Punjab and Haryana High Court: In a Contempt Petition alleging non-compliance with Order directing disposal of a partition application within a period of 6 months, which has been pending for last 19 years, Arvind Singh Sangwan, J. issued guidelines for service of notices, summons and exchange of pleadings through WhatsApp, e-mail and other electronic media and directed the authorities concerned to conclude the proceedings by effecting service of summons as per the given modes.
The petitioner had filed the petition for partition of a land before the Assistant Collector 2nd Grade. The compliance affidavit filed by the said Assistant Collector stated the unavailability of record summoned by the Appellate/Revisional Court, remaining there during pendency of the matter. The Court also pointed towards the further explanation that the record was received back from the Appellate Court in December 2022 and further proceedings have commenced since February 2023. Another reason for the delay as noted by the Court was the inability to serve the summons despite numerous attempts.
The Court observed that the High Court has issued instructions for similar difficulties that the photocopy of original record be summoned so that the proceeding before the Lower Court continues. It further pointed towards the Order dated 21-12-2022 passed by the Court wherein, instructions were given to send Lower Court Records (LCRs) pending before the Court expeditiously, preferably within 2 months. The Court also mentioned similar instructions issued in detail vide Order dated 10-4-2023.
The Court regarded the wait for original record before the Court of original jurisdiction and non-effecting of summons to the parties as the ultimate mode for avoiding the finalization of partition proceedings in the instant case under the Punjab Land Revenue Act or Eviction proceedings.
The Court referred to Krishna Veni Nagam v. Harish Nagam, (2017) 4 SCC 150 wherein, it was held that the service to a litigant can be effected through e-mail/phone number. It further pointed at the similar view taken by the Court in Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, In re, (2020) 9 SCC 468 regarding service of all notices, summons and exchange of pleadings effected by e-mail, FAX, commonly used instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc.
The Court therefore observed that to avoid any undue disposal of the proceedings pending before the Revenue Courts wherein the intention of a party in possession of the land is to delay the proceedings, issuance of specific guidelines is necessary.
The Court issued the following directions to the Chief Secretaries for the States of Punjab and Haryana and the Administrator, U.T., Chandigarh to issue necessary guidelines to all the Revenue Courts:
Service of notices, summons and exchange of pleadings may be effected by e-mail, FAX and commonly used instant messaging services like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc.
All Revenue Courts insist upon the parties and their advocates to provide their e-mail address, phone number with WhatsApp including similar information for the respondents while accepting the pleadings.
All notices to the lawyers may be issued via e-mail or commonly used instant messaging services.
To discard the procedure of munadi (with the help of beat of drum) being an obsolete one. For parties avoiding service of the summons which awaits to be effected on the very next date, to adopt the abovementioned methods in addition to the publication in a newspapers at the discretion of the Revenue Courts.
Not to requisition the original record by the Appellate/Revisional Court during filing of appeals/revisions under the Act, and only scanned copy/photocopy of the record be sent to the Appellate/Revisional Court. This will help the Court at first instance, i.e., Assistant Collector 1st Grade or 2nd Grade or the Collector to continue with the proceedings unless there is a stay by the Appellate/Revisional Court.
The Court listed the instant matter for the next hearing on 4-10-2023. The Court also directed the Assistant Collector 2nd grade concerned to conclude the partition proceedings without wasting any further time for effecting service of summons on unserved respondents and effect the service by modes stated herein above.
[Amar Singh v. Sanjeev Kumar, 2023 SCC OnLine P&H 525, Order dated 26-5-2023]
Order by: Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Advocate Vineet Chaudhary, Assistant Advocate General Harsh Vardhan Shehrawat.