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The Delhi High Court has held that the Court has no power to extend the statutory time limit of 45 days within which a replication along with admission/denial of documents has to be filed by a plaintiff in view of Rule 5 in Chapter VII of the Delhi High Court (Original Side Rules), 2018.
The Judgment was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice V Kameswar Rao in an appeal by Odeon Builders Pvt Ltd (appellant) against an order passed by the Joint Registrar closing its right to file replication as well as the affidavit of admission/denial of documents in its suit against NBCC (India) Ltd (defendant).
The plaintiff had filed the suit for recovery of Rs 11,55,58,917 along with 18% interest from the defendant.
Upon service of the summons, the defendant submitted its written statement on January 30, 2019 / February 18, 2019.
Thereafter, on March 13, 2019, the Joint Registrar recorded the factum of filing of the written statement and granted liberty to the appellant to file replication as well as the affidavit of admission/denial of documents and adjourned the matter for April 9, 2019.
It was stated that the mother of the counsel for the appellant/plaintiff was seriously ill and remained in the hospital for more than a month on account of Swine Flu. Since the counsel was busy in the treatment of her mother, the replication, as well as the affidavit of admission/denial of documents, were not filed before April 9, 2019, time as sought to file the same before the Joint Registrar.
The Joint Registrar thus granted further time to the plaintiff and adjourned the matter to May 17, 2019.
After the replication, as well as the affidavit of admission/denial of documents, was not filed even on May 17, 2019, the Joint Registrar closed the plaintiff’s right to file the same.
In appeal before the Single Judge Bench, the plaintiff stated that although the replication and the affidavit of admission/denial of documents was ready even before May 17, 2019, the same could not be attested on time. Moreover, since there was the election of the Delhi High Court Bar Association on May 17, 2019, the same could not be attested on that day as well as the counsel was busy in the election.
The plaintiff argued that there is no reason for the learned Joint Registrar not to grant further time of two days as the time period to file the same under the Delhi High Court (Original Side Rules), 2018 was not mandatory in nature.
To support the contention, the plaintiff relied upon on Rules 14 and 16 of Chapter I of Delhi High Court (Original Side Rules), 2018, which provide for the Court’s power to dispense with compliance with the Rules and the inherent power of the Court.
The defendant, on the other hand, argued that the Joint Registrar was bound by Rule 5 in Chapter VII of the Delhi High Court (Original Side Rules), 2018 which prescribed that the replication must be filed within 30 days of the receipt of the written statement. As per the Rule, the same could be further extended by a time period not exceeding 15 days and “not thereafter”.
The defendant thus argued that the Joint Registrar could not have further extended the time beyond May 17, 2019, to enable the plaintiff to file the replication and affidavit of admission/denial of documents as the plaintiff had anyway had had more than 45 days to file the same.
After hearing the parties, the Court agreed with the contentions put forth by the defendant and held that the maximum time period for filing the replication and affidavit of admission/denial of documents could not be extended beyond the statutorily provided 45 days.
“Perusal of Rule 5 clearly reveals that the period within which replication could be filed is 30 days and 15 days as extended time. The words “not thereafter” under Rule 5 are of some significance… So it must be held by including the words “not thereafter” in Rule 5 of Chapter II of Rules, the rulemaking authority intended to exclude grant of further time for filing the replication and affidavit of admission/denial of documents after the expiry of period of 45 days..”
Rule 14 and 16 cannot be read in any manner to make the words “not thereafter” in Rule 5 of Chapter VII otiose, it added.
“..it is well-recognized that inherent power is not to be exercised in a manner which will be contrary to or different from the procedure expressly provided in the code.”
The Court also referred to the proviso to Order VIII Rule 1 CPC, which came into force on October 23, 2015 through the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Tribunal of High Courts Act, 2015 to hold that since no further time can be granted beyond a period of 120 days for filing of the written statement, the time period for filing the replication and affidavit of admission/denial of documents also cannot be extended beyond 45 days.
“No doubt, the proviso to order VIII Rule 1 CPC is different from the words used in Rule 5 of Chapter VII of the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, but to have a uniformity with regard to the pleading of the parties, it must be held that 30 + 15 days for filing the replication and affidavit of admission/denial of documents is mandatory. Otherwise, the position that emerges is, for the purpose of filing written statement/affidavit of admission and denial of documents by the defendant, 120 days are mandatory and not 45 days for the plaintiff to file replication. The rule must be given a purposive interpretation.”
The Court thus held,
“So, from the above discussion, it necessarily follows that the period of 30 plus an extended period of 15 days is mandatory for the plaintiff to file replication along with admission/denial of documents. If the same is not filed within the time prescribed, learned Joint Registrar or the court has no power to extend the time beyond that period.”
The appeal was thus dismissed for being devoid of any merit.
The appellant was represented by Advocates Karunesh Tandon, Mayur Singhal.
The defendant was represented by Advocates Shilpi Chowdhary, Jasdeep Singh Dhillon.
Read the Judgement: