The Supreme Court has clarified that the mandatory time-line for filing written statement is not applicable to non-commercial suits. As regards non-commercial suits, the time-line for written statement is directory and not mandatory, the Court held.
The courts have the discretion to condone delay in filing of written statement in non-commercial suits, held a bench comprising CJI SA Bobde, Justices Surya Kant and BR Gavai.
The Court was considering an appeal against a judgment of Delhi High Court, which affirmed the decision of the trial court to strike of the appellant's defence on the ground of delay in filing written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
The High Court followed the decision of a co-ordinate bench in Oku Tech Pvt Ltd v. Sangeet Agarwal and Others which held that there was no discretion with courts to extend the time for filing the written statement beyond 120 days after service of summons.
In the Supreme Court, the appellant contended that the decision in Oku Tech Pvt Ltd was rendered in a commercial suit. In respect of a non-commercial suit, the time-line of 90 days for written statement is only directory and not mandatory, contended the appellant, relying on the SC precedent in Salem Advocate Bar Association v Union of India.
The SC noted that the principle in Oku Tech was approved by the SC in SCG Contracts India Pvt. Ltd vs. K.S. Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd holding that the time line for filing written statement is mandatory in commercial suits.
But that principle will not apply to non-commercial suits :
"As regard the timeline for filing of written statement in a noncommercial dispute, the observations of this Court in a catena of decisions, most recently in Atcom Technologies Ltd. v. Y.A. Chunawala and Co.,4 holds the field. Unamended Order VIII Rule I, CPC continues to be directory and does not do away with the inherent discretion of Courts to condone certain delay"
Hence, the SC held that the HC's reliance on Oku Techh was erroneous.
The Court ultimately disposed of the appeal by permitting the appellant to file written submit within a week, but with costs of Rs. 25,000.
"Courts must act stringently to ensure that all proceedings are decided within reasonable time, and it is but the duty of the judicial system to cultivate a culture of respecting deadlines and time of the Court, its officers as well as of adversaries", the SC observed.
Case : Desh Raj v Balkishan(D) through proposed LR Ms RohiniCase No : Civil Appeal No. 433/2020Coram : CJI SA Bobde, Justices Surya Kant and BR Gavai.
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