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Saturday, February 26, 2011



 Admittedly the appellants have already undergone, 

about 3 and = years imprisonment each.  The incident is 

14   years   old.     The   appellants   and   the   prosecutrix   are 

married  (not to each other).  The prosecutrix  has also
two   children.     An   application   and   affidavit   has   been 

filed before us stating that the parties want to finish 

the   dispute,   have   entered   into   a   compromise   on 

01.09.2007,   and   that   the   accused   may   be   acquitted   and 

now there is no misunderstanding between them.  

        Section   376   is   a   non   compoundable   offence, 

However, the fact that  the incident is an old one, is a 

circumstance for invoking the proviso to Section 376 (2) 

(g) and awarding a sentence less than 10 years, which is 

ordinarily the minimum sentence under that provision, as 

we think that there are adequate and special reasons for 

doing so.  

                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                 CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 749 OF 2007

BALDEV SINGH & ORS.                        ......Appellant (s)


STATE OF PUNJAB                           .....Respondent  (s)

                          O R D E R

         This   appeal   has   been   filed   against   the   impugned

judgment dated 27.0.2005 IN CRLA No. 242 of 1999 of the

High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh.  

         The   facts   of   the   case   have   been   set   out   in   the

judgment   of   the   High   Court   and   hence   we   are   not

repeating the same here, except where necessary.

         The   prosecution   case   is   that   on   03.03.1997   at

about 6.30 A.M. the prosecutrix was coming to her house

after answering the call of nature. The three appellants

caught her and took her into a house and raped her and

beat   her.     After   police   investigation   the   appellants

were charge sheeted,   and after a trial were convicted

under   Section   376   (2)   (g)   and   Section   342     I.P.C.   and

sentenced   to   10   years   R.I.   and   to   pay   a   fine   of   Rs.

1,000/-   each.     The   sentence   was   upheld   by   the   High

Court, and hence this appeal.

         Admittedly the appellants have already undergone,

about 3 and = years imprisonment each.  The incident is

14   years   old.     The   appellants   and   the   prosecutrix   are

married  (not to each other).  The prosecutrix  has also



two   children.     An   application   and   affidavit   has   been

filed before us stating that the parties want to finish

the   dispute,   have   entered   into   a   compromise   on

01.09.2007,   and   that   the   accused   may   be   acquitted   and

now there is no misunderstanding between them.

        Section   376   is   a   non   compoundable   offence,

However, the fact that  the incident is an old one, is a

circumstance for invoking the proviso to Section 376 (2)

(g) and awarding a sentence less than 10 years, which is

ordinarily the minimum sentence under that provision, as

we think that there are adequate and special reasons for

doing so.

        On   the   facts   of   the   case,   considering   that   the

incident happened in the year 1997 and that the parties

have themselves entered into a compromise, we uphold the

conviction  of the  appellant but  we reduce  the sentence

to the period of sentence already undergone in view of

the   proviso   to   Section   376   (2)   (g)   which   for   adequate

and   special   reasons   permits   imposition   of   a   lesser

sentence.  However, we direct that each of the appellant

will pay a sum of Rupees 50,000/- by way of enhancement

of fine to the victim envisaged under Section 376 of the

IPC itself.  The fine shall be paid within three months

from today.  In the event of failure to pay the enhanced

amount of fine it will be recovered as arrears of land

revenue and will be given to the victim.


       The appeal is disposed off.      

                                   [MARKANDEY KATJU]

                                   [GYAN SHDHA MISRA]
FEBRUARY 22, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011





                 CIVIL APPEAL NO.2058 OF 2011

(Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C) No.11544/08

Narayan Dutt & others                         ...Appellant(s)

                            - Versus -

State of Punjab & another                    ...Respondent(s)


                 Civil Appeal No.2059 of 2011

      [Arising out of SLP (C) No.5910/11 (CC No.3090/10)]

State of Punjab                              ...Appellant(s)

                            -    Versus -

Rajinder Pal Singh & others                  ...Respondent(s)

                        J U D G M E N T


1.      Delay condoned.

2.      Leave   is   granted   in   both   the   special   leave

        petitions.   They   are   heard   together   as   common

        questions of facts and law are involved.


3.    One   Kiranjit   Kaur,   daughter   of   a   handicapped

      school   master,   was   abducted   when   she   was

      returning   from   school   on   29.07.1997,   and   then

      gang-raped   and   murdered   by   Gurprit   Singh,

      Jagraj   Singh,   Desh   Raj   and   Partap   Singh.   The

      Hon'ble   Additional   Sessions   Judge,   Barnala,

      after holding the trial convicted and sentenced

      them   to   undergo   life   imprisonment.   In   the   area

      an   Action   Committee   was   formed   to   ensure   that

      accused   persons,   involved   in   the   gang-rape   and

      murder   of   that   girl,   were   brought   to   book.

      That committee consisted, inter-alia, of Manjit

      Singh,   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt,   accused   in

      the   present   case,   as   its   members.   Ultimately,

      the   accused   persons   in   the   case   of   gang-rape

      and   murder   of   Kiranjit   Kaur   were   punished,   as


4.    On   3.03.2001,   Beant   Singh   (father   of   Jagraj

      Singh),   Dalip   Singh   (grandfather   of   Jagraj

      Singh),   Gurnam   Singh   and   Rajinder   Pal   Singh


      (nephew   of   Dalip   Singh),   while   coming   out   of

      Court,   after   hearing   a   criminal   case,   were

      attacked   by   a   mob   consisting   of   7   persons,

      namely-   Sukhwinder   Singh,   Labh   Singh   and   Avtar

      Singh   (all   armed   with   kirpans),   Bakhtaur   Singh

      (armed with a ghop), Manjit Singh (armed with a

      kirch),   along   with   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt

      (both   without   any   weapon   in   their   hands).

      Apparently,   Bakhtaur   Singh   gave   a   blow   to   the

      head   of   Dalip   Singh,   who   was   being   allegedly

      held   by   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt,   which

      resulted in his death.

5.    Beant Singh lodged an FIR on the same day under

      Sections   307,   148,   149   and   120-B   of   IPC   and

      investigation   commenced   in   the   matter.   During

      the   course   of   investigation   Dalip   Singh   had

      passed away, and thus, the charge under Section

      302   IPC   was   added.   After   investigation,   the

      police, in its report under Section 173 Cr.P.C,

      found that Manjit Singh, Prem Kumar and Narayan


      Dutt   were   innocent.   Thus,   charge   sheet   was

      filed   by   the   police   only   against   the   remaining

      four   accused   under   Sections   302/34,   326,   325,

      324   and   323   IPC   and   the   case   was   committed   to

      the   Court   of   Sessions   for   trial.   At   the   stage

      of   trial,   Beant   Singh   moved   an   application   on

      11.9.2001 under Section 319 Cr.P.C.,   whereupon

      the   Sessions   Judge   by   an   order   dated   19.9.2001

      summoned   Manjit   Singh,   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan

      Dutt.   The   Sessions   Judge   found   a   prima-facie

      case   against   them   and   framed   charges   against

      all   accused,   including   those   three,   under

      Sections 302, 148, 326, 325, 324 and 323 of IPC

      on 6.2.2002.

6.    However,         the         prosecution         then         filed         an

      application   dated   29.10.2002   under   section   321

      Cr.P.C.,   seeking   to   withdraw   the   case   against

      Manjit   Singh,   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt   and

      that   was   disallowed   by   the   Trial   Court   vide

      order dated 7.11.2002.


7.    Aggrieved,   the   accused   filed   criminal   revision

      petitions   (No.   2248/2002   and   2413/2002),   which

      were   dismissed   by   the   High   Court   of   Punjab   and

      Haryana   vide   common   order   dated   14.10.2003.   A

      Special   leave   petition   filed   by   the   State   of

      Punjab   against   the   order   of   the   High   Court

      dated   14.10.2003   was   also   dismissed   by   this


8.    Accordingly,   the   trial   commenced   against   all

      the 7 accused.

9.    The         Additional         Sessions         Judge,         Barnala,

      convicted all the accused by judgment and order

      dated   28.03.2005   and   convicted   them   under

      Sections   148   IPC   and   Sections   302,   302/149,

      323,   149,   324,   325   and   326   on   various   counts

      and   passed   an   order   of   life   sentence   on



10.    All   the   accused   appealed   before   the   High   Court

       of   Punjab   and   Haryana.   During   the   pendency   of

       the   appeals,   Narayan   Dutt,   Manjit   Singh   and

       Prem   Kumar   also   filed   petitions   under   Article

       161   of   the   Constitution   of   India   before   the

       Governor of Punjab.

11.    The   Governor   of   Punjab,   vide   order   dated

       24.07.2007,   in   exercise   of   his   powers   under

       Article   161,   granted   pardon   to   Narayan   Dutt,

       Prem   Kumar   and   Manjit   Singh   and   they   were

       directed to be released immediately.

12.    Challenging that order Rajinder Pal Singh filed

       a writ petition before the High Court of Punjab

       and Haryana.

13.    The   criminal   appeals   of   the   accused   and   the

       writ   petition   of   Rajinder   Pal   Singh   were   heard

       together   by   the   High   Court   of   Punjab   and

       Haryana.   The   High   Court   framed   two   questions

       for consideration:


       a.    Whether   case   of   the   prosecution   is

       proved   against   all   the   appellants   by

       evidence on record?

       b.    Whether   the   order   of   pardon   is

       sustainable in law?

14.    Vide   the   impugned   common   judgment   dated

       11.03.2008,   the   High   Court   allowed   the   writ

       petition   and   set   aside   the   order   of   pardon   of

       the   Governor   of   Punjab.   It   gave   the   benefit   of

       doubt   to   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt,   and

       allowed   their   appeals   by   acquitting   them.

       However,   the   conviction   and   sentence   of

       Sukhwinder   Singh,   Labh   Singh,   Bakhtaur   Singh,

       Avtar   Singh   and   Manjit   Singh   was   upheld   by   the

       High   Court   and   it   was   of   the   opinion   that   the

       prosecution   had   successfully   established   the

       offences against them.

15.    Against   the   said   impugned   judgment   dated

       11.03.2008,   the   State   of   Punjab   filed   Special

       Leave   Petition   (CC   No.3090/2010)   before   this

       Court.   Accused   Narayan   Dutt,   Prem   Kumar   and


       Manjit   Singh   also   filed   another   Special   Leave

       Petition   (No.11544/2008)   before   this   Court.

       Both   the   Special   Leave   Petitions   were   directed

       against the order of the High Court whereby the

       order   of   pardon   by   the   Governor   of   Punjab   was

       set aside.

16.    In   the   background   of   these   facts,   questions   of

       law arising before us are:

       a.    Whether the power under Article 161 is

       subject   to   judicial   review   and   if   yes,   to

       what extent?

       b.    Whether   the   Governor   had   rightly

       exercised   his   power   to   pardon   under

       Article 161?

17.    The order of the Governor dated 6.8.2007, which

       is   relevant   in   the   present   context,   reads   as


       "I have considered the matter carefully.

       Ever   since   the   lodging   of   FIR,   there   has

       been   a   widespread   public   belief   that

       Sarvshri   Narain   Dutt,   Prem   Kumar   and

       Manjit   Singh   had   been   falsely   implicated

       in   the   murder   of   Dalip   Singh,   because   of

       their   role   as   leaders   of   the   Action

       Committee set up to secure justice for the


       late Kiranjit Kaur's family. This has been

       corroborated  by the  investigation into  the

       case,   during   the   course   of   which,   the

       above   three   persons   were   found   to   be

       innocent.   The   Intelligence   Wing   has   also

       supported the innocence of these persons.

       It   is   also   noteworthy   that   out   of   the   7

       persons   accused   and   convicted   for   the

       murder   of   Dalip   Singh,   pardon   has   been

       sought   only   for   the   three   persons   that

       have   been   found   to   be   innocent.   This

       benefit   has   not   been   proposed   for   the

       other          4         accused.                    Further,                    the

       recommendation   for   pardon   had   initially

       been moved by the previous government, and

       has also been endorsed by the present one.

       Hence,  the recommendation  for pardon  seems

       to be objective and bona fide.

       The   courts   have   held   that   the   power   under

       Article   72   and   161   is   a   wide   power,

       conferred   inter   alia   with   the   purpose   of

       doing   justice   in   cases   even   where   the

       courts might have convicted a person.

       In view of the above, I exercise my powers

       under   Article   161   and   grant   "pardon"   to

       Sarvshri   Narain   Dutt,   Prem   Kumar   and

       Manjit         Singh          in         FIR         No.         56         dated

       03.03.2001 P.S- Kotwali Barnala."

18.    Article   161   of   the   Constitution   of   India

       confers on the Governor of a State the right to

       grant pardons, remissions, reprieves or commute

       the   sentence   of   any   person   convicted   of   any


       offence against any law relating to a matter to

       which the executive power of the State extends.

19.    The nature and scope of the power of pardon and

       the   extent   of   judicial   review   over   such   power

       has   come   up   for   consideration   in   a   catena   of

       cases and has now virtually crystallised into a

       rule of law.

20.    In  Maru   Ram   &   Ors.  v.  Union   of   India   &   Ors.

       [AIR 1980 SC 2147] Krishna Iyer J, speaking for

       the   Constitution   Bench,   held   that   although   the

       power under Articles 72 and 161 were very wide,

       it   could   not   "run   riot".     His   Lordship   held

       that   no   legal   power   can   run   unruly   like   John

       Gilpin on the horse, but "must keep sensibly to

       a   steady   course".   According   to   His   Lordship,

       "all   public   power,   including   constitutional

       power,   shall   never   be   exercisable   arbitrarily

       or   mala   fide   and,   ordinarily,   guidelines   for


       fair   and   equal   execution   are   guarantors   of   the

       valid play of power." (para 62 at p. 2170)

21.    The   Court   further   observed   that   "Article   14   is

       an   expression   of   the   egalitarian   spirit   of   the

       Constitution   and   is   a   clear   pointer   that

       arbitrariness   is   anathema   under   our   system.   It

       necessarily   follows   that   the   power   to   pardon,

       grant   of   remission   and   commutation,   being   of

       the   greatest   moment   for   the   liberty   of   the

       citizen,   cannot   be   a   law   unto   itself   but   must

       be         informed         by          the         finer            canons         of

       constitutionalism." The Constitution Bench also

       observed   "the   Government   is   not   and   should   not

       be   as   free   as   an   individual   in   selecting   the

       recipients   for   its   largesse.   Whatever   its

       activity,           the          Government               is         still          the

       Government   and   will   be   subject   to   restraints,

       inherent   in   its   position   in   a   democratic

       society.   A   democratic   Government   cannot   lay

       down arbitrary and capricious standards for the


       choice of persons with whom alone it will deal...

       Every   action   of   the   Executive   Government   must

       be informed with reason and should be free from

       arbitrariness...   it   makes   no   difference   whether

       the   exercise   of   the   power   involves   affectation

       of some right or denial of some privilege... From

       this   angle,   even   the   power   to   pardon,   commute

       or remit is subject to the wholesome creed that

       guidelines   should   govern   the   exercise   even   of

       Presidential power." (para 63 at p. 2170-71)

22.    The   Bench   cautioned   that   political   vendetta   or

       party   favoritism   should   not   be   the   basis   of

       exercising such power. It also advised that the

       government   should   make   rules   for   its   own

       guidance in the exercise of the pardon power to

       exclude the vice of discrimination.

23.    In         conclusion,         the          Bench         observed         that

       considerations   for   exercise   of   power   under

       Articles   72/161   "may   be   myriad   and   their


       occasions   protean,   and   are   left   to   the

       appropriate   Government,   but   no   consideration

       nor         occasion         can          be         wholly         irrelevant,

       irrational,   discriminatory   or   mala   fide.   Only

       in   these   rare   cases   will   the   court   examine   the

       exercise." (para 72 at p. 2175)

24.    In   the   subsequent   Constitution   Bench   decision

       in  Kehar Singh & Anr.  v.  Union of India & Anr.

       [AIR   1989   SC   653]   on   the   same   question,   this

       Court quoted the United States Supreme Court in

       Ex   Parte   Williams   Wells,   (1854-57)   15   Law   Ed

       421,   on   its   power   to   scrutinize   the     exercise

       of   this   power   and     pointed   out   that   it   was   to

       be used "particularly when the circumstances of

       any   case   disclosed   such   uncertainties   as   made

       it   doubtful   if   there   should   have   been   a

       conviction   of   the   criminal,   or   when   they   are

       such   as   to   show   that   there   might   be   a

       mitigation   of   the   punishment   without   lessening

       the   obligation   of   vindicatory   justice."   The


       Bench   also   quoted   Chief   Justice   Taft   in  Ex

       parte   Philip   Grossman,   (1924)   267   US   87),

       wherein the learned Chief Justice opined:

       "Executive   clemency   exists   to   afford

       relief   from   undue   harshness   or   evident

       mistake         in         the          operation         or         the

       enforcement   of   the   criminal   law.   The

       administration of justice by the Courts is

       not   necessarily   always   wise   or   certainly

       considerate   of   circumstances   which   may

       properly   mitigate   guilt.   To   afford   a

       remedy,         it   has          always   been            thought

       essential   in   popular   governments,   as   well

       as   in   monarchies,   to   vest   in   some   other

       authority         than   the                 Courts   power          to

       ameliorate   or   avoid   particular   criminal

       judgments..." (para 8 at p. 658)

25.    The   Bench   having   regard   to   the   nature   of   the

       power of the President under Article 72, stated

       that   the   President   under   Article   72   could

       scrutinize the evidence on record of a criminal

       case   and   come   to   a   different   conclusion   from

       that   of   the   court.   In   doing   so,   "the   President

       does   not   amend   or   modify   or   supersede   the

       judicial   record.   The   judicial   record   remains

       intact,   and   undisturbed.   The   President   acts   in

       a wholly different plane from that in which the


       Court   acted.   He   acts   under   a   constitutional

       power,   the   nature   of   which   is   entirely

       different from the judicial power and cannot be

       regarded   as   an   extension   of   it."   The   Bench

       quoted   with   approval   the   formulations   of

       Sutherland,   J.   in  U.S.  v.  Benz,   (1930)   75   Law

       Ed 354, wherein the learned Judge held:

       "The   judicial   power   and   the   executive

       power         over         sentences         are         readily

       distinguishable.   To   render   judgment   is   a

       judicial   function.   To   carry   the   judgment

       into   effect   is   an   executive   function.   To

       cut short a sentence by an act of clemency

       is   an   exercise   of   executive   power   which

       abridges   the   enforcement   of   the   judgment,

       but does not alter it qua a judgment."

26.    In  Kehar Singh  (supra) this Court observed that

       the   order   of   the   President   under   Article   72

       could   not   be   subjected   to   judicial   review   on

       merits   except   within   the   strict   limitations

       defined   in  Maru   Ram  (supra).   Therefore,   on   the

       ambit   of   judicial   review,  Kehar   Singh  (supra)

       concurred with Maru Ram (supra).


27.    In  Swaran   Singh  v.  State   of   U.P.   &   Ors.  [AIR

       1998   SC   2026],   a   three-Judge   Bench   held   that

       "this   Court   has   no   power   to   touch   the   order

       passed by the Governor under Article 161 of the

       Constitution.   If   such   power   was   exercised

       arbitrarily, mala fide or in absolute disregard

       of   the   finer   canons   of   the   constitutionalism,

       the by-product order cannot get the approval of

       law   and   in   such   cases,   the   judicial   hand   must

       be stretched to it." (para 12 at p. 2028)

28.    Again   in  Satpal   &   Anr.  v.  State   of   Haryana   &

       Ors.  [AIR   2000   SC   1702],   this   Court   held   that

       the   power   of   granting   pardon   under   Article   161

       was   very   wide   and   did   not   contain   any

       limitation as to the time and occasion on which

       and   the   circumstances   under   which   it   was   to   be

       exercised.   Since   the   power   is   a   constitutional

       power, it is amenable to judicial review on the

       following grounds:


         a. If   the   Governor   had   been   found   to   have

            exercised   the   power   himself   without   being

            advised by the government,

         b. If         the         Governor         transgressed         his

            jurisdiction in exercising the said power,

         c. If   the   Governor   had   passed   the   order

            without applying his mind,

         d. The order of the Governor was mala fide, or

         e. The   order   of   the   Governor   was   passed   on

            some extraneous considerations.

29.    Further,   if   the   Governor   was   not   aware   of

       general   considerations   such   as   period   of

       sentence   undergone   by   the   convict,   his   conduct

       and   behaviour   while   undergoing   sentence   and

       other   such   material   considerations,   it   would

       make   the   order   of   the   Governor   under   Article

       161 arbitrary and irrational.


30.    The   Constitution   Bench   in  Bikas   Chatterjee  v.

       Union   of   India   &   Ors.     [(2004)   7   SCC   634]

       reiterated the same principles on the extent of

       judicial   review   as   laid   down   in       Maru   Ram

       (supra) and Satpal (supra).

31.    In  Epuru   Sudhakar   &   Anr.  v.  Government   of   A.P.

       &   Ors.  [AIR   2006   SC   3385]   this   Court   observed

       that   it   was   well   settled   that   the   exercise   or

       non-exercise   of   the   power   of   pardon   by   the

       President   or   Governor   was   not   immune   from

       judicial review and limited judicial review was

       available in certain cases.

32.    Justice   Pasayat,   delivering   the   judgment,

       summed   up   the   ground   on   which   judicial   review

       of   an   order   passed   under   Articles   72   and   161

       could be undertaken.  Those grounds are:

         (a)    that   the   order   has   been   passed   without

                application of mind;

            (b)    that the order is malafide;


             (c)    that   the   order   has   been   passed   on

                    extraneous                          or           wholly              irrelevant


             (d)    that   relevant   materials   have   been   kept

                    out of consideration;

             (e)    that               the                    order          suffers                  from


33.    Justice   Kapadia   (as   His   Lordship   then   was)   in

       his concurring opinion, observed that "granting

       of   pardon   is   in   no   sense   an   overturning   of   a

       judgment   of   conviction,   but   rather   it   is   an

       Executive   action   that   mitigates   or   set   aside

       the   punishment   for   a   crime.   It   eliminates   the

       effect   of   conviction   without   addressing   the

       defendant's guilt or innocence. The controlling

       factor   in   determining   whether   the   exercise   of

       prerogative power is subject to judicial review

       is   not   its   source   but   its   subject-matter."

       (para 64 at p. 3402)

34.    His   Lordship   further   added   that   "the   exercise

       of         power               depends                 upon          the         facts          and

       circumstances of each case and the necessity or


       justification for exercise of that power has to

       be   judged   from   case   to   case...   Rule   of   law

       should         be         the         overarching         constitutional

       justification   for   judicial   review."   (para   65,

       67 at p. 3402)

35.    In   that   case,   an   order   of   remission   had   been

       passed,   inter   alia,   on   an   inference   that   the

       accused   was   not   involved   in   the   murder,   was

       falsely implicated and false witnesses had been

       produced.   This   Court   held   such   reasons   to   be

       irrelevant and held that the order of remission

       was bad.

36.    From   the   abovementioned   judicial   decisions   it

       is   clear   that   there   is   limited   scope   of

       judicial review on the exercise of power by the

       Governor under Article 161.

37.    Keeping the aforesaid principles in our mind if

       we look at the order of the Governor it appears


       that   there   has   been   consideration   of   various

       aspects   of   the   matter   by   the   Governor   in

       granting   pardon.   The   Governor's   order   also

       contains some reasons.

38.        The   Governor's   order   does   not   contain   any

       reference   to   the   order   of   conviction   and

       sentence imposed on the accused persons.  It is

       axiomatic that before the power of the Governor

       under   Article   161   of   the   Constitution   is

       invoked   by   any   person,   the   condition   precedent

       is   that   such   person   or   persons   must   be

       convicted   of   any   offence   against   any   law   and

       will   be   subjected   to   undergo   a   sentence.

       Therefore,   an   omission   of   any   reference   to   an

       order   of   conviction   or   sentence   in   the

       Governor's   order   in   respect   of   the   accused   is

       really of no consequence.

39.    However, in this case before the Governor could

       pass the aforesaid order of pardon, the accused


       persons   filed   appeals   against   the   order   of

       conviction   and   sentence   and   the   same   were

       pending   before   the   Hon'ble   High   Court.   This   is

       a   relevant   fact   for   the   Governor   to   take   into

       consideration   before   granting   his   power   of

       pardon.   But,   in   the   instant   order   of   the

       Governor   there   is   no   reference   to   this   fact.

       This   court,   therefore,   is   inclined   to   infer

       that   all   relevant   facts   were   possibly   not

       placed before the Governor.

40.    Apart   from   this,   there   is   another   vital   aspect

       in   the   order   of   the   Governor   which   requires

       serious   consideration,   in   as   much   as,   in   the

       order         of      the         Governor,      there         are      some

       observations   about   the   guilt   or   innocence   of

       the accused persons who prayed for pardon under

       Article 161 of the Constitution.

41.    It   is   well   settled   that   to   decide   on   the

       innocence   or   otherwise   of   an   accused   person   in


a criminal trial is within the exclusive domain

of a Court of competent jurisdiction as this is

essentially   a   judicial   function.   A   Governor's

power   of   granting   pardon   under   Article   161

being   an   exercise   of   executive   function,   is

independent   of   the   Court's   power   to   pronounce

on   the  innocence   or  guilt   of  the   accused.    The

powers   of   a   Court   of   law   in   a   criminal   trial

and subsequent appeal right upto this Court and

that   of   the   President/Governor   under   Article

72/161   operate   in   totally   different   arenas   and

the nature of these two powers are also totally

different   from   each   other.     One   should   not

trench   upon   the   other.     The   instant   order   of

the Governor, by pronouncing upon the innocence

of the accused, has therefore, if we may say so

with         respect,         exceeded         the         permissible

constitutional   limits   under   Article   161   of   the



42.    For   these   reasons,   we   are   constrained   to   hold

       that   we   cannot   approve   the   order   of   the

       Governor. We therefore, set aside the order and

       remand   it   to   the   Hon'ble   Governor   for   re-

       consideration   of   the   matter   in   accordance   with


43.    It may be mentioned in this connection, that of

       those   three   accused   persons,   two   persons

       namely,   Prem   Kumar   and   Narayan   Dutt,   had   been

       acquitted   by   the   High   Court   by   judgment   and

       order   dated   11.3.2008   in   connection   with   the

       criminal appeals filed by them.

44.    The   appeals   are   thus   disposed   of.   No   orders   as

       to costs.


                                  (G.S. SINGHVI)



New Delhi            (ASOK KUMAR GANGULY)

February 24, 2011


material alteration = suit to be dismissed.





             CIVIL APPEAL NO.  2057  OF 2011
       (Arising out of SLP(C) No.30951 of 2008)

lTATIPAMULA NAGA RAJU                     .....APPELLANT.



PADMAVATHI                 .....RESPONDENT.

l              J U D G M E N T


1.    Leave granted.

2.    Being   aggrieved   by   the   dismissal   of   Second   Appeal


No.587 of 2008 by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, the

defendant (appellant herein)  has filed this appeal.

3.      For   the   sake   of   convenience,   parties   to   the

litigation have been described as arrayed   in the trial


4.      The suit had been filed by the plaintiff (respondent





Rs.1,90,000/-   from   the   defendant,   who   is   the   appellant

herein,   with   interest   and   the   claim   was   based   on   a

promissory note, which was alleged to have been executed

by the defendant for Rs.1,25,000/-.

5.      The   trial   court   dismissed   the   suit   in   the

circumstances stated hereinbelow:


6.    The   case   of   the   plaintiff   was   that   a   sum   of

Rs.1,25,000/- had been borrowed by the defendant and the

defendant had, therefore, executed a Promissory note for

Rs.1,25,000/-   on   18th  September,   2001.     In   spite   of

demand,  as the amount was not repaid, the plaintiff was

constraint   to   file   Original   Suit   No.933   of     2003   for


of   the







7.    The   case   of   the   defendant   was   that   though   the

Promissory note had been executed by him, no amount was

payable by the defendant to the plaintiff.  According to

the   defendant,   he   had   borrowed   Rs.1,25,000/-   from   the

son   of   the   plaintiff,     namely   Pattem   Nanaji   Sanker   @

Nanaji.     According   to   the   defendant,   four   Promissory


notes had been executed by him.  One Promissory note was

for Rs.50,000/- and three Promissory notes were for Rs.

25,000/-   each.       The   defendant   was   having   financial

difficulties and, therefore, he could not pay the said

amount to Nanaji but with the help of certain mediators,

he had settled the dues with  Nanaji for Rs.90,000/- and

paid the same to him.

8.     Upon



Rs.90,000/- by the defendant in full settlement of his

dues, Nanaji ought to have returned the aforestated four

Promissory notes to the defendant but he returned only

three Promissory notes and did not return one Promissory

note for Rs.25,000/-, as he had misplaced the same and

he   promised   that   he   would   return   the     said   promissory

note for Rs. 25,000/- as and when he would find it.


9.    According  to  the  defendant,  the  plaintiff  had  used

the said fourth Promissory note of Rs.25,000/- which had

been given by the defendant to Nanaji.  According to the

defendant,   by   adding   a   figure   `1'   before   `Rs.25,000/-'

the plaintiff had made an amount of Rs.1,25,000/- from

Rs.25,000/-. The plaintiff had taken undue advantage by

interpolating   figure   `1'     before   `25,000/-'   because

Rs.25,000/- had not been written in words.

10. Thus,   according   to   the   case   of   the   defendant,   no

amount   was   payable   by   him   to   the   plaintiff   but   the

plaintiff had misused the Promissory note given by him

to   Nanaji   by   interpolating   figure   `1'   before   figure



11. At the time of trial, hand-writing expert, DW-4 had

been   examined,   who   stated   that   figure   `1'   had   been

interpolated   in   the   Promissory   note   whereby     figure

`25,000/-'   was made `1,25,000/-'.

12. The




was   of

the   said


for   the


that he could show that space between figure `1' and `2'

was not regular and the entire figure of Rs.1,25,000/-

was not written in one line.     Figure `1',   which was

added   subsequently     was   not   in   the   same   line   of     Rs.

25,000/-.     His report was accepted by the trial court

and   after   considering   the   evidence,     more   particularly


the evidence of the hand-writing expert, the trial court

came to the conclusion that the Promissory note,   which

had been executed for Rs.25,000/- was tampered with by

the   plaintiff   by   adding   figure   `1'   so   as   to   make


13.  The trial court also discussed the evidence led by


mediators   i.e.   DW-2   and   DW-3,   in   whose   presence   the

defendant had settled his dues with Nanaji, the son of

the plaintiff.  The suit was, therefore, dismissed.

14. Being   aggrieved   by   the   dismissal   of   the   suit,   the

plaintiff had filed an appeal,  being Appeal Suit No.346

of 2006 which had been allowed by the learned Additional

District   and   Sessions   Judge   (Fast   Track   Court)


Vijayawada.     The   appeal   was   allowed   because   the   lower

appellate court put more stress on the execution of the

Promissory   note   which   had   been   admitted   by   the

defendant.   Moreover, the lower appellate court was of

the   view   that   if   the   dues   had   been   settled,   the

defendant would not have permitted Nanaji to retain one

Promissory note   for Rs.25,000/-   In the circumstances,





and   the

suit   was




for Rs.1,90,000/- with  interest thereon.

15. Being aggrieved by the order passed in the appeal,

the defendant filed Second Appeal No. 587 of 2008 in the

High   Court   of   Andhra   Pradesh   and   the   said   appeal   was

dismissed   by   the   High   Court   because   no   substantial


question of law was  involved in the appeal.

16. We   have   heard   the   learned   counsel   and   have

considered the judgments of all the three courts.

17. After   careful     consideration,     we   are   of   the   view

that   the   trial   court   had   properly   appreciated   the

evidence,     especially   the   evidence   of   the   hand-writing

expert   -   DW-4.     Upon   perusal   of   the   discussion   of

evidence   in   the   judgment,   it   is   clear   that   in   the

opinion   of   the   expert,   figure   `1'   had   been   written

subsequently   before   `25,000/-'   in   the   Promissory   note.

The trial court rightly appreciated the evidence of the

mediators, in   whose presence the dues of the defendant


had   been   settled   and   Nanaji,   son   of   the   plaintiff   was

paid   Rs.90,000/-   in   full   settlement   of   Rs.1,25,000/-

borrowed by the defendant from Nanaji. The defendant had

admitted the earlier transactions which he had with the

son of the plaintiff.   In our opinion, the evidence of

the   mediators   and   hand-writing   expert   was   duly

considered   and   appreciated   by   the   trial   court   and   the



had   come

to         a


conclusion.     There   was   absolutely   no   reason   for   the

lower   appellate   court   to   arrive   at   a   different

conclusion than the one arrived at by the trial court.

We   are,   therefore,   of   the   opinion   that   the   findings

arrived at by the trial court are absolutely correct and

no   justifiable   reasons   have   been   given   by   the   lower

appellate court for arriving at a different conclusion.


18. In   our   opinion,     simply   because   the   defendant   had

fairly admitted his signature, the court should not have

come   to   the   conclusion   that   the   amount   was   payable   by

the   defendant   especially   when   there   was   an   expert's

evidence   that   figure   `1'   was   added   so   as   to   make   the

figure   1,25,000/-   from   figure   25,000/-   and   when   the

mediators   had   deposed   to   the       effect   that   there   were

transactions between  the  defendant and the  son of the

plaintiff   and   in   pursuance   of   the   said   transaction,

Promissory notes were executed by the defendant and one

of   the   Promissory   notes   was   not   returned   to   the

defendant.     The   explanation   given   by   the   defendant,

which   was   supported   by   ample   evidence,   ought   to   have


considered   by   the   lower   appellate   court   and   the   lower

appellate   court   should   not   have   been   guided   by   a   mere

fact   that   the   defendant   had   admitted   execution   of   the

Promissory   note.     In   our   opinion,   in   such   a   set   of

circumstances,   the   defendant   ought   not   to   have   been

saddled with a liability to pay the amount in pursuance

of   the   tampered   Promissory   note   for   which   no

consideration had ever passed from the plaintiff to the


19. As   the   High   Court   did   not   find   any   substantial

question   of   law,     it   did   not   entertain   the   second



20. For   the   aforestated   reasons,   we   are   in   agreement

with the conclusion arrived at by the trial court and,

therefore,   we   set   aside   the   order   passed   by   the   High

Court as well as the order passed by the lower appellate

court   and   restore   the   order   passed   by   the   trial   court

whereby the suit had been dismissed.

21. The




accordingly but without any order as to costs.    

                                   (Dr. MUKUNDAKAM SHARMA)

                                     (ANIL R. DAVE)
New Delhi
February  24,  2011







             CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2909-2913 OF 2005

Lanka Venkateswarlu (D) by LRs.                          .. Appellants


State of A.P. & Ors                                                ..Respondents

                             J U D G M E N T


1.    These appeals are directed against the order passed

by   a   Division   Bench   of   the   High   Court   of   Judicature   of

Andhra   Pradesh   at   Hyderabad   in   CMP   Nos.   21114,

21115,   21116,   21117   and   21118   of   2003   dated   19th

August,   2003.     By   the   aforesaid   order,   the   High   Court

has allowed all the petitions/applications.

2.    In   the   applications/petitions,   respondent   No.3,

herein, had sought the following directions:-

                 No.   21114/2003:                 Petition   under

      Order   22   Rule   4   of   the   CPC   praying     that   in

      the circumstances stated in the affidavit titled

      therewith,   the   High   Court   will   be   pleased   to

      permit the petitioners to bring the above stated

      persons   as   legal   representatives   of   the

      deceased          sole         respondent         in              Appeal

      No. 8 of 1985 on the file of the High Court.

      CMP   No.   21115/2003:  Petition   U/s   praying

      that   the   High   Court   may   be   pleased   to   set

      aside   the   dismissal   Order   dated   6.2.98   in   AS

      No.8 of 1985 and to restore the appeal to file.

      CMP No. 21116/2003: Petition Under Order 9

      Rule 9 read with section 151 CPC, praying that

      the High Court may be pleased to set aside the

      abatement   caused   due   to   the   death   of   sole

      respondent i.e. Lanka Venkateswarlu.

      CMP No. 21117/2003:


      Sri D.E.V Apparao               ...Petitioner/impleaded

      Petitioner   in   AS   No.8   of   1985   on   the   file   of

      High Court


      1.     The   State   of   A.P.   rep.   by   District

             Collector, Visakhapatnam.

      2.     The Tahsildar, Visakhpatnam


      3.     Lanka                   Venkateswarlu                       (died)



      Petition under Order 1 Rule 10 CPC, prays this

      Hon'ble   Court   may   be   pleased   to   permit   the

      petitioners   society   to   be   impleaded   as

      appellant No.3 along with the appellants No. 1

      and   2   in   AS.   8   of   1985   on   the   file   of   the

      Hon'ble Court to prosecute the appeal.

      CMP   No.   21118/2003:    Petition   U/s   5   of

      Limitation Act praying the High Court may be

      pleased   to   condone   the   delay   of   883   days   in

      filing   the   petition   seeking   to   set   aside   the

      dismissal order dated 6.2.1998.

      These   petitions   coming   on   for   hearing,   upon

      perusing   the   petition   and   the   affidavit   filed   in

      support   thereof   and   upon   hearing   the

      arguments   of   Govt.   pleader   for   Appeal   for

      Petitioners in CMP Nos. 21114, 21115, 21116,

      21118   of   2003   and   of   Mr.   K.   Sarva   Bhouma

      Rao,   Advocate   for   petitioner   in   CMP

      No.   21117   of   2003   and   of   Mr.   M.S.R.

      Subramanyam,   Advocate   for   the   respondents

      in   CMP   Nos.   21114,   21115,   21116,   21118   of

      2003   and   G.P.   for   Appeal   for   the   respondents

      in CMP No. 21117 of 2003."

3.    We   may   now   briefly   notice   the   relevant   facts   as

stated  in the  pleadings   of  the  parties   and the  impugned

order   of   the   High   Court.   The   predecessor   of   the

appellants,   i.e.,   Shri   Lanka   Venkateswarlu,   (hereinafter

referred to as   `original plaintiff'), brought a suit O.S. No.

72 of 1979 before the  subordinate judge Visakhapatnam


for   the   declaration   of   his   title   as   the   absolute   owner   of

the suit schedule property and for permanent injunction

restraining   respondents   Nos.   1   and   2   from   interfering

with his peaceful possession. The suit schedule property,

to   the   extent   of   2   acres   was,   according   to   the   original

plaintiff, covered by survey No. 73/12 in Thokada village.

He   had   purchased   the   suit   schedule   property   by   a

registered   sale   deed   dated   15th  July,   1961   from   one

Gonna Appanna son of Venkataswamy of China Gantyda

village.   The   original   plaintiff   was   constrained   to   file   the

aforesaid suit on coming to know that respondent Nos. 1

and 2 were claiming the suit schedule land to be "banjar

land"   which   vested   in   the   Government.     He   had   also

learned   that   the   land   was   in   imminent   danger   of   being

illegally alienated by the respondent Nos. 1 and 2.   They

were claiming that the land was required to issue Pattas

to weaker sections of society.

4.     Respondent   Nos.   1   and   2   were   impleaded   as   the

defendants   to   the   suit.     Subsequently,   the   suit   was


transferred to the Court of IVth Additional District Judge,

Visakhapatnam and renumbered as O.S. No. 83 of 1981.

5.    The   aforesaid   averments   of   the   original   plaintiffs

were controverted by the respondent Nos. 1 and 2.  It was

claimed   that   the   plaint   schedule   property   was   not

covered by old survey No. 73/12 of the original village of

Thokada.  The boundaries as well as survey number were

stated   to   be   fictitious,   forged   and   imaginary.     Even   the

ownership   of   the   ancestors   of   the   vendor   of   the   original

plaintiff   of   the   suit   schedule   land   was   denied.   Further,

the   alleged  sale   deed   dated   15th  July,   1961   between   the

original plaintiff and the vendor was denied.   It was also

stated   that   the   original   plaintiff   was   not   in   possession

and enjoyment of the plaint schedule property.


6.    On   the   pleadings   of   the   parties,   the   trial   court

framed six issues. Issue No. 1 pertains to the title of the

original plaintiff to the schedule property.  Issues No.2 &

3 were  with  regard  to,  whether  the  original  plaintiff   was


entitled   to  relief   of  declaration   and   injunction   as  prayed

for.  Issue No.4 was whether the suit is not maintainable.

A   perusal   of   the   judgment   of   the   trial   court   shows   that

the   suit   was   hotly   contested   on   each   and   every   issue.

Issues   1,   2,   3,   4   and   6   were   decided   in   favour   of   the

original   plaintiff   and   against   the   defendants,   i.e.,

respondent   Nos.   1   and   2.   Issue   No.5   with   regard   to

valuation of the suit was not pressed by the government

pleader.   The   suit   was   decreed   by   judgment   dated

24th September, 1982.

7.     The respondents challenged the aforesaid judgment

and   decree   by   filing   an   appeal   before   the   High   Court   of

Andhra   Pradesh   being   A.S.   No.   8   of   1985.     The   sole

respondent,   i.e.,   original   plaintiff   died   on   25th  February,

1990.        Therefore,   the   Advocate   appearing   for   the

deceased   original   plaintiff   being   the   `sole   respondent'   in

the   appeal   filed   a   memo   before   the   High   Court   giving

intimation   about   the   death   of  his  client.   The   memo  was

filed   after   giving   notice   to   the   advocate   for   respondent


Nos.   1   and   2,   who   were   appellants   in   the   aforesaid

appeals.   In   spite   of   such   intimation,   respondent   Nos.   1

and   2   failed   to   bring   the   legal   representatives   of   the

deceased original plaintiff on record.

8.    From the judgment of the High Court it is apparent

that the appeal came up for hearing on 24th  April, 1997.

At   that   stage,   the   counsel   for   the   appellants   again

brought   to   the   notice   of   the   Court   that   his   client   has

passed   away   on   25th  February,   1990.     The   High   Court

directed the government pleader to take steps to bring on

the   record   the   legal   representatives   of   the   original

plaintiff and posted the matter for hearing on 16th  June,

1997.     It   appears   that   no   actions   were   taken   by   the

respondents to comply with the order passed by the High

Court   on   24th  April,   1997.     Therefore,   on   6th  February,

1998,   Justice   V.   Rajagopala   Reddy,   J.   passed   the

following order:-

      "Appeal   under   Section   96   CPC   against   the

      order   of   the   Court   of   the   IV   Addl.   District

      Judge,   Visakhapatnam   dt.24.09.1982   in   O.S.

      No. 83/81.



      This   appeal   coming   on   for   orders   under

      Rule 64 of the Appellate Side Rules of the High

      Court on the failure of the Appellant herein.

      1. To take steps to bring on record the LRs. of

              the deceased sole respondent.

      In   the   presence   of   G./P.   for   Excise   for   the

      Appellant   and   of   Mr.   M.S.R.   Subramanyam,

      Advocate for the respondent No.1.

      It is ordered as follows:

      1.      That the Appellant do within one week from

              the   date   of   this   order   comply   with   the

              requisitions   of   the   Office   referred   to   above


      2.      That in default of compliance with the said

              requisitions   within   the   time   prescribed   in

              clause   1   supra,   the   Appeal   shall   stand

              dismissed   as   against   the   sole   respondent


9.    The   aforesaid   order   was   admittedly   not   complied

with.   Consequently, the appeal stood abated in terms of

the   order   dated   6th  February,   1998.   It   appears   that

thereafter   CMPSR   No.   49656   of   2000   was   moved   by

respondent   Nos.   1   and   2   seeking   condonation   of   883

days delay in filing the petition to set aside the dismissal

order   dated   6th  February,   1998.   The   application   was


accompanied by an affidavit where it is candidly admitted

by   respondent   No.2   that   the   order   dated   6th  February,

1998   was   not   complied   with.     It   was   further   admitted

that   as   the   order   dated   6th  February,   1998   was   not

complied with, the default order came into force and the

appeal stood dismissed.

10.    In   this   affidavit,   the   explanation   given   is   that   the

predecessors   of   the   officer,   who   affirmed   the   affidavit

dated 11th  July, 2000 came to know about the dismissal

of   the   appeal   during   the   course   of   investigation   in

original   O.S.   No.   6   of   2000   which   had   been  filed  by   the

widow and the children of the deceased original plaintiff,

i.e.,   sole   respondent   in   the   appeal.     It   is   also   admitted

that thereafter, an application was filed for setting aside

the   order   of   abatement   dated   6th  February,   1998,   but,

without   any   application   seeking   condonation   of   delay   of

883   days   in   filing   the   petition.     To   cover   the   foresaid

lapse,   CMP   No.   21118   of   2003   was   filed   seeking

condonation of delay of 883 days in filing the petition.


11.    Thereafter   CMPSR   No.   58644   of   2000   was   filed   on

17th  August, 2000 with a prayer to condone the delay of

3703   days   to   bring   the   legal   representatives   on   record.

CMPSR   No.   58646   of   2000   was   filed   to   bring   the   legal

representatives   of   the   deceased   original   plaintiff   on

record   and   CMPSR   No.   58645   of   2000   to   set   aside   the

order of dismissal in AS No. 8 of 1985 dated 6th February,

1998   was   filed.     These   applications   were   subsequently

numbered   as   noted   in   the   heading   of   the   impugned


12.    It   appears   from   the   impugned   order   of   the   High

Court and CMPSR No. 58644 of 2000 was numbered as

CMP no. 17186 of 2000 on 17th  August, 2000 and listed

before   the   Court   on   27th  September,   2000.     The   High

Court granted two weeks time for filing the counter. The

aforesaid   CMP   was   posted   for   hearing   before   the   bench

on 16th  October, 2000 (Venkatanarayan,J.). At that time,

counsel for the deceased original plaintiff submitted that


his client had died  in 1990 and he had no instructions.

Therefore,   the   Court   directed   to   issue   notice   to   the

parties   on   the   petition.     Even   at   that   stage   the

government   pleader   did   not   bring   to   the   notice   of   the

Court   that   the   applications   filed   by   respondent   Nos.   1

and 2 to set aside the order of dismissal and to bring the

legal   representatives   on   record   were   pending


13.    Thereafter it appears the matter was adjourned on a

number   of   occasions   from   27th  June,   2001   to   9th  April,

2002.     Surprisingly,   on   3rd  June,   2002   the   government

pleader again took time from the Court to verify whether

any separate application was filed for   restoration of the

appeal and whether any such application was pending or

not.   Thereafter   the   matter   was   not   pursued   by   the

government pleader.

14.    In the meantime, the alleged beneficiaries  to whom

Pattas  had  been  granted  by   the  Government   Poramboke


in   the   year   1979   filed   CMP   No.   21705   of   2000,   seeking

permission   of   the   Court   to   come   on   record   as   the   third

appellant in the appeal.  In the impugned order, it is also

pointed   out   that   the   pendency   of   the   applications   had

come to the notice of the Court intermittently. It appears

that   the   application   to   condone   the   delay   in   filing   the

petition for setting aside the order of dismissal was filed,

when the lapse was pointed by the Court.

15.    Thereafter, it seems that without the adjudication of

any   of   the   applications   on   merits,   the   appeal   was   listed

for   hearing   before   the   Bench,   which   culminated   into

passing the judgment and order dated 19th August, 2003,

subject   matter   of   the   present   appeal.   By   the   aforesaid

judgment, the High Court has allowed all the applications

restored the appeal posted it for hearing on 25th  August,


16.    This   Court   while   issuing   notice   in   the   SLP

on 15th  December, 2003  directed  that "in  the  meantime,


proceedings   in   the   appeal   pending   in   the   High   Court

shall   remain   stayed".   Therefore,   it   is   evident   that   the

situation today is as it was when the order was passed on

6th  February,   1998,   i.e.,   appeal   filed   by   the   respondent

Nos. 1 and 2 stood abated and hence dismissed.

17.    We   have   heard   the   learned   counsel   for   parties.

Mr.   P.S.   Narasimha,   senior   advocate,   appearing   for   the

appellant submitted that the impugned order of the High

Court   cannot   be   justified   on   any   legal   ground.     He

submits   that   the   High   Court   having   itself   recorded   the

utter   negligence   of   the   respondents   in   pursuing   the

appeal at every stage, without any justification, condoned

the   delay.   The   learned   senior   counsel   pointed   out   that

there   was   no   explanation,   much   less   any   plausible

explanation to justify the delay of 3703 days in filing the

application   for   bringing   on   record   the   LRs.   of   the   sole

respondent   or   for   the   delay   in   filing   the   application   for

setting   aside   the   order   dated   6th  February,   1998.   It   was

further   submitted   that   there   was   no   justification   to


      permit the respondent No.3 to be impleaded as a party in

      the   appeal.     Learned   counsel   relied   on   the   judgment   of

      this   Court   in   the   case   of  Balwant   Singh   (dead)  Vs.

                                in   support   of   the   submission   that   the

      law   of   limitation   has   to   be   enforced   in   its   proper

      prospective.   Even   though   the   Courts   have   power   to

      condone   the   delay,   it   can   not   be   condoned   without   any

      justification. Such an approach would result in rendering

      the provisions contained in the Limitation Act redundant

      and inoperative.

      18.    On   the   other   hand,   learned   counsel   for   the

      respondents relied on the judgments of this Court in the

      case   of  N.   Balakrishnan  Vs.  M.

      Mithailal Dalsangar Singh & Ors.  Vs.  Annabai Devram

      Kini & Ors.3  and Sardar Amarjit Singh Kalra (dead) by

      LRs  Vs.   Pramod
                                Gupta (dead) by LRs.4
                                                                 and submitted

1  (2010)8 SCC 685

2 (1998) 7 SCC 123

3 (2003) 10 SCC 691

4 (2003) 3 SCC 272


      that   the   High   Court   in   condoning   the   delay   has   merely

      advanced the cause of substantial justice.

      19.    We   have   considered   the   submissions   made   by   the

      learned counsel.  At the outset, it needs to be stated that

      generally speaking, the courts in this country, including

      this   Court,   adopt   a   liberal   approach   in   considering   the

      application   for   condonation   of   delay   on   the   ground   of

      sufficient   cause   under   Section   5   of   the   Limitation   Act.

      This   principle   is   well   settled   and   has   been   set   out

      succinctly   in   the   case   of  Collector,   Land   Acquisition,

      Anantnag & Ors. Vs. Katiji & Ors.5

      20.    In the case of  M. Balakrishnan (supra), this Court

      again reiterated the principle  that rules  of limitation are

      not   meant   to   destroy   the   rights   of   parties.     They   are

      meant   to   see   that   the   parties   do   not   resort   to   dilatory

      tactics, but seek their remedy promptly.

5 (1987) 2 SCC 107


21.    In the case of  Sardar Amarjit Singh Kalra (supra),

this Court again emphasized that provisions contained in

the   Order   22   CPC   were   devised   to   ensure   continuation

and   culmination   in   an   effective   adjudication   and   not   to

retard further progress of the proceedings. The provisions

contained   in   the   Order   22   are   not   to   be   construed   as   a

rigid   matter   of   principle,   but   must   ever   be   viewed   as   a

flexible   tool   of   convenience   in   the   administration   of

justice.     It   was   further   observed   that   laws   of   procedure

are meant to regulate effectively, assist and aid the object

of   doing   a   substantial   and   real   justice   and   not   to

foreclose   even   adjudication   on   merits   of   substantial

rights of citizen under personal, property and other laws.

In   the   case   of  Mithailal   Dalsangar   Singh   and   Ors.   Vs.

Annabai Devram Kini & Ors, (Supra), this Court again

reiterated that in as much as abatement results in denial

of hearing on the merits of the case, the provision of an

abatement   has   to   be   construed   strictly.   On   the   other

hand,   the   prayer   of   setting   aside   abatement   and   the


dismissal   consequent   upon   abatement   had   to   be

considered liberally. It was further observed as follows:-

       "The   Courts   have   to   adopt   a   justice   oriented

       approach           dictated                  by         the              uppermost

       consideration   that ordinarily a litigant   ought

       not to be denied an opportunity of having a lis

       determined on  merits unless he has, by gross

       negligence,   deliberate   inaction   or   something

       akin   to   misconduct,   disentitled   himself   from

       seeking the indulgence of the court."

22.    The         concepts         of               liberal                    approach         and

reasonableness in exercise of the discretion by the Courts

in condoning delay, have been again stated by this Court

in the case of  Balwant Singh (supra), as follows:-

       "25.   We   may   state   that   even   if   the   term

       "sufficient   cause"   has   to   receive   liberal

       construction,   it   must   squarely   fall   within   the

       concept of reasonable time and proper conduct

       of   the   party   concerned.     The   purpose   of

       introducing liberal construction normally is to

       introduce the concept of "reasonableness" as it

       is understood in its general connotation."

       "26.  The law of limitation is a substantive law

       and   has   definite   consequences   on   the   right

       and   obligation   of   party   to   arise.     These

       principles   should   be   adhered   to   and   applied

       appropriately   depending   on   the   facts   and

       circumstances   of   a   given   case.     Once   a

       valuable   right   has   accrued   in   favour   of   one

       party   as   a   result   of   the   failure   of   the   other

       party to explain the delay by showing sufficient


       cause   and   its   own   conduct,   it   will   be

       unreasonable   to   take   away   that   right   on   the

       mere   asking   of   the   applicant,   particularly

       when   the   delay   is   directly   a   result   of

       negligence,   default   or   inaction   of   that   party.

       Justice   must   be   done   to   both   parties   equally.

       Then alone the ends of justice can be achieved.

       If   a   party   has   been   thoroughly   negligent   in

       implementing its rights and remedies, it will be

       equally   unfair   to   deprive   the   other   party   of   a

       valuable right that has accrued to it in law as

       a result of his acting vigilantly."

23.    Let   us   now   examine   as   to   whether   the   High   Court

was justified in condoning the delay in the peculiar facts

of   the   presence   case.     The   High   Court   in   its   judgment

records the following conclusions:-

       "(1)   The   Government   Pleader   having   filed   the

       appeal   on   18.2.1983   has   taken   three   long

       years to get the appeal numbered.

       (2)   The   sole   respondent   died   in   1990.   The

       learned   counsel   for   the   respondent   submits

       that   he   served   a   letter   on   the   learned

       Government   Pleader   bringing   to   his   notice

       about   the   death   of   his   client   in   1990   itself.

       Since the letter is not traced we are not giving

       much importance to that fact.  But at the same

       time this fact was brought to the notice of the

       Government   Pleader   on   24.2.1997   when   the

       appeal was listed for hearing.

       (3) Even though the Court gave sufficient time

       the   Government   Pleader   has   not   taken   any

       steps to bring LRs. on record.


      (4)   After   one   year   the   Court   passed   a

      Conditional Order on 6.2.1998 and the appeal

      was   dismissed   for   not   bringing   the   LRs.   on


      (5)      After   two   more   years   the   concerned

      officials   of   the   Government   and   the

      Government   Pleader   in   office   at   the   relevant

      point   of   time,   filed   some   applications,   which

      are not in order.

      (6)      Even   then   they   have   not   bestowed   any

      attention   either   to   comply   with   the   defects   in

      filing   the   application   or   in   getting   the   orders

      are   passed   on   these   applications.     But   at   the

      same   time   they   went   on   taking   time   without

      knowing   for   what   purpose   they   were   taking


      In the result an appeal which would have been

      disposed of in 1997 remained pending all these

      years mainly due to the negligence on the part

      of the Government Pleader in office.

Thereafter   at   the   two   stages,   the   High   Court   records


      "In   the   normal   course   we   would   have   thrown

      out   these   applications   without   having   second

      thought in the matter.............."

      "We have already observed that in the normal

      course   we   would   have   dismissed   the

      applications   for   severe   latches   on   the   part   of

      the appellants and their counsel."


24.    Having recorded the aforesaid conclusions, the High

Court   proceeded   to   condone   the   delay.     In   our   opinion,

such a course was not open to the High Court, given the

pathetic   explanation   offered   by   the   respondents   in   the

application seeking condonation of delay.

25.    This is especially so in view of the remarks made by

the   High   Court   about   the   delay   being   caused   by   the

inefficiency   and   ineptitude   of   the   government   pleaders.

The   displeasure   of   the   Court   is   patently   apparent   from

the   impugned   order   itself.     In   the   opening   paragraph   of

the   impugned   order   the   High   Court   has,   rather

sarcastically, dubbed the government pleaders as without

merit   and   ability.     Such   an   insinuation   is   clearly

discernable  from   the   observation   that   "This   is   a   classic

case, how the learned government pleaders appointed on

the   basis   of   merit   and   ability  (emphasis   supplied)  are

discharging their function protecting the interest of their

clients".     Having   said   so,   the   High   Court,   graphically

narrated   the   clear   dereliction   of   duty   by   the   concerned


government   pleaders   in   not   pursuing   the   appeal   before

the High Court diligently.  The High Court has set out the

different   stages   at   which   the   government   pleaders   had

exhibited   almost   culpable   negligence   in   performance   of

their duties.  The High Court found the justification given

by the government pleaders to be unacceptable.  Twice in

the   impugned   order,   it  was   recorded   that  in   the   normal

course,   the   applications   would   have   been   thrown   out

without having a second thought in the matter.    Having

recorded   such   conclusions,   inexplicably,   the   High   Court

proceeds to condone the unconscionable delay.

26.    We   are   at   a   loss   to   fathom   any   logic   or   rationale,

which could have impelled the High Court to condone the

delay   after   holding   the   same   to   be   unjustifiable.     The

concepts   such   as   "liberal   approach",   "justice   oriented

approach",   "substantial   justice"   can   not   be   employed   to

jettison   the   substantial   law   of   limitation.   Especially,   in

cases   where   the   Court   concludes   that   there   is   no

justification for the delay.   In our opinion, the approach


adopted by the High Court tends to show the absence of

judicial balance and restraint, which a Judge is required

to   maintain   whilst   adjudicating   any   lis   between   the

parties.  We are rather pained to notice that in this case,

not   being   satisfied   with   the   use   of   mere   intemperate

language,   the   High   Court   resorted   to   blatant   sarcasms.

The   use   of   unduly   strong   intemperate   or   extravagant

language in a judgment has been repeatedly disapproved

by  this  Court   in  a  number  of  cases.    Whilst  considering

applications for condonation of  delay under  Section  5 of

the Limitation Act, the Courts do not enjoy unlimited and

unbridled discretionary powers.  All discretionary powers,

especially   judicial   powers,   have   to   be   exercised   within

reasonable   bounds,   known   to   the   law.     The   discretion

has to be exercised in a systematic manner informed by

reason.     Whims   or   fancies;   prejudices   or   predilections

can   not   and   should   not   form   the   basis   of   exercising

discretionary powers.


27.    The   order   of   the   High   Court,   in   our   opinion,   is

based   purely   on   the   personal   perceptions   and

predilections   of   the   Judges   on   the   bench.     The   latent

anger and hostility ingrained in the expressions employed

in   the   judgment   have   denuded   the   judgment   of

impartiality.     In   its   desire   to   castigate   the   government

pleaders   and   the   Court   staff,   the   High   Court   has

sacrificed the "justice oriented approach", the bedrock of

which is fairness and impartiality.  Judges at all levels in

this   country   subscribe   to   an   oath   when   entering   upon

office of Judgeship, to do justice without fear or favour, ill

will or malice.  This commitment in form of a solemn oath

is   to   ensure   that   Judges   base   their   opinions   on

objectivity   and   impartiality.     The   first   casualty   of

prejudice   is   objectivity   and   impartiality.     It   is   also   well

known   that  anger   deprives   a  human   being  of   his  ability

to reason.  Judges being human are not immune to such

disability.    It is of  utmost importance that  in expressing

their opinions, Judges and Magistrates be guided only by

the considerations of doing justice.   We may notice here


       the   observations   made   by   a   Constitution   Bench   of   this

       Court   in   the   case   of  State   of   U.P.  Vs.  Mohammad

                 ,   which   are   of   some   relevance   in   the   present

       context.     In   Paragraph   11   of   the   judgment,   it   was

       observed as follows:-

              "If there is one principle of cardinal importance

              in   the   administration   of   justice,   it   is   this:   the

              proper   freedom   and   independence   of   Judges

              and Magistrates must be maintained and they

              must   be   allowed   to   perform   their   functions

              freely   and   fearlessly   and   without   undue

              interference   by   any   body,   even   by   this   Court.

              At the same time it is equally necessary that in

              expressing   their   opinions   Judges   and

              Magistrates   must  be  guided by  considerations

              of   justice,   fair-play   and   restraint.   It   is   not

              infrequent that sweeping generalisations defeat

              the   very   purpose   for   which   they   are   made.   It

              has   been   judicially   recognised   that   in   the

              matter of making disparaging remarks against

              persons   or   authorities   whose   conduct   comes

              into consideration before courts of law in cases

              to   be   decided   by   them,   it   is   relevant   to

              consider   (a)   whether   the   party   whose   conduct

              is   in   question   is   before   the   court   or   has   an

              opportunity of explaining or defending himself;

              (b) whether there is evidence on record bearing

              on   that   conduct,   justifying   the   remarks;   and

              (c)   whether   it   is   necessary   for   the   decision   of

              the   case,   as   an   integral   part   thereof,   to

              animadvert   on   that   conduct.   It   has   also   been

              recognised that judicial pronouncements must

              be judicial in nature, and should not normally

              depart from sobriety, moderation and reserve."

6  (1964) 2 SCR 363


28.    We   are   of   the   considered   opinion   that   the   caustic

remarks made by the High Court, against the government

pleaders and the Court staff clearly exhibits a departure

from the principles quoted above.

29.    We are of the considered opinion that the judgment

of   the   High   Court   is   unsustainable   either   in   law   or   in

equity.     Consequently,   the   appeals   are   allowed.     The

impugned   judgment   of   the   High   Court   is   set   aside   with

no order as to costs.


                                          [B.Sudershan Reddy]


                                         [Surinder Singh Nijjar]

New Delhi;

February 24, 2011.