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Whether plaintiff can be permitted to file replication or rejoinder to written statement?

IN THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY AT GOA

Writ Petition No. 524 of 2009

Decided On: 23.09.2009

Shri Datta Laxmikant Nayak Karmali
Vs.
Mrs. Priya Daata Nayak Karmali, nee Ms. Priya Narshiv Pissurlekar

Hon’ble Judges/Coram:
A.H. Joshi, J.

1. Rule.

2. Rule is made returnable forthwith and heard by consent.

3. Petitioner herein has filed Marriage Petition for annulment and in the alternative dissolution of marriage, which is pending.

4. In said Petition, the Petitioner, filed an application under Rule 9 of Order VIII of C.P.C. By this application the petitioner has prayed for leave of the Court to file ‘replication’ to the written statement. The ground pleaded for this prayer was that the respondent had brought in her written statement “some new facts”, and filing of the clarificatory pleading by way of ‘replication’ is necessary.

5. Petitioner’s application has been rejected by Order dated 04.08.2009.

6. In order to appreciate the facts, this Court has perused the Marriage Petition filed by the Petitioner and the written statement filed by the wife.

7. It is seen that the Petitioner has claimed that:

(a) The marriage was not consummated;

(b) The wife had premarriage love affair with a cousin, which she could not forget; and

(c) Irretrievable breakdown of the matrimony.

8. In the written statement, the wife has denied the petitioner’s version and narrated various other facts in support of her contention denying and adding facts claiming those to be within husband’s knowledge in order to falsify husband’s plea.

9. Perusal of draft of “replication” tendered by husband, appended to the application consists of reiteration or repetition of version contained in the Marriage Petition, some explanation and simplicitor denial of the wife’s statements contained in her written statement.

10. Petitioner has, therefore, filed present Petition challenging the said Order dated 04.08.2009 averring that as his application has been rejected on the ground of want of maintainability, impugned Order deserves to be set aside, and either the prayer for filing of “replication” be allowed or the Trial Court be directed to hear and decide petitioner’s application afresh and according to law.

11. Heard learned Advocates at length.

12. Learned Advocate Mr. C. Mascarenhas for the Petitioner has placed reliance on various Judgments as follows:

(1) 1925 Bombay 390 Juvansingji Motisingji Thakor v. Dola Chhala.

(2) MANU/RH/0223/1999 : AIR 1999 Rajasthan 169 State of Rajasthan and Anr. v. Mohammed Ikbal and Ors.

(3) MANU/KE/0469/1999 : AIR 1999 Ker 88 Sunil & Vasanth Architects and Consulting Engineers and Anr. v. Tata Ceremics Ltd.

(4) MANU/PH/0016/1977 : AIR 1977 Punjab & Haryana 68 Jag Dutta v. Smt. Savitri Devi

(5) MANU/BH/0041/1961 : AIR 1961 Patna 152 Binda Prasad v. United Bank of India Ltd. and Ors.

13. The gist of submissions for which reliance is placed on all these Judgments is as follows:

(1) That in most of the High Courts and the subordinate Courts, there exists a practice of allowing “replication” if plaintiff makes out a case and Court grants leave for explaining totally new facts brought forward by the defendant.

(2) Granting of leave to file such “replication” is permissible under Rule 9 of Order VIII of C.P.C.

(3) Judicial cognizance of existence such a practice is taken by various Courts and filing of a replication with leave of Court is an essential ingredient of the adversarial system, and that “replication” should be allowed in order that the “pleadings are completed” rather those are not left in a defective state.

(4) The plaintiff may with leave of Court explain by replication or a rejoinder some new facts brought by the defendant in the written statement but cannot be allowed to plead a totally new plea or a plea contrary to plaintiff’s stand espoused through the plaint.

14. Learned Advocate Mr. V.P. Thali for the respondent, on the other hand, urged as follows:

(a) In the Judgment of this Court reported in the case of Juvansingji v. Dola Chhala MANU/MH/0258/1924 : 1925 Bom. 390, seen at page 392, certain observations emerge namely:

(i) Filing of “replication” is desirable;

(ii) If not done, ‘the pleadings are left in a defective state’;

(iii) The practice in High Courts in England adopted by ‘English trained Lawyers’ was to file “replication”;

(iv) The defect of not filing a “replication” was prevalent in mofussil Courts as well as on the Original Side of High Court of Bombay.

(b) The observations condensed and narrated in Point Nos. (i) to (iv) contained in the foregoing sub para, which emerge from Juvansingji’s case (supra) are the expressions of an opinion of the Hon’ble bench by way of passing remarks, and not the dictum or a ratio decidendi.

(c) In another Judgment of Bombay High Court, Chimawa Rachaya v. Gangawa Gangadharaya and Ors. MANU/MH/0082/1929 : AIR 1929 Bom 413, this High Court has in very clear terms disregarded as “vicious” the practice of filing the “replication” as a matter of course, and this Court has directed that the said practice should be done away.

(d) “Replication” reveals to be a practice in vogue in English Courts, and is adopted/mechanically followed in some Courts in India.

(e) Said practice has no support of law in C.P.C. or any other law governing precedure or a binding precedent.

(f) Such practice is prohibited by necessary implications considering the scheme governing the trial of suits and proceedings in Indian Courts.

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15. In reply, learned Advocate Mr. C. Mascarenhas urged that in the case of Chimawa Rachaya v. Gangawa Gangadharaya and Ors. MANU/MH/0082/1929 : AIR 1929 Bom 413 this Court has recognized the practice of allowing the application with leave of the Court and what has been disregarded by this Court is filing application “as a matter of course”, and therefore filing of a ‘replication’ with leave of Court be regarded as a judicially recognized practice having the force of law, and be adhered to.

Analysis of submissions

16. It is clear from reading of the Judgment in Juvalsingh’s case (supra) that filing of replication however was noticed as a non existing practice. To put advertation, this Court has recorded as follows:

As regards the pleadings, it must be borne in mind that it was not the plaintiff who was setting up the rent notes but it was the defendant. The rent notes are not referred to in the plaintiff’s pleadings. Further, under the ordinary practice in the mofussil it is not customary for a plaintiff to put in a reply to the defendant’s written statement. If the case had been one in the English High Court, a reply would be a matter of course. But even on the Original Side in Bombay it is not essential in many cases to put in a reply, and in others the express permission of the Court may have to be obtained for that purpose.

Accordingly – I am speaking with experience of the Original Side-it frequently happens that the pleadings are left in what to an English trained lawyer is a defective state.

(Quoted from left hand side column upper portion of page 392 of report. Sub-paragraphing is done for convenience)

17. Second unnumbered sub-para contained in above quotation refers to what Their Lordships had observed as practice prevailing namely in Moffusil as well in original side of Bombay High Court that “it is not customary to file further pleadings”, and “it could be done with express permission of the Court.”

18. In the background of English Trained Lawyers and as in vogue in High Court in England, Their Lordships felt that pleadings without replication were defective as was seen in original side of High Court Bombay and Moffusil Courts. These observations are seen to be guided and propelled by practice in vogue in English High Courts adopted by Court through “English Trained Lawyers”, than laying down true construction of Rule 9 of Order VIII of C.P.C. Later exercise in fact was not done by the Bench mostly because it was not the issue involved. Based on Rule 9 of Order VIII, this Court observed that leave of court may be possible for filing replication. This Judgment does not in terms hold that said Rule 9 expressly provides for an enabling provision in favour of the plaintiff.

19. In so far as practice of filing of “replication” is concerned, it is seen that this aspect was tackled in the Judgment of this Court in 1925 in Juvalsingh’s case (supra) incidentally. Scheme as found in C.P.C. & Evidence Act

20. Perusal of scheme of Order 6, 7, 8, 10 and 17 of C.P.C. 1908, read with Section 5 – 39 of Evidence Act prescribe the frame of pleadings and the manner in which the plaintiff ought and ought not plead, and as to leading the evidence.

21. Law of pleadings provides that one has to plead facts and not the evidence. Modalities of do’s and do not prescribed in various rules and in particular Rule 1 to 13 of Order VI and Order VII of C.P.C. do lay down adequately amplify the procedure and provide a broad spectrum of guidance.

22. Order VIII pertains to the written statement exclusively. Scheme contained therein is based on the dos and do not as to the written statement. Rule 9 thereof, inter alia, contains a prohibition against further pleadings by way of Written Statement or Additional Written Statement.

23. The “pleading” which may be allowed by way of “further pleadings” once the written statement is filed, if the defendant so prays for allowed or whenever ordered by the Court at any stage, are expressly narrated in Rule 9. It will be convenience and useful to have a quick glance on Rule 9, which, for ready reference is quoted below : “Rule 9 Order VIII – Subsequent pleadings. No pleading subsequent to the written statement of a defendant other than by way of defence to set-off or counter-claim shall be presented except by the leave of the Court and upon such terms as the Court thinks fit; but the Court may at any time require a written statement or additional written statement from any of the parties and fix a time of not more than thirty days for presenting the same.”

24. A party referred to and denoted in the Rule 9 is and has to be defendant would be vivid from reading of Rule 9 in the following manner:

(1) Order VI of C.P.C. Which relates to the “pleadings Generally”, in Rule (1) the term “pleading” has been defined to mean plaint and written statement.

(2) Order VII is devoted to contents of plaint and the procedure to be followed by parties and the Court in that behalf.

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(3) Order VIII is devoted for the written statement and restrains thereon.

(4) Any subsequent pleadings, after the filing of written statement of the “defendant” shall not be allowed.

(5) Any such subsequent pleading can be allowed by way of defence to the set off or a counter claim, means a written statement to counterclaim or a set off which for all purposes are a “Plaint”.

(6) Pleading subsequent of written statement by way of “written statement or additional written statement” may be allowed only when leave is granted by the Court on such terms as Court thinks fit.

(7) This prohibition does not apply to power of Court to require a written statement or additional written statement from any of the parties.

(8) Term Parties referred to in Rule 9 when construed with reference to context, has to mean to be the “defendant” alone and cannot mean plaintiff, as the terms “written statement” or “additional written statement” cannot and can never mean to refer to the plaint.

(9) Such written statement or additional written statement when ordered by the Court has to be filed within not more than 30 days failing which Court can pronounce the Judgment.

(10) What is permissible under Rule 9 will have to mean that a written statement or a defence to the set-off or counter claim, has to come as routine course.

(11) However, when it refers to a total prohibition of further pleadings, it essentially refers to the written statement alone.

(12) Moreover, the power of Court to call or require a written statement or additional written statement as well essentially refers to calling it from the defendants, lest it would not refer to pronounce the Judgment which wording is analogous to one used in Rule 10 of Order VIII.

25. From harmonious reading and construction of Rule 9 supra, it is apparent that the ‘defendant’ alone is the party within the focus of Rule 9 of Order VIII of C.P.C. It would, therefore, amount to stretching too far and beyond the intention of legislature to include ‘further pleadings’ to be in the form of plaint or pleas supporting the plaint.

26. Similarly, the “pleadings” referred therein i.e. in Rule 9 shall mean essentially the written statements tendered or to be tendered by the defendant or a party who comes in the trappings of the term “defendant” i.e. being a plaintiff who has to defend a set off or a counter claim as a defendant thereof.

Other Aspects of Replication

27. Ordinarily, there can be nothing which can be totally new to the plaintiff. The defence is mostly known, Plaint has also to disclose in the plaint the nexus of cause with the defendant. The facts as pleaded in defence may be always capable of denoted as totally new. The proof and disproof is always in the trial. A suit or a defence thereto does not come into picture as a bolt from the blue and the transactions in which parties have lived are to be faced by one another attributing knowledge to one another and acceptance or denial thereof.

28. If plaintiff wants to admit any allegation contained in written statement, formal proof of said fact can be dispensed with. If plaintiff wants to admit or not to dispute, he can do so by placing the plea on record, which rather does not need provision in law or a leave for that purpose.

29. It is true that if the replication is allowed, the defendant as well gets notice of plaintiff’s stance on the defendant’s pleas taken in written statement. However, in absence of replication, if the defendant wants to know the plaintiff’s stance on defendant’s plea, he may take recourse to other provisions of C.P.C. such as interrogatory. These grounds of inquisitiveness or a craving for a reply cannot and does not constitute to be foundation for making replication, a rule of law due to necessity.

30. The basic rule of pleadings namely only facts have to be pleaded and not the evidence, and, therefore, the facts which are brought by the defendant as a defence are in fact in the form of notice enabling the plaintiff to bring the evidence in appropriate tone.

31. Plaintiff rather has a right to bring before the Court as his evidence according to his choice and decision. As it is clear from Rule 1 of Order XVIII that it is the right of the plaintiff to begin with, this provision serves as primary device to express, disclose and prove whatever he intends in response to the plea found in the written statement. Additional equipment of Rule (3) thereof of reserving some evidence of witnesses with the leave of Court, and to be tendered in evidence later in sequence i.e. after the defendant concludes is very well available to the plaintiff, or party opening the evidence.

32. In either of the eventualities, whatever comes before the Court as facts pleaded in the written statement or facts which the plaintiff claims to be new can be always be met by the plaintiff by leading his evidence which he does in initiation and, therefore, it cannot be said that plaintiff’s side would not come before the Court.

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33. Whenever the defendant has a duty to begin, the plaintiff is free to bring his evidence in rebuttal. In this situation, his explanatory facts and pleas are going to surface during cross examination of Defendant’s witnesses.

34. The practice and notion that after written statement is received from the defendant, the plaintiff should file a replication, and then alone the pleadings would be complete else the pleadings would remain incomplete or defective based on the practice in High Court’s in England, therefore, has no application in India in the background of codified law as is emerging from Rule 9 of Order VIII of C.P.C. What preferably is needed as per the practice in England could not by itself decide as to what shall be the procedure to be followed by Courts in India, so long a specific rule of law enacted by competent legislature governs the field.

35. This Court has to be conscious and alive to Rule 17 of Order VI which prohibits further amendment of pleadings except with the leave of Court. Spirit underlying this rule would adequately guide the interpretation or construction of Rule 9 of Order VIII and it will have to be construed rigidly by holding that no further pleadings and amendments would be allowed except through an access created by law for that purpose. If replication is allowed, then the defendant has no chance to reply. If amendment of plaint is allowed, the defendant has a right of reply. If an amend of plaint is justified, Courts would consider such request according to law and on its own merit.

36. If replication is to be filed and again examination in chief on affidavit, nothing more than addition of bulk by redundance would occur. Such futile exercise, therefore, needs to be dispensed with heavy hand as expressed by this Court way back in 1929. This Court, in the result, holds that the device of replication should not be resorted to at all as an aid to the plaintiff in suit where full and formal trial has to take place. Replication or Rejoinder where full trial is not held.

37. Procedure or a need to file replication or rejoinder to the written reply would ordinarily be needed and could be recognized as a requisite step in a case where ‘formal’ hearing complying with ingredients full trial consisting of examination in chief and cross examination of witnesses as contemplated by C.P.C. and law of evidence or law or procedure or akin thereto is not held, and the Court and Tribunal proceeds barely on affidavits.

38. In such case when the statements of facts raised in the reply or written statement are about to go unchallenged, and undenied, leave to file a replication or rejoinder may be necessary as a requirement of observance of principles of natural justice. Such situation can arise whenever the Court or Tribunal exercises jurisdiction which is understood is common parlance as summary jurisdiction and/or exercises the powers by relying on the evidence by way of documents and affidavits, and without a formal and full fledged trial.

To conclude

39. Even going by the meaning of the said term given in the Black’s Law Dictionary, it only defines the practice as in vogue in Courts. Going on logically or by etymology, the term ‘replication’ carries means repeatation or reiteration (of what was once told). This meaning is almost contrary to the practice believed to be followed in the Courts in this regard. The meaning attributed to the said term in law is solely due to the said practice alone. Therefore, what would replication mean and what is the purpose it serves has no co-relation with the cannons of justice through adversial systems as channelized by C.P.C.

40. This Court cannot be oblivious to the changes in procedural law which have undergone in recent past. Effect of amendment in the Civil Procedure Code aimed at expeditious disposal and focusing on avoiding delays has to be considered, and the scope of Rule 9 of Order VIII is not to be escalated.

41. In the result, this Court is of the considered view that Rule 9 of Order VIII can never be used as an aid to the plaintiff to file a replication or a rejoinder to the written statement.

42. Moreover, the concept of replication has no statutory support in India. Any such practice is not based on any law or practice or a tradition having force of law which is saved by law or constitution.

43. Owing to the foregoing discussion, this Court is of a considered view that by any permutations and combinations, Rule 9 of Order VIII cannot be used to give leverage to a plaintiff who wants to escalate the pleadings by bringing on record the facts which he is not permitted to bring, save and except by taking recourse to Rule 17 of Order VI of C.P.C. by way of amendment of plaint.

44. The Trial Court, therefore, was right in rejecting petitioner’s application for leave to file replication. Rule discharged. In the circumstances, parties are directed to bear their own costs. Applause to Lawyers for brief and good assistance.

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