Whether the decree is an exparte decree ? G. Ratna Raj (D) by LRs. ….Appellant(s) VERSUS Sri Muthukumarasamy Permanent Fund Ltd. & Anr. ….Respondent(s)

Hon’ble Mr. Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre 

Suit for   redemption   of   mortgage   and   for permanent injunction in relation to the mortgaged property. – The plaintiff examined himself as PW­1. The defendants cross­examined the plaintiff.  Thereafter, the   plaintiff   closed   his   case.   The   case   was accordingly   posted   for   recording  defendants’ evidence. At   that   stage   of   the   proceedings,   the

defendants   did   not   appear   in   the   suit   and, therefore,   the   Court   proceeded  ex   parte  against them. The proceedings in the suit then continued as ex parte  against the defendants. The plaintiff then got   himself   re­examined   in   the   proceedings.   He, however,   could   not   be   re­cross­examined   by   the defendants because they were already proceeded ex parte in the proceedings. The   Trial   Court   (Single   Judge)   by judgment/decree   dated   25.02.2003   passed   a preliminary   decree  against   the defendants   in relation to the suit property. -IA No. 341/2006 filed   under   Order   9   Rule   13   of   Code   of   Civil Procedure,   1908   (hereinafter   referred   to   as   “the Code”)   for setting aside of the preliminary decree dated 25.02.2003 and  IA No.340/2006 filed for condonation of delay in filing the application under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code.- By order dated  14.03.2006, the Single Judge dismissed both the applications and held that the application filed by  defendant No.1 under Order 9 Rule 13  of the Code was not maintainable because the preliminary decree dated   25.02.2003 was not an “ex parte decree” -The Division Bench,   therefore, allowed the application filed by  defendant No.1 under Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code subject to their  paying a cost of Rs.10,000/­     to   the   plaintiff. – 

Whether the decree is an exparte decree ?

Apex court held that 

whether   the remedy under Order 9 is lost or not what is necessary  to  be  seen   is  whether  in  the  first instance   the   Court   had   resorted   to   the Explanation of Rule 2.

The  Explanation  permits  the  court   in   its discretion   to   proceed   with   a   case   where

substantial  portion  of  evidence  of  any  party has   already   been   recorded   and   such   party fails   to   appear   on   any   day   to   which   the hearing   of   the   suit   is   adjourned. 

For   application   of   the provision, the court has to satisfy itself that:

(a) substantial portion of the evidence of any party   has   been   already   recorded;   

(b)   such party has failed to appear on any day; and 

(c) the  day   is  one   to  which   the  hearing  of   the suit is adjourned. 

Rule 2 permits the court to adopt any of the modes provided in Order 9 or to make such order as he thinks fit when on any day to which the hearing of the suit is adjourned, the parties or any of them fail to appear.  The  Explanation   is   in  the  nature  of an   exception   to   the   general   power   given under  the  rule,  conferring  discretion  on  the court to act under the specified circumstance i.e. where evidence or a substantial portion of evidence   of   any   party   has   been   already recorded   and   such   party   fails   to   appear   on the   date   to   which   hearing   of   the   suit   has been   adjourned.

It   is   not   in   dispute   that   the defendants were placed ex parte on the date when the   case   was   fixed   for   recording   defendants’evidence but the same was not recorded due to the defendants’   absence   on   the   said   date.   In   other words, it was a case where the defendants did not lead any evidence.  In such a situation arising in the case, in our view,   the  case   at   hand   would   not   fall   under Explanation to Order 17 Rule 2 of the Code because in  order  to  attract the  Explanation,  “such  party” which has led evidence or has led substantial part of the evidence, if fails to appear on any day to which   the   hearing   of   the   case   is   adjourned,   the Court may treat “such party” as “present” on that day and is accordingly empowered to proceed in the suit. 

We are,  therefore,  of the view that since the defendants were proceeded ex parte and were found

not to have led any evidence in the suit, the Court could only proceed under Order 17 Rule 3 (b) read

with Order 17 Rule 2 of the Code for disposal of the suit by taking recourse to one of the modes directed in that behalf by Order 9 of the Code or could have made any other order as it thinks fit. 

As   mentioned   above,   the   Trial   Court   did proceed to hear the suit ex parte by taking recourse to the Order 9 Rule 6 (a) in terms of Order 17 Rule 2 of the Code because on that day, the plaintiff was present when the suit was called on for hearing whereas the defendants were absent despite service of summons and accordingly the Trial Court passed the preliminary decree. Such decree, in our opinion, was   an   “ex   parte  decree”   within   the   meaning  of Order 9 Rule 6 (a) read with Order 9 Rule 13 of the Code and, therefore, could be set aside under Order 9 Rule 13 on making out a sufficient ground by the defendants.

we are of the view that the Division Bench was justified in allowing the applications filed by  defendant No.1 under   Order   9   Rule   13     of   the   Code   and,   in consequence,   was  justified   in   setting   aside   the preliminary   decree   dated     25.02.2003   passed   in O.S.  No.131/1999 treating the said decree as “ex parte decree”.