Sunday, 12 June 2016

Leading Judgment on scope and ambit of term Judgment

The definition of the word 'judgment' in sub-s. (9) of s. 2 of the Code of 1908 is linked with the definition of 'decree' which is defined in sub-s. (2) of s. 2 thus:
"decree" means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit and may be either preliminary or final. It shall be deemed to include the rejection of a plaint and the determination of any question within section 47 or section 144, but shall not include-
(a) any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order, or
(b) any order of dismissal for default. Explanation:-A decree is preliminary when further proceedings have to be taken before the suit can be completely disposed of. It is final when such adjudication completely disposes of the suit. It may be partly preliminary and partly final".
Thus, under the Code of Civil Procedure, a judgment consists of the reasons and grounds for a decree passed by a court. As a judgment constitutes the reasons for the decree it follows as a matter of course that the judgment must be a formal adjudication which conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy. The concept of a judgment as defined by the Code of Civil Procedure seems to be rather narrow and the limitations engrafted by sub-s. (2) of s. 2 cannot be physically imported into the definition of the word 'judgment' as used in cl. 15 of the Letters Patent because the Letters Patent has advisedly not used the terms 'order' or 'decree' anywhere. The intention, therefore, of the givers of the Letters Patent was that the word 'judgment' should receive a much wider and more liberal interpretation than the word 'judgment' used in the Code of Civil Procedure. At the same time, it cannot be said that any order passed by a Trial Judge would amount to a judgment; otherwise there will be no end to the number of orders which would be appealable under the Letters Patent. It seems to us that the word 'judgment' has undoubtedly a concept of finality in a broader and not a narrower sense. In other words, a judgment can be of three kinds :.
(1) A Final Judgment-a judgment which decides all the questions or issues in controversy so far as the Trial Judge is concerned and leaves nothing else to be decided. This would mean that by virtue of the judgment, the suit or action brought by the plaintiff is dismissed or decreed in part or in full. Such an order passed by the Trial Judge indisputably and unquestionably is a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent and even amounts to a decree so that an appeal would lie from such a judgment to a Division Bench 
(2) A preliminary judgment-This kind of a judgment may take two forms-(a) where the Trial Judge by an order dismisses the suit without going into the merits of the suit but only on a preliminary objection raised by the defendant or the party opposing on the ground that the suit is not maintainable. Here also, as the suit is finally decided one way or the other, the order passed by the Trial Judge would be a judgment finally deciding the cause so far as the Trial Judge is concerned and therefore appealable to the larger Bench. (b) Another shape which a preliminary judgment may take is that where the Trial Judge passes an order after hearing the preliminary objections raised by the defendant relating to maintainability of the suit, e.g., bar of jurisdiction, res Judicata, a manifest defect in the suit, absence of notice under section 80 and the like, and these objections are decided by the Trial Judge against the defendant, the suit is not terminated but continues and has to be tried on merits but the order of the Trial Judge rejecting the objections doubtless adversely affects a valuable right of the defendant who, if his objections are valid, is entitled to get the suit dismissed on preliminary grounds. Thus, such an R order even though it keeps the suit alive, undoubtedly decides an important aspect of the trial which affects a vital right of the defendant and must, therefore, be construed to be a judgment so as to be appealable to larger Bench.
(3) Intermediary or Interlocutory judgment-Most of the interlocutory orders which contain the quality of finality are clearly specified in clauses (a) to (w) of order 43 Rule 1 and have already been held by us to be judgments within the meaning of the Letters Patent and, therefore, appealable. There may also be interlocutory orders which are not covered by o. 43 R.1 but which also possess the characteristics and trappings of finality in that, the orders may adversely affect a valuable right of the party or decide an important aspect of the trial in an ancillary proceeding. Before such an order can be a judgment the adverse effect on the party concerned must be direct and immediate rather than indirect or remote. For instance, where the Trial Judge in a suit under order 37 of the Code of Civil Procedure refuses the defendant leave to defend the suit, the order directly affects the defendant because he loses a valuable right to defend the suit and his remedy is confined only to contest the plaintiff's case on his own evidence without being given a chance to rebut that evidence. As such an order vitally affects a valuable right of the defendant it will undoubtedly be treated as a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent so as to be appealable to a larger Bench. Take the converse case in a similar suit where the trial Judge allows the defendant to defend the suit in which case although the plaintiff is adversely affected but the damage or prejudice caused to him is not direct or immediate but of a minimal nature and rather too remote because the plaintiff still possesses his full right to show that the defence isfalse and succeed in the suit. Thus, such an Order passed by the Trial Judge would not amount to a judgment within the meaning of cl. 15 of the Letters Patent but will be purely an interlocutory order.
Similarly, suppose the Trial Judge passes an Order setting aside an exparte decree against the defendant, which is not appealable under any of the clauses of O. 43 R.1 though an order rejecting an application to set aside the decree passed exparte falls within O. 43 R.l cl. (d) and is appealable, the serious question that arises is whether or not the order first mentioned is a judgment within the meaning of Letters Patent. The fact, however, remains that the order setting aside the ex-parte decree puts the defendant to a great advantage and works serious injustice to the plaintiff because as a consequence of the order, the plaintiff has now to contest the suit and is deprived of the fruits of the decree passed in his favour. In these circumstances, therefore, the order passed by the Trial Judge setting aside the ex parte decree vitally affects the valuable rights of the plaintiff and hence amounts to an interlocutory judgment and is therefore, appealable to a larger Bench.
In the course of the trial, the Trial Judge may pass a number of orders whereby some of the various steps to be taken by the parties in prosecution of the suit may be of a routine nature while other orders may cause some inconvenience to one party or the other, e.g., an order refusing an adjournment, an order refusing to summon an additional witness or documents, an order refusing to condone delay in filing documents, after the first date of hearing an order of costs to one of the parties for its default or an order exercising discretion in respect of a procedural matter against one party or the other. Such orders are purely interlocutory and cannot constitute judgments because it will always be open to the aggrieved party to make a grievance of the order passed against the party concerned in the appeal against the final judgment passed by the Trial Judge.
Thus, in other words every interlocutory order cannot be regarded as a judgment but only those orders would be judgments which decide matters of moment or affect vital and valuable rights of the parties and which work serious injustice to the party concerned. Similarly, orders passed by the Trial Judge deciding question of admissibility or relevancy of a document also cannot be treated as judgments because the grievance on this score can be corrected by the appellate court in appeal against the final judgment.
We might give another instance of an interlocutory order which amounts to an exercise of discretion and which may yet amount to a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent. Suppose the Trial Judge allows the plaintiff to amend his plaint or include a cause of action or a relief as a result of which a vested right of limitation accrued to the defendant is taken away and rendered nugatory. It is manifest that in such cases, although the order passed by the trial Judge is purely discretionary and interlocutory it causes gross injustice to the defendant who is deprived of a valuable right of defence to the suit. Such an order, therefore, though interlocutory in nature contains the attributes and characteristics of finality and must be treated as a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent. This is what was held by this Court in Shanti Kumar's case (supra), as discussed above.
Let us take another instance of a similar order which may not amount to a judgment. Suppose the Trial Judge allows the plaintiff to amend the plaint by adding a particular relief or taking an additional ground which may be inconsistent with the pleas taken by him but is not barred by limitation and does not work serious injustice to the defendant wh o would have ample opportunity to disprove the amended plea taken by plaintiff at the trial. In such cases, the order of the Trial Judge would only be a simple interlocutory order without containing any quality of finality and would therefore not be a judgment within the meaning of cl. 15 of the Letters Patent The various instances given by us would constitute sufficient guidelines to determine whether or not an order passed by the Trial Judge is a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent. We must however hasten to add that instances given by us are illustrative and not exhaustive. We have already referred to the various tests laid down by the Calcutta, Rangoon and Madras High Courts. So far as the Rangoon High Court is concerned we have already pointed out that the strict test that an order passed by the Trial Judge would be a judgment only if it amounts to a decree under the Code of Civil Procedure, is legally erroneous and opposed to the very tenor and spirit of the language of the Letters Patent. We, therefore, do not approve of the test laid down by the Rangoon High Court and that decision therefore has to be confined only to the facts of that particular case because that being a case of transfer, it is manifest that no question of any finality was involved in the order of transfer. We would like to adopt and approve of generally the tests laid down by Sir White, C.J. in Tuljaram Row's case (supra) (which seems to have been followed by most of the High Courts) minus the broader and the wider attributes adumbrated by Sir White, C.J. Or more explicitly by Krishnaswamy Ayyar, J. as has been referred to above.
Apart from the tests laid down by Sir White, C.J., the following considerations must prevail with the court:
(1) That the Trial Judge being a senior court with vast experience of various branches of law occupying a very high status should be trusted to pass discretionary or interlocutory orders with due regard to the well settled principles of civil justice. Thus, any discretion exercised or routine orders passed by the Trial Judge in the course of the suit which may cause some inconvenience or, to some extent, prejudice one party or the other cannot be treated as a judgment otherwise the appellate court (Division Bench) will be flooded with appeals from all kinds of orders passed by the Trial Judge. The courts must give sufficient allowance to the Trial Judge and raise a presumption that any discretionary order which he passes must be presumed to be correct unless it is ex facie legally erroneous or causes grave and substantial injustice.
(2) That the interlocutory order in order to be a judgment must contain the traits and trappings of finality either when the order decides the questions in controversy in an ancillary proceeding or in the suit itself or in a part of the proceedings.
(3) The tests laid down by Sir White, C.J. as also by Sir Couch, C.J. as modified by later decisions of the Calcutta High Court itself which have been dealt with by us elaborately should be borne in mind.
Thus, these are some of the principles which might guide a Division Bench in deciding whether an order passed by the Trial Judge amounts to a judgment within the meaning of the Letters Patent. We might, however, at the risk of repetition give illustrations of interlocutory orders which may be treated as judgments:
(1) An order granting leave to amend the plaint by introducing a new cause of action which completely alters the nature of the suit and takes away a vested right of limitation or any other valuable right accrued to the defendant (2) An order rejecting the plaint.
(3) An order refusing leave to defend the suit in an action under Order 37, Code of Civil Procedure. (4) An order rescinding leave of the Trial Judge granted by him under clause 12 of the Letters Patent.
(5) An order deciding a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the suit on the ground of limitation, absence of notice under s. 80, bar against competency of the suit against the defendant even though the suit is kept alive. (6) An order rejecting an application for a judgment on admission under order 12 Rule 6.
(7) An order refusing to add necessary parties in a suit under s. 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure. (8) An order varying or amending a decree. (9) An order refusing leave to sue in forma pauperis. (10) An order granting review.
(11) An order allowing withdrawal of the suit with liberty to file a fresh one.
(12) An order holding that the defendants are not agriculturists within the meaning of the special law.
(13) An order staying or refusing to stay a suit under s. 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
(14) An order granting or refusing to stay execution of the decree.
(15) An order deciding payment of court fees against the plaintiff.
Here, it may be noted that whereas an order deciding the nature of the court fees to be paid by the plaintiff would be a judgment but this order affects only the plaintiff or the Government and not the defendant. Thus, only the plaintiff or the Government as the case may be will have the right to file an appeal in the Division Bench and not the defendant because the question of payment of court fees is a matter between the Government and the plaintiff and the defendant has no locus in this regard.
Supreme Court of India
Shah Babulal Khimji vs Jayaben D. Kania And Anr on 10 August, 1981
Equivalent citations: 1981 AIR 1786, 1982 SCR (1) 187
BENCH:
FAZALALI, SYED MURTAZA
VARADARAJAN, A. (J)
SEN, AMARENDRA NATH (J)
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