While taking the right stand, the Supreme Court just recently on April 22, 2021 in a latest, landmark, laudable and learned judgment titled Rahul S Shah vs Jinendra Kumar Gandhi in Civil Appeal Nos. 1659-1660 of 2021 (@ Special Leave To Appeal Nos. 7965-7966/2020) and 2 Other Civil Appeals while issuing directions to reduce delays in the execution proceedings observed that an Executing Court must dispose of the Execution Proceedings within six months from the date of filing which may be extended only by recording reasons in writing for such delay. It must be mentioned here that the Bench of Apex Court headed by former CJI SA Bobde asked the High Courts to reconsider and update all the Rules relating to Execution of Decrees made under exercise of its powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India and Section 122 of CPC, within one year of this order. The Bench also comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat observed that, “These directions are in exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 142 read with Article 141 and Article 144 of the Constitution of India in larger public interest sub-serve the process of justice so as to bring to an end the unnecessary ordeal of litigation faced by parties awaiting fruits of decree and in larger perspective affecting the faith of the litigants in the process of law.”
To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 2 wherein it is put forth that, “The present appeals arise out of the common judgment and order dated 16th January, 2020 of the Karnataka High Court which dismissed several Writ Petitions. The course of the litigation highlights the malaise of constant abuse of procedural provisions which defeats justice, i.e. frivolous attempts by unsuccessful litigants to putting up spurious objections and setting up third parties, to object, delay and obstruct the execution of a decree.”
While elaborating in detail, the Bench then observes in para 3 that, “The third respondent (hereafter referred to as ‘Narayanamma’) had purchased a property measuring 1 Acre (Survey No. 15/2) of Deevatige Ramanahalli, Mysore Road, Bengaluru (hereafter referred to as ‘suit property’) under the sale deed dated 17.03.1960. The suit land was converted and got merged in the municipal limits of Bengaluru and was assigned with Municipal Corporation No. 327 and 328, Mysore Road, Bengaluru. Narayanamma sold 1908 square yard of the suit property in Municipal Corporation (Survey No. 327) to 2nd and 3rd respondents (hereafter referred to ‘Jitendra’ and `Urmila’) under a sale deed dated 13.05.1986. This was demarcated with the sketch annexed to the sale deed. The adjacent portion of property, Survey No. 327 was sold to Shri Moolendra Kumar Gandhi and Smt. Baby Gandhi by another sale deed dated 13.05.1986. This property was also demarcated in the sketch and clearly shows its dimensions and boundaries annexed to the sale deed. Therefore, the first two respondents, Shri Moolendra Kumar Gandhi and Smt. Baby Gandhi became absolute owners of the suit property with the totally admeasuring of 3871 square yards. Thus, Narayanamma had sold about 34,839 square feet of the property out of 1 Acre land (43,860 square feet) owned by her. Subsequently, after the sale of the major portion of the said property to the first two respondents and their brother, Narayanamma who is the mother of A. Ramachandra Reddy the fourth respondent (hereafter called “the vendors”) filed a suit1 for declaration that the two sale deeds in favour of the first two respondents (also called “purchasers” or “decree-holders”) as well as against Shri Moolendra Kumar Gandhi etc. were void. The vendors and Shri Anjan Reddy (deceased respondent no. 8) on 25.03.1991 executed a registered partition deed. This document did not advert to the sale deed executed in favour of the purchasers and Shri Moolendar Kumar Gandhi and Smt. Baby Kumari Gandhi. The purchasers were restrained by an injunction from entering the property which Narayanamma claimed was hers.”
To put things in perspective, the Bench then points out in para 4 that, “During the pendency of the suit for declaration, the first purchasers filed two suits (O.S. Nos. 9077/ 1996 and 9078/1996) against the vendors for possession. During the pendency of these suits on 11.02.2000 by two separate sale deeds Shri Dhanji Bhai Patel and Shri Govind Dhanji Patel purchased 7489 square feet and 7650 square feet respectively, out of the residue of the property owned by Narayanamma. While so, during the pendency of the suits instituted by the purchasers, the vendors again sold the suit property i.e. the land to the present appellant (Rahul Shah) and three others (Respondents no. 5-7) by four separate sale deeds. (Dated 09.11.2001, 12.12.2001, 05.12.2002 and 20.10.2004) In the possession suits the vendors filed counter claims (dated 18.04.1998). During the pendency of proceedings the purchasers sought for transfer and mutation of property in their names which were declined by the Municipal Corporation; this led to their approaching the High Court in Writ Petition No. 19205/1992 which was disposed of with a direction (Dated 05.11.1998) that after adjudication of the injunction suit (filed by the vendors) the khata be transferred.”
Furthermore, the Bench then states in para 5 that, “The proceedings in the injunction suit filed by the vendors and the other two suits filed by the purchasers were clubbed together. The City Civil Judge, Bangalore by a common judgment dated 21.12.2006 allowed and decreed the suits for possession preferred by the purchasers and dismissed the vendor’s suit for injunction. The decree holders preferred execution proceedings. (Execution Case Nos. 458-459/2007). They filed applications under Order XXI Rule 97 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) since the judgment debtors/vendors had sold the property to the appellant and respondents no. 4 to 7. The appellant i.e. a subsequent purchaser filed objections.”
As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in para 6 that, “During the pendency of the proceedings the front portion of the suit property bearing Municipal Corporation No. 327, Mysore road, Bangalore became the subject matter of the acquisition for the Bangalore Metro Project. The decree holders (the first two respondents) preferred objections to the proposed acquisition and further claimed the possession. In the meanwhile, aggrieved by the dismissal of the suit and decreeing the suit for possession, Narayanamma filed first appeals in the High Court (R.F.A. No. 661-663/ 2007). In these proceedings it was brought to the notice of the High Court that the suit properties had been sold to the appellant and respondents no. 4 to 7. By an order dated 10.04.2008, the High Court directed the vendors to furnish particulars with respect to the sale, names of the purchaser and area sold etc. By common judgment dated 22.10.2009 the High Court dismissed all the appeals pending before it. The Special Leave Petition preferred by the vendors (S.L.P. (C) Nos. 16349-13651/2010) was also dismissed by this Court on 23.07.2010.”
To be sure, the Bench then points out in para 12 that, “All these orders led to initiation of five writ petitions on behalf of the appellant, and the vendors etc. Three First appeals (R.F.A. Nos. 441, 468 and 469/2017) were preferred by obstructers challenging the decision of the Executing Court dated 15.02.2017. By impugned common order all these Writ Petitions and appeals were dismissed.”
Quite remarkably, the Bench then stipulates in para 41 that, “Having regard to the above background, wherein there is urgent need to reduce delays in the execution proceedings we deem it appropriate to issue few directions to do complete justice. These directions are in exercise of our jurisdiction under Article 142 read with Article 141 and Article 144 of the Constitution of India in larger public interest to sub-serve the process of justice so as to bring to an end the unnecessary ordeal of litigation faced by parties awaiting fruits of decree and in larger perspective affecting the faith of the litigants in the process of law.”
Most remarkably, the Bench then in para 42 which forms the cornerstone of this commendable judgment very rightly holds that, “All Courts dealing with suits and execution proceedings shall mandatorily follow the below-mentioned directions:
1. In suits relating to delivery of possession, the court must examine the parties to the suit under Order X in relation to third party interest and further exercise the power under Order XI Rule 14 asking parties to disclose and produce documents, upon oath, which are in possession of the parties including declaration pertaining to third party interest in such properties.
2. In appropriate cases, where the possession is not in dispute and not a question of fact for adjudication before the Court, the Court may appoint Commissioner to assess the accurate description and status of the property.
3. After examination of parties under Order X or production of documents under Order XI or receipt of commission report, the Court must add all necessary or proper parties to the suit, so as to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and also make such joinder of cause of action in the same suit.
4. Under Order XL Rule 1 of CPC, a Court Receiver can be appointed to monitor the status of the property in question as custodia legis for proper adjudication of the matter.
5. The Court must, before passing the decree, pertaining to delivery of possession of a property ensure that the decree is unambiguous so as to not only contain clear description of the property but also having regard to the status of the property.
6. In a money suit, the Court must invariably resort to Order XXI Rule 11, ensuring immediate execution of decree for payment of money on oral application.
7. In a suit for payment of money, before settlement of issues, the defendant may be required to disclose his assets on oath, to the extent that he is being made liable in a suit. The Court may further, at any stage, in appropriate cases during the pendency of suit, using powers under Section 151 CPC, demand security to ensure satisfaction of any decree.
8. The Court exercising jurisdiction under Section 47 or under Order XXI of CPC, must not issue notice on an application of third-party claiming rights in a mechanical manner. Further, the Court should refrain from entertaining any such application(s) that has already been considered by the Court while adjudicating the suit or which raises any such issue which otherwise could have been raised and determined during adjudication of suit if due diligence was exercised by the applicant.
9. The Court should allow taking of evidence during the execution proceedings only in exceptional and rare cases where the question of fact could not be decided by resorting to any other expeditious method like appointment of Commissioner or calling for electronic materials including photographs or video with affidavits.
10. The Court must in appropriate cases where it finds the objection or resistance or claim to be frivolous or mala fide, resort to Sub-rule (2) of Rule 98 of Order XXI as well as grant compensatory costs in accordance with Section 35A.
11. Under section 60 of CPC the term “…in name of the judgment- debtor or by another person in trust for him or on his behalf” should be read liberally to incorporate any other person from whom he may have the ability to derive share, profit or property.
12. The Executing Court must dispose of the Execution Proceedings within six months from the date of filing, which may be extended only by recording reasons in writing for such delay.
13. The Executing Court may on satisfaction of the fact that it is not possible to execute the decree without police assistance, direct the concerned Police Station to provide police assistance to such officials who are working towards execution of the decree. Further, in case an offence against the public servant while discharging his duties is brought to the knowledge of the Court, the same must be dealt stringently in accordance with law.
14. The Judicial Academies must prepare manuals and ensure continuous training through appropriate mediums to the Court personnel/staff executing the warrants, carrying out attachment and sale and any other official duties for executing orders issued by the Executing Courts.”
Going forward, the Bench then observes in para 43 that, “We further direct all the High Courts to reconsider and update all the Rules relating to Execution of Decrees, made under exercise of its powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India and Section 122 of CPC, within one year of the date of this Order. The High Courts must ensure that the Rules are in consonance with CPC and the above directions, with an endeavour to expedite the process of execution with the use of Information Technology tools. Until such time these Rules are brought into existence, the above directions shall remain enforceable.”
Finally, the Bench then holds in para 44 that, “The appeals stand dismissed.”
In sum, these above mentioned directions laid down by the three Judge Bench of Apex Court headed by former CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde and also comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice S Ravindra Bhat must be followed by all courts dealing with suits and execution proceedings. Until the rules are made these directions shall remain enforceable as has been very rightly laid down also. All courts must comply with it accordingly! No denying it!
The writer is an Advocate.