Read Order: Paro and others v. Mahindo

The provisions of Order 8 Rule 1 of the CPC no doubt are directory in nature, however, at the same time the Courts must exercise their discretion to condone the delay, if any, in filing the written statement after exercising due circumspection and in case there appears to be an attempt on the part of the defendant to engage in dilatory tactics, the Courts should nip the same unhesitatingly, held the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. 

Before the Bench of Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul, the petitioners/defendants were impugning the order of the Additional Civil Judge (Sr. Divn.), Ferozepur, vide which their defence was struck off in the civil suit filed by the respondent/plaintiff. 

As per the case advanced by the petitioners’ counsel, the petitioners were unable to file their written statement initially for genuine reasons which were beyond their control. He further submitted that no doubt the trial Court did grant one last opportunity to the petitioners to file their written statement, subject to payment of costs of Rs. 500/-, however, they were unable to do so on account of ill-health of the first petitioner/defendant (an old lady).

The counsel submitted that since the trial was still at an initial stage, it would not in any manner adversely affect the progress of the trial in case one last effective opportunity was granted to the petitioners to file their written statement.

At the very outset, the Court opined that the provisions of Order 8 Rule 1 of the CPC no doubt are directory in nature, however, at the same time the Courts must exercise their discretion to condone the delay, if any, in filing the written statement after exercising due circumspection and in case there appears to be an attempt on the part of the defendant to engage in dilatory tactics, the Courts should nip the same unhesitatingly. 

Adverting to the case in hand, the Court observed that the petitioners were granted four opportunities to file their written statement, however, they failed to do so. However, having so observed, the Court also added that if the petitioners were not granted one more opportunity to file their written statement, they would suffer irreparable loss which in turn would result in miscarriage of justice. 

Therefore, for just and proper adjudication of the case, Justice Kaul deemed it appropriate to grant one last effective opportunity to the petitioners to file their written statement. 

Thus, in wake of the above, without issuing notice to the respondent, to “avoid any further delay as well as expenses which she shall have to incur to defend these proceedings”, the impugned order was set aside and the instant revision petition was allowed while granting the petitioners one last effective opportunity to file their written statement, and in the event of default by them, the Court directed that the case shall not be adjourned any further for filing of their written statement and consequently their defence shall be deemed to be struck off. 

The above-stated relief was, however, made subject to payment of costs in the sum of Rs. 5,000/- to be paid to the respondent “which shall be a condition precedent”, the Court held.   

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