Del HC | Any judicial system which does not provide finality to disputes, can never earn the trust, confidence and goodwill of the society: HC highlights ‘Consent Decree’ and ‘Lawful Compromise’

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Manmohan and Asha Menon, JJ., remarked that the present case reflected the bane of the Indian Judicial System, namely, that there is no finality attached to any judicial proceeding.

Instant appeal was filed challenging the judgment and decree dated 18-11-2013 passed by a Single Judge of this Court accompanied by an application seeking condonation of delay under Section 14 of the Limitation Act.

As per the appellant the Single judge had failed to consider that the appellant was not a party to the compromise on the basis of which the civil suit was decreed and thus the finding of the Court that ‘the parties have settled the matter on the following terms’ did not apply to the appellant.

Further, it was added that the handwritten statements on the Index of the Compromise Application stating that ‘This is a joint application by all parties. They are duly served’ were false, as at no juncture, a copy of the said application had been served on the appellant and therefore, on this short score, the impugned judgment was liable to be set aside.

Single Judge had failed to consider that an application for compromise under Order XXIII Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 without the signatures/consent of all parties to the lis could not be allowed against all parties to the lis and be converted into a decree of the Court.

Lastly, the appellant contended that the Single Judge had failed to appreciate that it is settled law that a self-acquired property could not be partitioned during the lifetime of the owner. He contended that the Trial Court had failed to consider that the plaint was a collusive action filed by the respondents in order to lay a concocted claim whereby the plaintiff and his brothers allocated lion’s share of the said property to each other.

High Court’s reasoning

A consent decree is a contract with the imprimatur of the courts superadded.  ‘Lawful Compromise’ means that the agreement or compromise must not be unlawful by the nature of its terms or on the face of it.

‘Consent decree’ is something more than a mere contract and has elements of both command and contract. ‘Lawful Compromise’ would be unlawful if the consideration or the object of the agreement is forbidden by law or is of such a nature that if permitted it would defeat the provision of any law, or is fraudulent or the court regards it as immoral or opposed to the public policy as provided by Section 23 of the Contract Act.

High Court found that the present appeal had been preferred after a delay of over two thousand three hundred and thirty-one days. Appellant voluntarily chose not to enter appearance and therefore she was proceeded ex-parte. Consequently, the limitation for filing the present appeal shall commence from the date of the impugned judgment and order and not from the date of alleged knowledge of the judgment and decree.

Court stated that the appellant would not be entitled to the benefit of Section 14 of the Limitation Act as even the prior proceeding initiated by the appellant had not been filed within limitation and also the said prior proceeding had not been filed due to defect of jurisdiction or other cause of like nature.

No prejudice had been caused to the appellant by the impugned judgment and decree dated 18th November, 2013 as the said decree recognises her share in the suit property as accepted by her in the Family Settlement dated 23rd December, 1999, especially in the absence of any challenge to the said family settlement.

 No prejudice was caused to the appellant.

Further, the submission of the counsel for the appellant that a self-acquired property could not be partitioned during the lifetime of the owner, in view of the Family Settlement dated 23rd December, 1999 duly executed and signed by the appellant is a mixed question of fact and law and it required the appellant to lead evidence.

On the basis of a bald averment in the appeal, the suit filed by the respondent cannot be held to be ex-facie barred in law.

The only remedy to the appellant in the present matter was to prefer an application under Order IX Rule 13, or under Section 114 CPC.

Not even a ‘modicum of explanation’ was offered during the hearing as to why the ex-parte order be recalled or set aside.

High Court expressed that the Additional District Judge had given a clear finding, which order had not been challenged in the present proceedings.

 Adding to the above, High Court elaborated that

There is no law which stipulates that a court is bound to serve any compromise application on a party who had willingly allowed it to be proceeded ex-parte.

To accept the submission of the appellant would amount to reading into the Statue a duty upon the Court to ‘run after a litigant’ who had voluntarily turned to its back to the legal system – a duty which is not provided in any statute.

A bare perusal of the Family Settlement reflects that the appellant had signed on each page of it and the same was based on mutual consent and agreement. In fact, the mutation was also carried out with respect to this 1/6th portion in accordance with the said Family Settlement.

Concluding the matter, Bench held that to now recall or vary the decree at the instance of the appellant who was negligent in defending her rights would amount to placing premium on ‘callousness’ and would place the parties who diligently pursued the litigation at all stages at a serious disadvantage.

Therefore, Court stated that any judicial system which does not provide finality to disputes, can never earn the trust, confidence and goodwill of the society.

Hence, present appeal was dismissed both as barred by limitation as well as on merits. [Deepshree Singh v. Rishi Pratap Singh, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 2348, decided on 20-05-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the appellant: Ankur Mahindro, Advocate with Rohan Taneja, Advocate.

For the Respondents: Kritika Bhardwaj, Advocate for R-1 to3 & 5 to 8.

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