Mr.A.S.Asthavadi, learned advocate for respondent No.1 waives service of notice of Rule for the said respondent. Respondents Nos.2 to 6 have not appeared pursuant to issuance of notice to them. Respondents Nos.6 and 7 stand deleted. Considering the nature of the issue involved in the petition and with the consent of learned counsel for the parties, the petition is being heard and finally decided.
2. The challenge in this petition preferred under Articles-226 and 227 of the Constitution of India is to the order dated 02.02.2013, passed by the learned 7th Additional District Judge, Ahmedabad Rural ( The District Court , for short) in Restoration Application No.30/2011, whereby, the said application has been rejected.
3. Briefly stated, the relevant facts are as follows:
The petitioners filed Special Civil Suit No.395/1990, which was dismissed by the Trial Court vide judgment and decree dated 30.08.2008. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioners preferred an appeal, being Regular Civil Appeal No.37/2008 before the District Court. The said appeal was dismissed by an order dated 17.04.2010, for want of prosecution. Upon coming to know about the dismissal of the appeal in the month of January, 2011, the petitioners applied for a certified copy of the order from the Registry of the District Court. It is the case of the petitioners that their learned advocate neither appeared in the appeal nor informed them regarding its dismissal. As there was a delay of 273 days in filing the application for restoration, the petitioners filed an application for condonation of delay, being Application No.22/2011. By an order dated 01.02.2012, the District Court condoned the delay. The application for restoration of the appeal, filed by the petitioners, was then registered and taken up for hearing. However, by the impugned order dated 02.02.2013, the District Court has rejected the said application. Being aggrieved, the petitioners have invoked the jurisdiction of this Court.
Mr.Bhargav Karia, learned counsel for the petitioners has forcefully submitted that the petitioners ought not to be deprived of an opportunity of hearing in the appeal, as they have neither been careless nor negligent in the prosecution of the appeal. The petitioners had engaged an advocate, therefore, their personal presence on every date was not required. The petitioners were under a genuine impression that the proceedings of the appeal were being regularly conducted and taken care of by their advocate. However, the petitioners later came to know that the appeal had been dismissed for want of prosecution as their advocate did not remain present before the Court from September, 2009 to April, 2010. That when the case was handed over to a reputed advocate, the petitioners were under a bonafide belief that it would be taken care of. However, for reasons best known to the advocate, he did not remain present on the dates of hearing, resulting in the dismissal of the appeal. It is contended that the petitioners cannot be made to suffer for the lapses of their advocate, especially as no notice of the hearing of the appeal was issued to the petitioners, but was issued only to their advocate, which is clear from the impugned order. That the delay in filing the application for restoration has already been condoned on the same facts, therefore, the District Court erred in law in ignoring this aspect and rejecting the application for restoration.
Learned counsel for the petitioners has further urged that the District Court could have re-admitted the appeal under the provisions of Order-41 Rule-19 as the petitioners have shown sufficient cause why they could not remain present when the appeal was called for hearing, subject to imposition of costs. Learned counsel for the petitioners has submitted that this Court, while issuing notice in the petition, has directed the petitioners to deposit Rs.10,000/- as costs of the respondent, which amount has been deposited by them. Only thereafter, was notice issued in the petition. On the above grounds, learned counsel for the petitioners has prayed that the impugned order be quashed and set aside and the appeal restored.
In support of the above submissions, learned counsel for the petitioners has placed reliance upon the following judgments :
Rafiq and another Vs. Munshilla and another, reported in (1981) 2 SCC 788.
International Airports Authority of India Vs. M.L.Dalmia Company Limited, reported in JT 2002 (2) SC 172.
Ram Kumar Gupta and others Vs. Har Prasad and another, reported in AIR 2010 SC 1159.
The petition has been opposed by Mr.A.S. Asthavadi, learned counsel for respondent No.1 by submitting that there is no illegality or perversity in the impugned order dismissing the restoration application. The petitioners have been negligent and have failed to remain present before the District Court during several hearings of the appeal; therefore, the said Court has rightly refused to restore their appeal. A litigant who is not vigilant about his case and is negligent and careless in prosecuting it, has to bear the consequences. The petitioners cannot throw the entire blame on their advocate as it was their duty to prosecute their case in a proper manner. Such being the case, no reasonable explanation has been offered by the petitioners for remaining absent, leave alone any apology. The judgments cited on behalf of the petitioners would, therefore, not be applicable. On the above grounds, it is urged on behalf of respondent No.1 that the petition be rejected.
This Court has heard learned counsel for the respective parties at length and perused the material on record.
It is the case of the petitioners that they had entrusted the prosecution of the appeal filed by them to their learned advocate and were under a genuine and bonafide impression that it would be properly taken care of by him. They were also under the impression that since their advocate would appear, they were not required to be present in the Court on every date. However, as their advocate did not appear in the appeal and did not even inform the petitioners to remain present on the dates of hearing, the appeal came to be dismissed for want of prosecution, by an order dated 17.04.2010. The petitioners were not informed by their advocate regarding the dismissal of the appeal and only came to know about it in the month of January, 2011, when they made enquiries in the Registry of the District Court. Thereafter, they applied for a certified copy of the order on 29.01.2011, which was received on 01.02.2011. The application for restoration was filed on 14.02.2011. As there was a delay of 273 days in filing the application for restoration, the petitioners filed an application for condonation of delay, stating therein that their advocate neither remained present during the hearing of the appeal, nor informed them regarding its dismissal and they come to know only after making enquiries from the Registry. The District Court, vide order dated 01.02.2012, has condoned the delay, finding that the petitioners had shown sufficient cause for the same, placing reliance upon the judgment of the Supreme Court in Collector, Land Acquisition, Anantnag and another Vs. Mst.Katiji and others, reported in AIR 1987 SC 1353. The respondents did not appear in the application despite service of notices and did not oppose the said application.
The very same explanation that has been found satisfactory by the District Court for condonation of the delay, namely that the learned advocate for the petitioners did not remain present during the hearing of the appeal and did not inform the petitioners regarding the hearings of the case or its dismissal for default, failed to find favour with the same Court, while deciding the application for restoration of the appeal. It is clear from the grounds advanced by the petitioners in both the applications, that they are essentially and substantially the same. The main, and only, reason mentioned by the petitioners is the negligence of their learned advocate in prosecuting the appeal and its dismissal due to his absence on the date of hearing. The delay of 273 days has been condoned by the District Court on the very same grounds. However, when it came to passing an order on the application for restoration, the same Court appears to have taken a stand which, in the considered view of this Court, is rather rigid and compartmentalized, inasmuch as it has ignored the reasons that found favour with it while condoning the delay.
A perusal of the impugned order makes it abundantly clear that notice regarding the hearing of the appeal was issued only to the learned advocate for the petitioners, and not to the petitioners. It is clearly stated in the said order that it was the duty of the advocate to remain present after issuance of notice to him and further, that he should have ensured that the petitioners are also informed to remain present before the Court. The record does not reveal that notice was issued to the petitioners. Had that been the situation, perhaps the case would be viewed from a different perspective. However, in the present circumstances it is clear from the record that no notice was sent to the petitioners but was issued only to their learned advocate. In the circumstances, if the advocate for the petitioners chooses to remain absent and does not bother to inform the petitioners to be present on the date of hearing, the petitioners cannot be visited with the penalty for his carelessness. It is clear from the record that the advocate did not remain present on the dates of hearing and also failed to inform the petitioners regarding the dismissal of the appeal. The petitioners, themselves, made enquiries in the Registry of the District Court and on coming to know of the result of the appeal, applied for a certified copy of the order and after obtaining it, filed the applications for condonation of delay and restoration of the appeal. Insofar as the petitioners are concerned they have taken immediate action after gaining knowledge of the dismissal of the appeal, and that too by their own efforts. It cannot, therefore, be said that the petitioners have been careless or negligent in prosecuting their case. Whatever may have been the reason for the manner in which the learned advocate conducted the case, the petitioners cannot be made to suffer for lapses committed by him.
The above view of this Court is fortified by the judgments of the Supreme Court, relied upon by learned counsel for the petitioners.
In Rafiq and another Vs. Munshilal and another (Supra.), the Supreme Court has held as below :
3. The disturbing feature of the case is that under our present adversary legal system where the parties generally appear through their advocates, the obligation of the parties is to select his advocate, brief him, pay the fees demanded by him and then trust the learned Advocate to do the rest of the things. The party may be a villager or may belong to a rural area and may have no knowledge of the Court's procedure. After engaging a lawyer, the party may remain supremely confident that the lawyer will look after his interest. At the time of the hearing of the appeal, the personal appearance of the party is not only not required but hardly useful. Therefore, the party having done everything in his power to effectively participate in the proceedings can rest assured that he has neither to go to the High Court to inquire as to what is happening in the High Court with regard to his appeal nor is he to act as a watchdog of the advocate that the latter appears in the matter when it is listed. It is no part of his job. Mr. A.K.Sanghi stated that a practice has grown up in the High Court of Allahabad amongst the lawyers that they remain absent when they do not like a particular Bench. Maybe, we do not know, he is better informed in this matter. Ignorance in this behalf is our bliss. Even if we do not put our seal of imprimatur on the alleged practice by dismissing this matter which may discourage such a tendency, would it not bring justice delivery system into disrepute. What is the fault of the party who having done everything in his power expected of him would suffer because of the default of his advocate. If we reject this appeal, as Mr.A.K.Sanghi invited us to do, the only one who would suffer would not be the lawyer who did not appear but the party whose interest he represented. The problem that agitates us is whether it is proper that the party should suffer for the inaction, deliberate omission, or misdemeanour of his agent. The answer obviously is in the negative. Maybe that the learned Advocate absented himself deliberately or intentionally. We have no material for ascertaining that aspect of the matter. We say nothing more on that aspect of the matter. However, we cannot be a party to an innocent party suffering injustice merely because his chosen advocate defaulted.
(emphasis supplied) In International Airports Authority of India Vs. M.L.Dalmia Company Limited (Supra.), the Supreme Court was dealing with a case involving refusal by the concerned High Court to restore the appeal of the appellant therein. This is what the Supreme Court held:
5. Having perused the contents of the application for restoration supported by affidavit, we find that the appellant did try to explain the absence on 10.7.2001 but the explanation so offered did not appeal as plausible to the High Court, specially in view of the earlier conduct of the appellant which weighed heavily with the High Court resulting in denial of indulgence being shown to the appellant. Looking at the stakes involved and keeping in view the weighty consideration that so far as practicable, a litigant ought not to be denied a hearing on merits, we are inclined, in the facts and circumstances of this case, to allow the appellant one more opportunity of hearing in the appeal on merits by restoring the same on the file of the High Court, but subject to terms.
In Ram Kumar Gupta and others Vs. Har Prasad and another (Supra.), the Supreme Court has clearly held as under :
3. ***** The case that was made out by the appellants for restoration of the writ petition was that the learned counsel for the appellants Sh. Gupta could not appear before the learned Judge of the High Court as at that point of time, he was designated as Additional Advocate General of the State and for that reason, it was not possible for him to appear at the time of hearing of the writ petition as well as for restoration of the writ petition. Keeping this fact in mind and the fact that the appellants could not be represented at the time of hearing of the writ petition, we feel it appropriate to restore the writ petition to its original file in order to give an opportunity to the appellants to contest the same on merits. As noted hereinabove, for restoration of the writ petition dismissed for non-prosecution, an application for restoration was filed by the appellants which was rejected only on the ground of delay and latches. But on a perusal and on proper examination of the record of this case, we find that no delay was caused by the appellants in filing the application for restoration of the writ petition. In any view of the matter, the appellants cannot be punished for the lapses even if there was any, as the appellants had engaged a learned counsel to appear and contest the writ petition. That apart, considering the fact that the appellants had been prosecuting the litigation since 1982 diligently and there was no lapse on their part till the writ petition was dismissed for non prosecution and also considering the fact that a lawyer was engaged by them to contest the matter in the High Court who, however, subsequently was designated as an Additional Advocate General of the State and, therefore, could not be present at the time the writ petition was taken up for hearing, we cannot but hold that it would be improper that the appellants should be punished for non appearance of the learned counsel for the appellants at that time as we are of the view that the appellants were suffering injustice merely because their chosen advocate had defaulted. In Rafiq & Anr. vs. Munshilal & Anr. [1981 (2) SCC 788], this Court has also drawn the same conclusion while considering the application for restoration of a writ application when the learned counsel for the appellant could not be present at the time of hearing of the application.
(emphasis supplied) The principles of law expounded by the Apex Court in the above-quoted judgments squarely apply to the facts of the case in hand. The material on record in the present case does not indicate, even remotely, a carelessness or negligent attitude towards the litigation on the part of the petitioners. Rather, it clearly reveals that no notice was issued to them but only to their advocate, who defaulted in appearing before the District Court. It would be highly unjust and unfair to blame the petitioners for this sorry state of affairs, and make them suffer for the indifferent attitude of the lawyer they had engaged to conduct their case.
The District Court has observed in the impugned order, that a litigant is expected to remain vigilant about his case and not throw the blame on his advocate. It is further observed that a litigant who sleeps over his rights and suddenly arises from slumber, cannot expect any relief from the Court. This Court finds that observations of such a nature are totally unwarranted and misplaced, considering the facts of the case. Further, the same Court has condoned the delay on the very same grounds. It is, no doubt, true that a litigant who is careless and negligent in prosecuting his case may not normally be granted relief by overriding the rights that may have accrued to the other side. However, the Court is enjoined to do substantial justice to the parties, and in the present case, the cause of substantial justice would be advanced by restoring the appeal, rather than in depriving the petitioners of an opportunity of hearing and decision of the appeal on merits, for no fault of their own.
As already discussed hereinabove, it is clearly established that the advocate of the petitioners did not remain present despite notice being issued to him. No notice for remaining present was issued to the petitioners. The District Court has condoned the delay on the same grounds but has rejected the application for restoration by ignoring the ground realities of the case, on highly specious and unconvincing grounds. In the view of this Court, the impugned order suffers from perversity, justifying the interference of this Court in exercise of its supervisory jurisdiction, to further the ends of justice and fair play.
The petitioners have already deposited an amount of Rs.10,000/- as costs in this Court. It would, therefore, be just and proper, to pass the following order :
The petition is allowed. The impugned order dated 02.02.2013 passed by the learned 7th Additional District Judge, Ahmedabad Rural in Restoration Application No.30/2011 is hereby quashed and set aside. Regular Civil Appeal No.37/2008 filed by the petitioners is restored to its original status on file. The Registry shall have drawn an Account Payee cheque in the name of respondent No.1 for an amount of Rs.10,000/- deposited by the petitioners in the Registry of this Court, and hand it over to Mr.A.S.Asthavadi, learned advocate for respondent No.1, towards the costs of the said respondent.
Rule is made absolute, accordingly.
(SMT. ABHILASHA KUMARI, J.) Gaurav+ Page 18 of 18