Sunday, 25 October 2020

Whether the court can refuse to rely on the court commissioner's report if he is not examined as a witness?

According to Sub-rule (2) to Rule 10 of Order XXVI, the report of the Commissioner and the evidence taken by him during the inspection shall be evidence in the suit and shall form part of the record. Therefore, there is no controversy with regard to admissibility of the report as evidence during the trial and making the report of the Commissioner part of record. However, before the report is made part of the record and taken as piece of evidence, it is open for the Court to examine the Commissioner on matters referred to him in his report or as to the manner in which he had made the investigation. It is open for the parties also to examine the Commissioner or on the manner in which he had conducted the investigation. This is the only interpretation which can be placed upon Sub-rule (2) of Rule 10. There is no other interpretation possible of this sub-rule. It is a different matter if neither the Court nor any of the parties takes any objection to the report. In such a situation the report becomes final and becomes part of the record and also can be taken as piece of evidence. But once a party objects to it specifically wants that the Commissioner be examined, the Court has no option but to examine the Commissioner. Unless that is done, the Commissioner's report can neither form part of the record nor it can become a piece of evidence which could be relied upon at the stage of disposal of suit.

The legal position cannot be disputed as stated in the rulings cited above that a court commissioner's report can be made a part of the record and exhibited if report is not objected to by the parties to the suit, but when question is regarding correctness of the contents of report, correctness of contents of the report can only be proved by examining writer/author of document as held in Bishwanath Rai v. Sachhidanand Singh reported in MANU/SC/0448/1971 : AIR 1971 SC 1949.

12. In view of the above rulings, mere production of Commissioner's report and it being admitted in evidence by itself does not prove contents of document or as to what investigations were carried out by the court commissioner. Moreover, the trial Court has observed that the commissioner's report is ambiguous and does not give clear picture.

Bearing in mind the settled legal position, it has to be concluded that both the Courts below were justified in ignoring commissioner's report along with its map on the ground of non-examination of the court commissioner as a witness.


 IN THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY (NAGPUR BENCH)


Second Appeal No. 77 of 1999


Decided On: 05.07.2010


 Kirpashankar Mukundlal Sahu Vs.  Tilakraj Khushalchandra Wadhawan


Hon'ble Judges/Coram:

A.P. Bhangale, J.

Citation: MANU/MH/0720/2010


1. This appeal is filed by unsuccessful plaintiff in Regular Civil Suit No. 83 of 1995 decided on 19.5.1995 by II Jt Civil Judge, Junior Division, Bhandara and appellant in Regular Civil Appeal No. 101 of 1997 heard and dismissed by the Additional District Judge, Bhandara on 2.9.1998.


2. This Court by order dated 14.1.2005 admitted the second appeal on the following substantial question of law:


Whether the Courts below were justified in ignoring the Commissioner's Report along with map on the ground of non-examination of the Commissioner as witness ?

3. The facts briefly are:


The plaintiffs had instituted the suit on the ground that they are owners of Khasra No. 70 at village Pinglai, now known as Shjivaji Ward, Bhandara in Municipal town No. 3. Out of the said land, the plaintiffs sold area of 186 square meters (2000 square feet), viz. 40'east-west, 50' north-south bounded by plaintiff's land on east; 10' wide road on west; Shri Sathavane's land on South. The land was sold to defendants under registered sale deed for consideration of Rs. 20,000/- on 1.6.1990. The defendant had constructed house over the plot sold and utilised entire area. However, on or about 15.5.1995 the defendant started construction of wall on eastern side of the land by encroaching upon 11'x 50'strip of land owned by plaintiffs on eastern side of the plot sold to defendant. The plaint sketch was annexed showing encroachment by red colour A B C D in map drawn for plaintiffs. The defendant though requested orally to refrain from encroachment remained adamant which made it necessary for the plaintiffs to approach the trial Court with prayer for declaration, possession of encroached portion and injunction against defendant.

4. Defendant denied and disputed contents of the plaint while pleading that the defendant is owner of Gat No. 70/1, PH No. 14 at Pinglai admeasuring 2000 square feet purchased on 1.6.1990 and that he had constructed house after getting No Objection Certificate from Municipal Council, Bhandara and completed construction in March 1995. It was contended that the plaintiffs had sold agricultural land without any layout map and only to harass the defendant after he has constructed house and compound. The defendant also disputed on the ground that the plaintiffs have sold adjoining land on east5ern side of the defendant's plot to one Mr Kshirsagar and therefore, plaintiffs have no right, title over land claimed. It is, therefore, contended that plaintiffs did not come with clean hands.


5. The trial Court found that the plaintiffs do not own eastern disputed land and that there was no any encroachment upon land owned by plaintiffs and by detailed reasons, the suit was dismissed.


6. In the appeal before the Additional District Judge, it was found that the plaintiffs have failed to prove that they are owners of strip admeasuring 11' x 15' open site shown as A B C D, thus the appeal came to be dismissed. It was held that the defendant constructed house over his own plot and though there is open site/strip between the defendant's plot and Kshirsagar's plot, the plaintiffs cannot be treated as owner thereof. It was also noted by the 1st Appellate Court that the plaintiffs had sold plot without sanctioned layout and without N.A. Permission from the competent authority (Collector). Hence, trial Court's judgment was found legal and correct.


7. Learned Counsel for the appellants argued that the plaintiffs have applied for appointment of Court Commissioner and an Advocate was appointed to work as Court Commissioner to measure land and to draw sketch map and the report was submitted at exhibit 23 to which the defendant had no objection to refer in the evidence by the plaintiffs. Learned Counsel for the appellants criticized that the Commissioner's report ought to have been accepted as evidence of contents thereof without examination of the Court Commissioner as a witness. The report was held not so much clear and trustworthy in the absence of evidence/ examination of the court commissioner. Learned Counsel made reference to Order 26, Rule 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure and rulings as below:


(i) Smt Vadda Rajeswaramma v. Dr V.L. Narasimha Charyulu and Ors. reported in AIR 1988 AP 202.


(ii) State of UP v. Smt Ram Sri and anr reported in AIR 1976 Allahabad 121.


(iii) M/s Roy and Co. v. Smt Nani Bala reported in AIR 1979 Calcutta 50.


8. In M/s Roy's case (supra), it has been held that the Commissioner's report should not be rejected except on clearly defined and sufficient grounds. The Court should not act as an expert and overrule the Commissioner's report whose integrity and carefulness are not questioned and who did not blindly accept the assertion of either party. In Smt Vadda Rajeswaramma's case (supra), the Court observed thus:


According to Sub-rule (2) to Rule 10 of Order XXVI, the report of the Commissioner and the evidence taken by him during the inspection shall be evidence in the suit and shall form part of the record. Therefore, there is no controversy with regard to admissibility of the report as evidence during the trial and making the report of the Commissioner part of record. However, before the report is made part of the record and taken as piece of evidence, it is open for the Court to examine the Commissioner on matters referred to him in his report or as to the manner in which he had made the investigation. It is open for the parties also to examine the Commissioner or on the manner in which he had conducted the investigation. This is the only interpretation which can be placed upon Sub-rule (2) of Rule 10. There is no other interpretation possible of this sub-rule. It is a different matter if neither the Court nor any of the parties takes any objection to the report. In such a situation the report becomes final and becomes part of the record and also can be taken as piece of evidence. But once a party objects to it specifically wants that the Commissioner be examined, the Court has no option but to examine the Commissioner. Unless that is done, the Commissioner's report can neither form part of the record nor it can become a piece of evidence which could be relied upon at the stage of disposal of suit.


In State of UP v. Smt Ram Sri (supra), the Allahabad High Court observed that it is upto the choice of the party to examine a Commissioner in respect of matters referred to him or mentioned in his report. But the examination of the Commissioner is not at all required in view of Order 26, Rule 10 (2) of the Code of Civil Procedure.


9. The legal position cannot be disputed as stated in the rulings cited above that a court commissioner's report can be made a part of the record and exhibited if report is not objected to by the parties to the suit, but when question is regarding correctness of the contents of report, correctness of contents of the report can only be proved by examining writer/author of document as held in Bishwanath Rai v. Sachhidanand Singh reported in MANU/SC/0448/1971 : AIR 1971 SC 1949.


10. In Bishwanath Rai's case (supra), the Apex Court has observed as under:


It is true that in the absence of examination of Swamiji himself the correctness of those statements cannot be held to be proved. Thus, the evidence of Ram Chandra Sharma proves the contents of the letter, but not the correctness of those contents. The letter was, therefore, admissible to the extent to which the fact that Swamiji wrote such a letter to Ram Chandra Sharma with its contents has bearing on the issues involved in this case. To that extent, the letter was relevant and admissible. However, we are not inclined to agree with the High Court that if this letter is relevant and admissible, the Court should have examined Swami ji as its own witness. The relevancy or admissibility was judged by the Court at the last stage of delivering the judgment. There was no justification for the appellant to wait for the judgment and not examine Swamiji as his own witness as held by us above. In the circumstances, this letter has to be taken into account to the extent just indicated by us above.

11. In Om Prakash and Anr v. UTI and Ors. reported in MANU/MH/0249/1983 : 1983 Mh. L.J. 339, this Court has held that in case where secondary evidence is legally permissible as regards execution of the documents has got to be adduced to prove what the document states. Truth of what the document states must be separately established and merely because document is admitted in evidence that does not prove the contents of the documents.


12. In view of the above rulings, mere production of Commissioner's report and it being admitted in evidence by itself does not prove contents of document or as to what investigations were carried out by the court commissioner. Moreover, the trial Court has observed that the commissioner's report is ambiguous and does not give clear picture.


13. Even otherwise, both the Courts below have by concurrent and well-reasoned judgments arrived at findings of facts based upon evidence as also on the basis of relevant admissible evidence. Concurrent findings, however, erroneous cannot be disturbed by the High Court in exercise of power under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It is not within the domain of the High Court to investigate grounds on which findings were arrived at by the last court of facts. It is also settled legal position that right of appeal is neither natural nor inherent right attached to the litigant. Being substantive statutory right, it has to be regulated according to law in force. The conditions must be fulfilled before second appeal is maintained. No Court has power to add or enlarge those grounds. Bearing in mind the settled legal position, it has to be concluded that both the Courts below were justified in ignoring commissioner's report along with its map on the ground of non-examination of the court commissioner as a witness. Substantial question of law formulated in this appeal is answered accordingly.


14. In the result, appeal fails and is dismissed with no order as to costs.


 

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