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Bar Under Order XXIII Rule 3A Attracted If Compromise On The Basis Of Which Decree Was Passed Was Void Or Voidable: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
1 July 2021 7:35 AM GMT
Bar Under Order XXIII  Rule 3A Attracted If Compromise On The Basis Of Which Decree Was Passed Was Void Or Voidable: Supreme Court
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Bar under Rule 3A shall be attracted if compromise on the basis of which decree was passed was void or voidable, the Supreme Court has held.The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy observed that only remedy available to a party to a consent decree to avoid such consent decree is to approach the court which recorded the compromise and separate suit is...

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Bar under Rule 3A shall be attracted if compromise on the basis of which decree was passed was void or voidable, the Supreme Court has held.

The bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy observed that only remedy available to a party to a consent decree to avoid such consent decree is to approach the court which recorded the compromise and separate suit is not maintainable.

In this case, the plaintiffs filed a suit challenging a compromise decree contending that it was obtained by fraud and misrepresentation. It was contended that the consent which he gave for compromise by signing the compromise was not free consent and thus it became voidable at the instance of the plaintiff. The Trial Court, and the High Court, held that suit is barred under Order XXIII Rule 3A of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Rule 3A provides that no suit shall lie to set aside a decree on the ground that the compromise on which the decree is based was not lawful. The issue considered by the Apex court bench was whether the bar under Rule 3A of Order XXIII shall be attracted in the facts of the present case?

Referring to Rule 3 and 3A and Sections 10, 13 and 14 of the Indian Contract Act, the bench noted thus:

41. Determination of disputes between persons and bodies is regulated by law. The legislative policy of all legislatures is to provide a mechanism for determination of dispute so that dispute may come to an end and peace in society be restored. Legislative policy also aims for giving finality of the litigation, simultaneously 29 providing higher forum of appeal/revision to vend the grievances of an aggrieved party. Rule 3A which has been added by above amendment provides that no suit shall lie to set aside a decree on the ground that the compromise on which the decree is based was not lawful. At the same time, by adding the proviso in Rule 3, it is provided that when there is a dispute as to whether an adjustment or satisfaction has been arrived at, the same shall be decided by the Court which recorded the compromise. Rule 3 of Order XXIII provided that where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Court that a suit has been adjusted wholly or in part by any lawful agreement or compromise, the Court shall order such agreement or compromise to be recorded and pass a decree in accordance therewith. Rule 3 uses the expression "lawful agreement or compromise". The explanation added by amendment provided that an agreement or a compromise which is void or voidable under the Indian Contract Act, 1872, shall not be deemed to be lawful."

42. Reading Rule 3 with Proviso and Explanation, it is 30 clear that an agreement or compromise, which is void or voidable, cannot be recorded by the Courts and even if it is recorded the Court on challenge of such recording can decide the question. The Explanation refers to Indian Contract Act. The Indian Contract Act provides as to which contracts are void or voidable. Section 10 of the Indian Contract Act provides that all agreements are contracts if they are made by the free consent of parties competent to contract, for a lawful consideration and with a lawful object, and are not hereby expressly declared to be void.

43. A consent when it is caused due to coercion, undue influence, fraud, misrepresentation or mistake is not free consent and such agreement shall not be contract if free consent is wanting. Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 define coercion, undue influence, fraud and misrepresentation. Section 19 deals with voidability of agreements without free consent.

44. A conjoint reading of Sections 10, 13 and 14 indicates that when consent is obtained by coercion, undue influence, fraud, misrepresentation or mistake, such consent is not free consent and the contract becomes voidable at the option of the party whose consent was caused due to coercion, fraud or misrepresentation. An agreement, which is void or voidable under the Indian Contract Act, shall not be deemed to be lawful as is provided by Explanation to Rule 3 of Order XXIII.

Having noted it, the bench further added:

48. Whether the bar under Rule 3A of Order XXIII shall be attracted in the facts of the present case as held by the Courts below is the question to be answered by us. Rule 3A bars the suit to set aside the decree on the ground that compromise on which decree was passed was not lawful. As noted above, the word "lawful" has been used in Rule 3 and in the Explanation of Rule 3 states that "an agreement or compromise which is void or voidable under the Indian Contract Act,1872 (9 of 1872), shall not 35 be deemed to be lawful……………….;"

49. Thus, an agreement or compromise which is clearly void or voidable shall not be deemed to be lawful and the bar under Rule 3A shall be attracted if compromise on the basis of which decree was passed was void or voidable.

Referring to Banwari Lal Vs. Chando Devi (Smt.) Though LRs. And Anr., (1993) 1 SCC 581 Pushpa Devi Bhagat (Dead) Through LR. Sadhna Rai (Smt.) Vs. Rajinder Singh and Ors., (2006) 5 SCC 566 R. Rajanna Vs. S.R. Venkataswamy and Ors., (2014) 15 SCC 471 Triloki Nath Singh Vs. Anirudh Singh (Dead) Through Legal Representatives and Ors., (2020) 6 SCC 629, the court added:

55. The above judgments contain a clear ratio that a party to a consent decree based on a compromise to challenge the compromise decree on the ground that the decree was not lawful, i.e., it was void or voidable has to approach the same court, which recorded the compromise and a separate suit challenging the consent decree has been held to be not maintainable.

In this case, the court noted that the plaintiff prayed for a declaration declaring that the decree passed in O.S. No. 37 of 1984 is sham and nominal, ultravires, collusive, unsustainable invalid, unenforceable and not binding on the plaintiffs. Upholding the judgments of High Court and Trial Court on this aspect, the bench said:

"We have noted the grounds as contained in the plaint to challenge the consent decree in foregoing paragraphs from which it is clear that the compromise, which was recorded on 06.08.1984 was sought to be termed as not lawful, i.e., void or voidable. On the basis of grounds which have been taken by the plaintiff in Suit No.1101 of 1987, the only remedy available to the plaintiff was to approach the court in the same case and satisfy the court that compromise was not lawful. Rule 3A was specifically added by the amendment to bar separate suit to challenge the compromise decree which according to legislative intent to arrest the multiplicity of proceedings. We, thus, do not find any error in the judgment of trial court and High Court holding that Suit No.1101 of 1987 was barred under Order XXIII Rule 3A.


Case: R. Janakiammal vs. SK Kumarasamy (Deceased) [CA 1537 OF 2016]
Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy
Counsel: Sr. Adv V. Giri and Sr. Adv Gaurav Agrawal, Sr. Adv Kapil Sibal, Sr. Adv S. Nagamuthu
Citation: LL 2021 SC 280

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