Litigant must be vigilant of proceedings, cannot cast entire blame on advocate: Delhi HC
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Litigant must be vigilant of proceedings, cannot cast entire blame on advocate: Delhi HC

Ashutosh Gambhir

The Delhi High Court last month held that the litigant has a duty to be vigilant of the judicial proceedings pending against him or initiated at his instance.

The facts of the case were that Moddus Media Pvt. Ltd. had filed an application for condonation of 400 days’ delay in filing an appeal against an adverse judgment. The applicant claimed that their counsel Pradeep Kumar misled them by assuring them that he was taking care of the matter, when he had in fact stopped attending the proceedings.

It was further alleged that after the judgment and decree was passed on August 31, 2015, the counsel informed them that the civil suit filed by the respondent/plaintiff company has been dismissed by the Court and that there was no need to panic.

The applicants claimed that they requested their lawyer to provide copies of documents and the court order. It was also alleged that towards the end of 2015, the company’s authorised representative again requested the counsel to give him copies of all the documents. Despite reassurances that he would do so, the lawyer failed to provide the documents.

They tried to contact the counsel several times through SMS/WhatsApp messages, but to no avail.

It was also alleged that their new counsel inspected the file of the case and they moved an application under Order XXI Rule 26 of CPC before the Executing Court. They also lodged a complaint against Kumar with the Bar Council of India on November 5, 2016.

It was submitted that the previous counsel had been negligent in not attending the court proceedings and not informing them about the progress of the case and that the appellant company should not be made to suffer for the negligence of their lawyer.

Regarding the complaint against the lawyer to the Bar Council of India, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Vinod Goel stated:

“It is nowhere alleged that after impugned judgment and decree dated 31.08.2015 their lawyer Pradeep Kumar had informed them that the suit of the respondent/plaintiff has been dismissed or they requested him to supply them copies of decree and order..It is also not alleged that their counsel stopped appearing in the case from 10.11.2014 as alleged in the application.”

The Court further stated that if their lawyer stopped appearing from November 2014, the appellant company should have contacted their lawyer or engaged another lawyer in the matter. Justice Goel noted that they could have appeared in person, and they did not bother to inquire from their previous counsel as to why he stopped appearing.

“If they were informed by their counsel after the decision in the suit and copy of order was not supplied, they should have gone to lawyer personally or to court to obtain copies of orders or should have taken assistance of other lawyer. But they were not serious at all.”

Regarding the conduct of the litigant, the Court observed:

“The litigant owes a duty to be vigilant of his rights and is also expected to be equally vigilant about the judicial proceedings pending in the court of law against him or initiated at his instance. The litigant cannot be permitted to cast the entire blame on the Advocate.

…After filing the civil suit or written statement, the litigant cannot go off to sleep and wake up from a deep slumber after passing a long time as if the court is storage of the suits filed by such negligent litigants.

…If the litigant does not turn up to obtain the copies of judgment and orders of the court so as to find out what orders are passed by the court is liable to bear the consequences.”

The Court further stated that the appellant company was either concealing true facts of its knowledge of dismissal of the suit or they have been careless and negligent in pursuing their case. Therefore, the Court held that the appellant did not make out a case for condonation of delay.

Moreover, the Court dismissed the appeal filed against the decree and order of the trial court.

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