence, he said, service law disputed are based on reading of documentary evidence alone. He added that since those documents lay in the custody of government offices and departments, the court can take them into judicial notice.
"…Statements of producing witnesses are irrelevant in the face of public/documentary evidence and rule based adjudication. All that the trial court is required to ensure is to bring them on record for retention of the authorized copies of the original documents produced by the parties to decide a point of fact or law in issue after a due comparison with the original by court, while returning the original record brought from the defendant offices," he observed.
To further obviate production of witnesses to confirm documents in service matters, he suggested that the District Attorney and his law officers should get the official documents, produced by plaintiff/s, authenticated from the respective defending departments; and when they are acknowledged, they can be taken on record to form part of the judicial file as true and correct.
"Once the documents are in place the trial court can straightaway afford hearing and pass judgment in a summary proceeding instead of spending years on collection of official evidence and production of witnesses in a service matter. This is unlike civil litigation which has to be run through the elaborate procedure in the Civil Procedure Code," he said.
The court on went on to state that the trail court may refer the documents so produced, immediately on presentation of suit in advance and it may ask the District Attorney to obtain instructions from the department whether the documents and the pleaded facts in the pliant are true and correct copies of their originals.
"No more than a month may be given in this behalf. Any delay would have to be explained on affidavit by the District Attorney and the department. If sufficient cause is not shown to the satisfaction of the court, costs not less than Rs.5000/- should be imposed to be paid by the department first, and then made recoverable from erring officers/officials so that the State exchequer is not burdened for the apathy of its agents," the court added.
Justice Raina noted that the court's time is often wasted in waiting for appearance of government officers for production of record. Therefore, it has been directed that the trial courts be made conscious of sheer wastage of time and state exchequer spent on production of documents and they should be encouraged to find practical ways to rationalize the time taken in these processes.
Striking off defence at premature stage in service matter is of little help to plaintiff or the State because it may frustrate a proper judgment
Justice Raina has also criticized the practice of striking off the opportunity to present defence, which he believes further delay the matter. "Even in a case where the defence is struck off, the trial court has yet to deal with the rules of service and the public documents produced by the plaintiff on which he sues or relies and render judgment which will be difficult without the help of the written statement of the State," he remarked.
Complications where service law suits have rippling effect on third party rights in more than one district
The court said that service law matters, involving seniority, appointments, promotions, reversions, disciplinary action, punishments, dismissals, termination, regularization of service, often have a rippling effect onto third parties that may or may not belong to more than one district.
Therefore, the court opined that where the trial courts senses that its judgment may have an extra territorial impact, it should call for a report from the District Attorney, in consultation with the head of department. If the report is positive, the trial court should terminate the proceedings on the ground that they have inter-district impact on the rights of third party.
"This would be a sound exercise of jurisdiction for the lack of it as no court can or should pass an order which has an effect larger than its territory. Party can always be granted liberty in such a case to approach the High Court with the benefit of exemption under section 14 of the Limitation Act, 1963 of time spent in prosecuting the civil remedy although it had the jurisdiction but there was a more constructive and binding authority of the High Court across the State of origin of the cause of action," the court said.
Before parting, Justice Raina said that the aforementioned suggestions were only "constructive in nature" on how the civil court should proceed with a service law case. "The time saved can be better utilized by the civil courts in their main line duties in resolution of civil disputes," he said.
Case Title: Sarjeewan Rani v. State of Punjab & Ors.
Case No.: RSA 501/2020
Quorum: Justice Rajiv Narain Raina
Appearance: Advocate Prince Goyal (for Appellant)
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