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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NO INTEREST SHOULD BE GRANTED FOR A ERLIER PERIOD SPENT IN WRONG COURT ‘Actus Curiae Neminem Gravabit’ No interest should be awarded ONGC LTD. Vs. M/S. MODERN CONSTRUCTION AND CO. published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=40872

No interest shoudl be awarded - On presentation of a suit on the point of Jurisdiction after return under Or. VII, rule 10 C.P.C., Court should not grant interest from the date of filing of suit in earlier court as it is not presented on transfer. Hence any decree granting interest from the date of  presentation in previous court - non-est in eye of law-
The legal maxim, ‘Actus Curiae Neminem  Gravabit’
      i.e. an act of Court shall prejudice no man, comes  into  play. =


 The judgment and order dated  21.9.2006  shows
      that the plaints were  received  and  registered  on  24.3.1986.   
The
      respondent cannot be permitted to take advantage of a mistake made  by
      the court and raise a technical  objection  to  defeat  the  cause  of
      substantial justice. 
The legal maxim, ‘Actus Curiae Neminem  Gravabit’
      i.e. an act of Court shall prejudice no man, comes  into  play.

 The judgment and decree dated  21.9.2006  clearly  provided  for
      future interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from the date  of
      filing of the suit till the realisation of the amount.  
The  Executing
      Court vide judgment and decree dated 28.9.2007 rejected the  claim  of
      the respondent observing that the respondent had wrongly filed suit at
      Mehsana and the said court had no jurisdiction, and  the  “wrong  doer
      cannot get benefit of its own wrong” i.e. the benefit of  interest  on
      the amount from the date of filing the suit  in  Mehsana  court.   
The
      Appellate Court in its order dated 12.3.2010 reiterated a similar view
      rejecting the appeal  of  the  respondent  observing  that  “a  public
      undertaking cannot be penalised  for  the  mistake  committed  by  the
      plaintiff by choosing a wrong forum”. 
Before the High Court  when  the
      matter was taken up on 14.9.2010, a similar view had  been  reiterated
      that the respondent cannot be allowed to take advantage of  the  words
      “from the date of the suit”, and conveniently overlook its  own  wrong
      of initially filing the suit in 1986 in the court at Mehsana.   
Though
      the court did not have jurisdiction, the plaintiff/respondent  is  now
      claiming interest for the period from 1986 to 1999 i.e. for  13  years
      by taking advantage of  its  own  wrong  and  for  that  purpose,  the
      plaintiff/respondent is trying to misconstrue the words  mentioned  by
      the learned trial court in the operative portion of the judgment dated
      21.9.2006, viz., from the date of filing of the suit. 
 However,  while
      passing the impugned order, the High Court has used the language  that
      the case stood transferred from the Mehsana  court  to  the  court  at
      Surat and, therefore, interest  has  to  be  paid  from  the  date  of
      initiation of the suit at Mehsana i.e. from 1986 and in view  thereof,
      allowed the claim.


      19.   We are of the considered view that once the plaint was presented
      before the Civil Court at Surat, it was a fresh  suit  and  cannot  be
      considered to be continuation of the suit instituted at  Mehsana.  The
      plaintiff/respondent cannot be permitted to take advantage of its  own
      mistake instituting the suit before a wrong court.   The judgment  and
      order impugned cannot be sustained in the eyes of law.


      20.   In view of the above, appeals  are  allowed.  The  judgment  and
      decree impugned are set  aside.   The  judgments  and  orders  of  the
      Trial/Executing Court as well as of the Appellate Court are  restored.
      There shall be no order as to costs.

 
                                                            REPORTABLE
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                     CIVIL APPEAL NOs.8957-8958 of 2013




      ONGC Ltd.                                    … Appellant


                                   Versus


      M/s.  Modern  Construction  and   Co.                                …
      Respondent






                               J U D G M E N T


      Dr.B.S.Chauhan, J.




      1.    These appeals have been preferred against the impugned  judgment
      and order dated 10.12.2010 passed by the  High  Court  of  Gujarat  at
      Ahmedabad  in  Special  Civil  Application  Nos.5036-5037   of   2010,
      reversing and setting aside the order dated 12.3.2010, passed  by  the
      Addl. District Judge, Fast Track Court, Surat in  Misc.  Civil  Appeal
      Nos.29 and 30 of 2008 as well as the order dated 28.9.2007, passed  in
      Special Execution Petition Nos.17 and 18 of 2007, passed  by  the  2nd
      Additional Senior Civil Judge, Surat.


      2.    Facts and circumstances giving rise to these appeals are that:
        A. A contract for re-construction of cement godown, site office and
           warehouse for LPG Plant at Kawas in Surat District  was  awarded
           by the appellant to the respondent to be completed on or  before
           8.8.1984  vide  agreement  dated   9.2.1984.    The   respondent
           completed the work with an inordinate delay and possession could
           be taken by the appellant only  on  31.6.1985.   The  respondent
           filed Civil Suit Nos.60, 61 and 62 of 1986 against the appellant
           in the Civil Court at Mehsana to recover  the  outstanding  dues
           from the appellant.
        B. The Civil Court vide judgment and decree dated 31.1.1994 allowed
           Civil Suit Nos.61 and 62 of 1986 in favour of the respondent.
        C. Aggrieved, the appellant filed First Appeal Nos.1451,  1452  and
           1453 of 1994 before the High Court of  Gujarat  challenging  the
           said judgment and decree dated 31.1.1994.  The High  Court  vide
           common judgment and order dated 18.3.1997 held  that  the  Civil
           Court at  Mehsana  did  not  have  territorial  jurisdiction  to
           entertain the suits.  Therefore, the said judgment  and  decrees
           passed in the civil suits were set aside and the Civil Court  at
           Mehsana was directed to return the plaints to the respondent  so
           that the same may be presented  before  the   appropriate  court
           having jurisdiction.
        D. The plaints were returned to the  respondent  in  the  aforesaid
           civil suits, who instituted the same before the Civil  Court  at
           Surat on 3.2.1999 being Civil Suit Nos.56, 57 and  58  of  1999.
           The said suits were allowed by the 3rd Additional  Senior  Civil
           Judge vide judgment and decree dated 21.9.2006 holding that  the
           respondent was entitled to receive an amount  of  Rs.1,29,138/-,
           Rs.1,69,757/- and Rs.58,616/- in the  respective  suits  with  a
           future interest @ 12% per annum from the date of filing  of  the
           suit till realisation.
        E. The appellant complied with the decrees passed by the 3rd  Addl.
           Senior Civil Judge and made the payment of  decretal  amount  to
           the respondent calculating the interest  on  the  principal  sum
           from 3.2.1999,  i.e.  the  date  on  which  the  respondent  had
           presented the plaints in the court of competent jurisdiction  at
           Surat.
        F. The respondent after receiving the  said  amount  filed  Special
           Execution Petition Nos. 17 and 18 of 2007 on  5.3.2007  claiming
           interest for the period 1986 to 1999,  i.e.  during  the  period
           when the suit remained pending before the court at Mehsana which
           had no jurisdiction.   The  Executing  Court  vide  order  dated
           28.9.2007  dismissed  the  Execution  petition  observing   that
           respondent was entitled to interest from the date of  filing  of
           the suit at Surat and not from the date on which the plaint  was
           presented at Mehsana.
        G. Aggrieved, the respondent preferred Misc. Civil  Appeal  Nos.29,
           30 and 35 of 2008 before the District Court  at  Surat  and  the
           same were dismissed vide order dated 12.3.2010.
        H. Aggrieved,  the  respondent  challenged  the  said  order  dated
           12.3.2010 by filing Special Civil Application Nos.5036 and  5037
           of 2010 before the High Court of Gujarat at  Ahmedabad  and  the
           said applications have been allowed vide order dated  10.12.2010
           holding that the respondent was entitled to  interest  from  the
           date of institution of the suit at Mehsana Court.
           Hence these appeals.


      3.    Shri Parag P. Tripathi, learned Senior counsel appearing for the
      appellant duly assisted by Shri Nishant Menon, Advocate has  submitted
      that the plaints had initially been instituted at Mehsana Court  which
      had no territorial jurisdiction to  entertain  these  suits  and  even
      after being decreed, the High Court vide  order  dated  18.3.1997  had
      rightly set aside the judgment and decrees  and  asked  the  court  at
      Mehsana to return the plaints to the respondent so that the  plaintiff
      could  present  them  before  the  court  of   competent   territorial
      jurisdiction.
Therefore, the order  of  the  High  Court  has  to  be
      understood to have been passed in view of the provisions of Order  VII
      Rule 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred  to
      as ‘CPC’) and not a case of transfer of  a  suit  from  the  Court  at
      Mehsana to the Civil Court, Surat.
Once the plaint is presented  after
      being returned from the court having no  jurisdiction,  it  is  to  be
      treated as a fresh suit and even if the trial was  conducted  earlier,
      as in the instant  case,  it  had  to  be  done  de  novo.
The  only
      protection could be to take advantage of the provisions of Section  14
      of  the  Limitation  Act,  1963  (hereinafter  referred  to   as   the
      ‘Limitation Act’) and the court fees paid earlier may be adjusted  but
      by no stretch of imagination it can be held to be  a  continuation  of
      the suit.  Had it been so there would be  no  occasion  for  the  High
      Court to set aside the judgment and  decree  of  the  civil  court  at
      Mehsana at such a belated stage.
 Thus the impugned judgment and order
      is liable to be set aside.


      4.    Per contra, Shri Santosh Krishnan, learned counsel appearing for
      the respondent  has  submitted  that  in  fact,  the  suits  had  been
      instituted at Mehsana Court in 1986 and the civil  court  therein  had
      decreed the suit.  
The High Court in the impugned order has  clearly
      stated that the suits were transferred from  Mehsana  Court  to  Civil
      Court at Surat and therefore, the respondent was entitled for interest
      from the date of institution of suit at  Mehsana.
The  judgment  and
      decree dated 21.9.2006 clearly reveals that the  suits  were  received
      and registered on  24.3.1986.
The  appellant  had  not  applied  for
      correction of the said judgment and order  by  filing  an  application
      under Section 152 CPC.  Therefore, no interference is called  for  and
      the appeals are liable to be dismissed.


      5.    We have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel
      for the parties and perused the record.


      6.       The High Court while passing order dated 18.3.1997,  did  not
      exercise its power of transfer  under  Section  24  CPC;  rather   the
      language used in the said judgment makes it clear that the  return  of
      the plaints was required in view of the provisions of Order  VII  Rule
      10 CPC.  
The relevant part of the order reads as under:
           “Therefore, the impugned judgments and decrees in all the  three
           appeals are allowed only on the limited ground that civil  court
           at Mehsana had no jurisdiction to entertain the suits  with  the
           result, the plaints are required to be returned to the Plaintiff
           for filing suits in appropriate forum or  court  at  appropriate
           place in view of provisions of O. 7, R 10 of the CPC. Therefore,
           the plaints are ordered to be returned to the Plaintiff or (sic)
           presentation to proper court having territorial jurisdiction. No
           doubt, we cannot resist temptation of mentioning the  fact  that
           the controversy is very old. It pertains to money on  the  basis
           of  breach  of  contract.  Therefore,  the   proper   court   on
           presentation of plaints will expeditiously determine and  decide
           the dispute between the parties. We have not entered into merits
           of other issue decided by the trial court as decisions  rendered
           in respect of other issues as they are examined and  adjudicated
           upon by the trial court without jurisdiction. In the result, all
           the three appeals are allowed and impugned judgment  and  decree
           are quashed and set aside. The appeals are allowed. The plaints,
           therefore, shall be returned to the Plaintiff  for  presentation
           to proper court.”               (Emphasis added)

      7.    In Ramdutt Ramkissen Dass v. E.D. Sassoon &  Co.,  AIR  1929  PC
      103, a Bench of Privy Council held:


           "…..It is quite clear that where a suit has been instituted in a
           court which is found to have no jurisdiction  and  it  is  found
           necessary  to  raise  a  second  suit  in  a  court  of   proper
           jurisdiction,  the  second  suit  cannot  be   regarded   as   a
           continuation of the first, even though the  subject  matter  and
           the parties to the suits were identical……"



           (Emphasis added)



      8.    In Sri Amar Chand Inani v. Union of India, AIR 1973 SC 313,  the
      issue involved herein was considered and this Court held that in  such
      a fact-situation, where the plaint is returned under Order VII Rule 10
      CPC and presented before the  court  of  competent  jurisdiction,  the
      plaintiff is entitled to exclude the time during which he   prosecuted
      the suit before the court  having  no  jurisdiction  in  view  of  the
      provisions of Section 14 of the Limitation Act and by no means it  can
      be  held  to  be  continuation  of  the  earlier   suit   after   such
      presentation.


      9.    In Hanamanthappa & Anr. v. Chandrashekharappa & Ors.,  AIR  1997
      SC 1307, this Court reiterated a similar view rejecting the contention
      that once the plaint is returned by the court having  no  jurisdiction
      and is presented before a court of competent jurisdiction, it must  be
      treated to be continuation of the earlier suit.  The Court held:
             “In substance, it is  a  suit  filed  afresh  subject  to  the
           limitation, pecuniary jurisdiction and payment of the Court fee.
            …. At best it can be treated to  be  a  fresh  plaint  and  the
           matter can be proceeded with according to law.”


      10.   In Joginder Tuli v. S.L. Bhatia & Anr., (1997) 1 SCC  502,  this
      Court dealt with a  case  wherein  the  landlord  had  terminated  the
      tenancy and filed a suit for possession.  An application for amendment
      of the plaint to recover damages for the use and occupation  was  also
      filed.  On that basis, the pecuniary jurisdiction of the  Trial  Court
      was beyond its jurisdiction and accordingly the  plaint  was  returned
      for presentation  to  proper  court.   On  revision,  the  High  Court
      directed the Court to return the plaint  to the District Court with  a
      direction that the matter would be taken up by the District Court  and
      proceeded with from the stage on which it was  returned.   This  Court
      disposed of the case observing:
           “Normally, when the  plaint  is  directed  to  be  returned  for
           presentation to the proper court perhaps it has  to  start  from
           the beginning but in this case, since the evidence  was  already
           adduced by the parties, the matter was tried  accordingly.   The
           High Court had directed to proceed from that stage at which  the
           suit stood transferred.  We find  no  illegality  in  the  order
           passed by the High Court warranting interference.”




      11.   This Court in Harshad Chimanlal Modi (II)  v.  D.L.F.  Universal
      Ltd. & Anr., AIR 2006 SC 646 has approved and followed the judgment of
      this Court in Sri Amar Chand Inani (supra) and distinguished the  case
      in Joginder Tuli (supra) observing that:


           “The suit when filed was within the jurisdiction  of  the  Court
           and it was properly entertained.  In view of  amendment  in  the
           plaint during the pendency of the suit, however, the plaint  was
           returned for presentation to proper court  taking  into  account
           the pecuniary jurisdiction  of  the  court.   Such  is  not  the
           situation here.”




      12.   Section 14 of the Limitation Act provides protection against the
      bar of limitation to a person bonafidely presenting his case on  merit
      but fails as the court lacks inherent jurisdiction to  try  the  suit.
      
The protection also applies where the plaintiff brings his suit in the
      right court, but is nevertheless prevented from  getting  a  trial  on
      merits because of subsequent developments on which a court  may  loose
      jurisdiction because of the amendment of the plaint or an amendment in
      law or in a case where the defect may be analogous to  the  defect  of
      jurisdiction.


      13.   Thus, in view of  the  above,  the  law  on  the  issue  can  be
      summarised to  the  effect  that  if  the  court  where  the  suit  is
      instituted, is of the view that it has no jurisdiction, the plaint  is
      to be returned in view of the provisions of Order VII Rule 10 CPC  and
      the plaintiff  can  present  it  before  the  court  having  competent
      jurisdiction. 
 In such a factual matrix, the plaintiff is entitled  to
      exclude the period during which he  prosecuted  the  case  before  the
      court having no jurisdiction in view of the provisions of  Section  14
      of the Limitation Act,  and may also seek adjustment of court fee paid
      in that court.   
However,  after  presentation  before  the  court  of
      competent jurisdiction, the plaint is to  be  considered  as  a  fresh
      plaint and the trial is to be conducted  de  novo  even  if  it  stood
      concluded before the court having no competence to try the same.


      14.   There can also be no quarrel with the settled legal  proposition
      that the Executing Court cannot go behind the decree. Thus, in absence
      of any challenge  to  the  decree,  no  objection  can  be  raised  in
      execution. (Vide: Bhawarlal Bhandari  v.  Universal  Heavy  Mechanical
      Lifting Enterprises AIR 1999 SC 246; Dhurandhar Prasad  Singh  v.  Jai
      Prakash University & Ors.,  AIR  2001  SC  2552;  Rajasthan  Financial
      Corpn. v. Man Industrial Corpn. Ltd., AIR 2003  SC  4273;  Balvant  N.
      Viswamitra & Ors. v. Yadav Sadashiv Mule (Dead) Thru. Lrs. & Ors., AIR
      2004 SC 4377; and Kanwar Singh Saini v. High Court of Delhi, (2012)  4
      SCC 307).


      15.   In the instant case, a copy of the decree has not been filed  by
      either of the parties.  
The judgment and order dated  21.9.2006  shows
      that the plaints were  received  and  registered  on  24.3.1986.   
The
      respondent cannot be permitted to take advantage of a mistake made  by
      the court and raise a technical  objection  to  defeat  the  cause  of
      substantial justice. 
The legal maxim, ‘Actus Curiae Neminem  Gravabit’
      i.e. an act of Court shall prejudice no man, comes  into  play.  (See:
      Jayalakshmi Coelho v. Oswald Joseph Coelho,  AIR  2001  SC  1084;  and
      Bhagwati  Developers  Private  Ltd.  v.   Peerless   General   Finance
      Investment Company Ltd. & Ors., AIR 2013 SC 1690).
      16.   This Court in Bhartiya Seva Samaj Trust  Tr.  Pres.  &  Anr.  v.
      Yogeshbhai Ambalal Patel & Anr., AIR 2012 SC 3285, while dealing  with
      the issue held:
           “21.   A person alleging his own infamy cannot be heard  at  any
           forum, what to talk of a Writ Court, as explained by  the  legal
           maxim ‘allegans suam turpitudinem non est audiendus'. If a party
           has committed a wrong,  he  cannot  be  permitted  to  take  the
           benefit of his own wrong….
                  This  concept  is  also  explained  by  the  legal  maxims
           ‘Commodum ex injuria sua non habere debet’; and 'nullus commodum
           capere potest de injuria sua propria'.”


      17.   Thus, the respondent cannot take the benefit of its own mistake.
       Respondent instituted the  suit  in  Civil  Court  at  Mehsana  which
      admittedly had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit. In spite of  the
      fact that the civil suit stood decreed, the High  Court  directed  the
      court at Mehsana to return the plaint in view  of  the  provisions  of
      Order VII Rule 10 CPC.  Thus,  the  respondent  presented  the  plaint
      before the Civil Court at Surat on 3.2.1999.


      18.   The judgment and decree dated  21.9.2006  clearly  provided  for
      future interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from the date  of
      filing of the suit till the realisation of the amount.
The  Executing
      Court vide judgment and decree dated 28.9.2007 rejected the  claim  of
      the respondent observing that the respondent had wrongly filed suit at
      Mehsana and the said court had no jurisdiction, and  the  “wrong  doer
      cannot get benefit of its own wrong” i.e. the benefit of  interest  on
      the amount from the date of filing the suit  in  Mehsana  court.   
The
      Appellate Court in its order dated 12.3.2010 reiterated a similar view
      rejecting the appeal  of  the  respondent  observing  that  “a  public
      undertaking cannot be penalised  for  the  mistake  committed  by  the
      plaintiff by choosing a wrong forum”. 
Before the High Court  when  the
      matter was taken up on 14.9.2010, a similar view had  been  reiterated
      that the respondent cannot be allowed to take advantage of  the  words
      “from the date of the suit”, and conveniently overlook its  own  wrong
      of initially filing the suit in 1986 in the court at Mehsana.   
Though
      the court did not have jurisdiction, the plaintiff/respondent  is  now
      claiming interest for the period from 1986 to 1999 i.e. for  13  years
      by taking advantage of  its  own  wrong  and  for  that  purpose,  the
      plaintiff/respondent is trying to misconstrue the words  mentioned  by
      the learned trial court in the operative portion of the judgment dated
      21.9.2006, viz., from the date of filing of the suit. 
 However,  while
      passing the impugned order, the High Court has used the language  that
      the case stood transferred from the Mehsana  court  to  the  court  at
      Surat and, therefore, interest  has  to  be  paid  from  the  date  of
      initiation of the suit at Mehsana i.e. from 1986 and in view  thereof,
      allowed the claim.


      19.   We are of the considered view that once the plaint was presented
      before the Civil Court at Surat, it was a fresh  suit  and  cannot  be
      considered to be continuation of the suit instituted at  Mehsana.  The
      plaintiff/respondent cannot be permitted to take advantage of its  own
      mistake instituting the suit before a wrong court.   The judgment  and
      order impugned cannot be sustained in the eyes of law.


      20.   In view of the above, appeals  are  allowed.  The  judgment  and
      decree impugned are set  aside.   The  judgments  and  orders  of  the
      Trial/Executing Court as well as of the Appellate Court are  restored.
      There shall be no order as to costs.


                                       ….………………..........J.            (DR.
                                       B.S. CHAUHAN)





      …...................................J.
                                                              (S.A. BOBDE)
      NEW DELHI;
      October  7, 2013


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