Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter “CPC”) -the ratio concerning the mandatory nature of the timeline prescribed for filing of written statement and the lack of discretion with Courts to condone any delay is applicable only to commercial disputes, but not to non commerical disputes – unamended discretion holds in the courts. At the outset, it must be noted that the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 through Section 16 has amended the CPC in its application to commercial disputes to provide as follows: “16. Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in its application to commercial disputes.—(1) The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) shall, in their application to any suit in respect of a commercial dispute of a Specified Value, stand amended in the manner as specified in the Schedule. (2) The Commercial Division and Commercial Court shall follow the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as amended by this Act, in the trial of a suit in respect of a commercial dispute of a specified value. (3) Where any provision of any Rule of the jurisdictional High Court or any amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, by the State Government is in conflict with the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as amended by this Act, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure as amended by this Act shall prevail.” Hence, it is clear that post coming into force of the aforesaid Act, there are two regimes of civil procedure. Whereas commercial disputes [as defined under Section 2(c) of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015] are governed by the CPC as amended by Section 16 of the said Act; all other non­commercial disputes fall within the ambit of the unamended (or original) provisions of CPC. The judgment of Oku Tech (supra) relied upon the learned Single Judge is no doubt good law, as recently upheld by this Court in SCG Contracts India Pvt. Ltd. v. KS Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.,3 but its ratio concerning the mandatory nature of the timeline prescribed for filing of written statement and the lack of discretion with Courts to condone any delay is applicable only to commercial disputes, as the judgment was undoubtedly rendered in the context of a commercial dispute qua the amended Order VIII Rule 1 CPC. As regard the timeline for filing of written statement in a noncommercial dispute, the observations of this Court in a catena of decisions, most recently in Atcom Technologies Ltd. v. Y.A. Chunawala and Co.,4 holds the field. Unamended Order VIII Rule I, CPC continues to be directory and does not do away with the inherent discretion of Courts to condone certain delays.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.433 OF 2020
[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 6217 of 2019]
Desh Raj ….. Appellants(s)
VERSUS
Balkishan (D) Through Proposed LR Ms. Rohini …..Respondents(s)
JUDGMENT
Leave granted.

  1. This Civil Appeal is directed against order dated 26.11.2018 passed
    by the Delhi High Court whereby appellant’s revision petition against the
    order of the Civil Court which closed his right to file written statement
    under Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter
    “CPC”) and struck­off his defence owing to repeated delays and nonadherence of prescribed deadlines, has been dismissed.
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    FACTS
  2. The appellant and the respondent are brothers and own one floor
    each of ancestral property bearing No. 142 in Devli Village, Delhi. The
    ground floor was possessed and owned by the respondent, whereas the
    first floor was in the name of the appellant.
  3. It has been claimed that in February 2017, the respondent
    approached the appellant offering to purchase the first floor of the
    ancestral property. Subsequently, an agreement to sell was entered into
    between the parties on 17.03.2017 for total consideration of Rs 7.5 lakhs,
    of which an amount of Rs 1 lakh was paid as earnest money to the
    appellant. This agreement was subsequently not honoured and a legal
    notice was served upon the appellant by the respondent on 13.04.2017,
    calling upon him to accept consideration and perform his part of the
    contract.
  4. Claiming that the appellant was attempting to sell the suit property
    to third parties, the respondent later approached the Civil Court praying
    for a decree of specific performance of the agreement to sell dated
    17.03.2017 by directing the appellant to receive the balance sale
    consideration and execute/register the sale deed in favour of the
    respondent. Additionally, the respondent sought to permanently injunct
    the appellant from alienating the property in favour of any third party.
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    Alternatively, recovery of damages of Rs 2 lakhs with pendent lite and
    future interest @ 18% per annum was sought by the respondent.
  5. The appellant was served on 01.05.2017, and he appeared through
    counsel on 15.05.2017 wherein the Civil Court granted the appellant 30
    days to file his written statement. On 17.07.2017, noting that no written
    statement had been filed till then, the Court granted the appellant a final
    opportunity of two weeks to file his written statement. On 18.09.2017, the
    Court observed that despite the last opportunity having been accorded
    more than two months ago, no written statement had been filed.
    Nevertheless, the Court granted another final opportunity, subject to
    payment of Rs 3,000 costs and the matter was posted for 11.10.2017. On
    this date, appellant sought multiple pass overs but his Counsel did not
    appear before the Court. After noticing that despite several opportunities
    (including one beyond the maximum period of 90 days) the appellant had
    failed to file any written statement or deposit costs and that the matter
    could not be adjourned repeatedly, the Civil Court thus closed the
    appellant’s opportunity of filing written statement and struck off his
    defence. Even on the next hearing on 03.11.2017, the appellant’s Counsel
    did not appear or supply a copy of the written statement to the respondent,
    as noted in the Trial Court’s daily order.
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  6. The aggrieved appellant approached the High Court in revision, which
    noted how he had been granted repeated opportunities and yet the written
    statement was not filed within 120 days of notice. Relying upon the order
    of its co­ordinate bench in Oku Tech Pvt Ltd v. Sangeet Agarwal and
    Others1 wherein it was held that there was no discretion with courts to
    extend the time for filing the written statement beyond 120 days after
    service of summons, the Delhi High Court summarily dismissed the
    petition.
    CONTENTIONS OF PARTIES
  7. The appellant’s primary contention is that the reliance on Oku Tech
    (supra) was erroneous as it was rendered in light of Order VIII Rule 1 of
    CPC as amended by the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 which in turn was
    applicable to commercial disputes only. The present matter was
    highlighted as being non­commercial, and it was urged that the unamended Order VIII Rule 1 of CPC would be applicable, wherein no
    consequences for not complying with the shorter timeline of 90 days has
    been provided. This provision, it was contended, was merely procedural
    and concomitantly directory as held by this Court in various decisions
    including Salem Advocate Bar Association, T.N. v. Union of India2
    .
    1 2016 SCC OnLine Del 6601.
    2 (2005) 6 SCC 344.
    Page | 4
  8. Given this, the appellant put forth his contention that the deadline of
    90 days could be relaxed keeping in view the facts and circumstances of a
    case; and argued that he himself had personally appeared on all dates of
    hearing and the lapse was on the part of his Counsel, due to which written
    statement could not be filed. The appellant claims that severe prejudice
    would be caused to him if the delay is not condoned for he would be left
    defenceless in the civil suit. He accordingly seeks that this Court invoke its
    inherent discretion under Order VIII Rule 1 of CPC and grant one final
    opportunity to file his written statement.
  9. This was opposed on behalf of the respondent who asserted that
    multiple chances had already been granted to the appellant by the Civil
    Court, including opportunities beyond the maximum statutory period of 90
    days as provided for filing of written statement under Order VIII Rule I of
    CPC. It was argued that continued failure to adhere to the multiple
    deadlines set by the Civil Court and violation of Court directions, was
    evidence of gross negligence on part of the appellant at best, and a
    deliberate delaying tactic and abuse of the process of law at the worst.
    ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION
  10. At the outset, it must be noted that the Commercial Courts Act, 2015
    through Section 16 has amended the CPC in its application to commercial
    disputes to provide as follows:
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    “16. Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in its
    application to commercial disputes.—(1) The provisions of the
    Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) shall, in their application to
    any suit in respect of a commercial dispute of a Specified Value,
    stand amended in the manner as specified in the Schedule.
    (2) The Commercial Division and Commercial Court shall follow the
    provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as
    amended by this Act, in the trial of a suit in respect of a commercial
    dispute of a specified value.
    (3) Where any provision of any Rule of the jurisdictional High Court or
    any amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, by the State
    Government is in conflict with the provisions of the Code of Civil
    Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), as amended by this Act, the provisions
    of the Code of Civil Procedure as amended by this Act shall prevail.”
  11. Hence, it is clear that post coming into force of the aforesaid Act,
    there are two regimes of civil procedure. Whereas commercial disputes [as
    defined under Section 2(c) of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015] are
    governed by the CPC as amended by Section 16 of the said Act; all other
    non­commercial disputes fall within the ambit of the unamended (or
    original) provisions of CPC.
  12. The judgment of Oku Tech (supra) relied upon the learned Single
    Judge is no doubt good law, as recently upheld by this Court in SCG
    Contracts India Pvt. Ltd. v. KS Chamankar Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd.,3
    but its ratio concerning the mandatory nature of the timeline prescribed for
    filing of written statement and the lack of discretion with Courts to
    condone any delay is applicable only to commercial disputes, as the
    3 AIR 2019 SC 2691.
    Page | 6
    judgment was undoubtedly rendered in the context of a commercial
    dispute qua the amended Order VIII Rule 1 CPC.
  13. As regard the timeline for filing of written statement in a noncommercial dispute, the observations of this Court in a catena of decisions,
    most recently in Atcom Technologies Ltd. v. Y.A. Chunawala and Co.,4
    holds the field. Unamended Order VIII Rule I, CPC continues to be
    directory and does not do away with the inherent discretion of Courts to
    condone certain delays.
  14. Let us, therefore, consider whether the appellant has made out a case
    of exercising such discretionary jurisdiction? The present civil suit had
    been filed by the respondent for a decree of specific performance of an
    agreement to sell one floor of an ancestral property located in Devli Village,
    Delhi and permanent injunction against alienation of the same by
    petitioner to third parties. Counsel for respondent has not contested the
    non­commercial nature of the dispute, and even independently we are
    satisfied that the dispute does not fall within the parameters specified
    under Section 2(c) of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 and in particular
    sub­clause (vii), as the immovable property here is not of a nature which is
    “used exclusively in trade or commerce”. Hence, the appellant is correct in
    contending that the High Court overlooked the nature of the dispute and
    4 (2018) 6 SCC 639.
    Page | 7
    mistakenly applied the ratio of a case rendered in light of a modified
    version of the Code of Civil Procedure, which would only be applicable to
    commercial disputes.
  15. However, it would be gainsaid that although the unamended Order
    VIII Rule 1 of CPC is directory, it cannot be interpreted to bestow a free
    hand to on any litigant or lawyer to file written statement at their own
    sweet­will and/or to prolong the lis. The legislative objective behind
    prescription of timelines under the CPC must be given due weightage so
    that the disputes are resolved in a time­bound manner. Inherent discretion
    of Courts, like the ability to condone delays under Order VIII Rule 1 is a
    fairly defined concept and its contours have been shaped through judicial
    decisions over the ages. Illustratively, extreme hardship or delays occurring
    due to factors beyond control of parties despite proactive diligence, may be
    just and equitable instances for condonation of delay.
  16. However, it is clear from the facts on record that numerous
    opportunities had been accorded to the appellant. He was served on
    01.05.2017 and entered appearance through counsel on 15.05.2017. As
    per Order VIII Rule I of CPC, the appellant ideally ought to have filed his
    written statement by 31.05.2017; and at the very latest by 30.07.2017. In
    addition to two separate deadlines for filing of the written statement within
    Page | 8
    the 90­day timeframe prescribed by the ‘original’ Order VIII Rule 1, the
    Civil Court even post expiry of the 90­day period again gave one last and
    final opportunity on 18.09.2017 subject to payment of costs of Rs 3,000.
    None of these deadlines were complied with. Even on 11.10.2017, when the
    Court finally closed the appellant’s ability to file written statement and
    struck­off his defence from the record, no attempt was made to comply
    with the process of law.
  17. It was only on 02.11.2017, after a delay of 95 days post the
    maximum extendable period under the Proviso of Order VIII Rule 1, CPC
    that the appellant claimed to have filed his written statement. Curiously
    however, even by the next hearing on 03.11.2017, the appellant had failed
    to provide a copy of the written statement to the respondent as had been
    noted by the Civil Court.
  18. The only defence taken to these repeated and blatant lapses is that
    the appellant’s counsel was not turning up. No attempt has been made to
    even proffer a reasoned justification or explanation, and it is clear that
    appellant is seeking condonation in a casual manner. This ought not to be
    permitted or encouraged. Courts must act stringently to ensure that all
    proceedings are decided within reasonable time, and it is but the duty of
    the judicial system to cultivate a culture of respecting deadlines and time
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    of the Court, its officers as well as of adversaries.
  19. Routine condonations and cavalier attitudes towards the process of
    law affects the administration of justice. It affects docket management of
    Courts and causes avoidable delays, cost escalations and chaos. The effect
    of this is borne not only by the litigants, but also commerce in the country
    and the public­in­general who spend decades mired in technical processes.
  20. It is obvious from the record that nothing prevented the appellant
    from filing the written statement through counsel or in person. He has,
    thus, failed to give any cogent reason for the delay and is unable to satisfy
    due diligence on his part though he is right in his submission that the
    High Court erroneously relied upon the ratio of Oku Tech (supra).
  21. Having held so, there could be no escape but to dismiss this appeal.
    However, taking a lenient view given the unique circumstances of the case,
    and without laying down the discretion being exercised hereinafter, as a
    precedent, we direct that the written statement filed by the appellant on
    02.11.2017 (as claimed), be taken on record with a copy to counsel for the
    respondent within one week from today and further subject to payment of
    costs of Rs. 25,000/­ to the respondent.
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  22. The orders of the courts below are thus set aside and the appeal is
    disposed of in the above terms.
    ……………………….. CJI.
    (S. A. BOBDE)
    ………………………… J.
    (B.R. GAVAI)
    …………………………. J.
    (SURYA KANT)
    NEW DELHI
    DATED : 20.01.2020
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