Additional evidence cannot be produced at appellate stage without fulfilling any of the conditions mentioned in or 41r-27- Supreme Court

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 14055 OF 2015

(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 7798 of 2015)

 

Andisamy Chettiar                                  … Appellant

Versus

Subburaj Chettiar                                    …Respondent

 

J U D G M E N T

Prafulla C. Pant, J.

 

This appeal is directed against order dated 07.11.2014, passed by  the High Court of  Judicature  at  Madras,  Bench  Madurai,  in  Civil  Revision Petition (PD) (MD) No. 1787 of 2008 whereby the revision  was  allowed,  and order dated 12.03.2008 passed by Subordinate Judge,  Virudhunagar,  on  I.A. No. 3 of 2008 (in A.S. No. 55 of 2007), is set aside.

We have heard learned counsel for the parties  and  perused  the  papers  on record.

 

Succinctly stated, facts of  this  case  are  that  the  appellant/plaintiff instituted  Original  Suit  No.  92  of   2003   before   District   Munsif, Virudhunagar,  for  permanent  injunction  restraining  the  defendant  from interfering in his peaceful possession and  enjoyment  of  the  property  in suit.  It is pleaded in the plaint that originally the property  in  dispute was  owned  by  one  Gopalsamy  Pillai.   On  21.08.1963  Gopalsamy   Pillai transferred the  property  by  executing  a  sale  deed  in  favour  of  one Lakshmiammal.  Lakshmiammal further transferred  the  property  to  Gurusamy Naicker  through  deed  dated  26.12.1968.   Plaintiff’s   father   Ayyappan Chettiar purchased the property from Gurusamy Naicker, and  constructed  his house.  It is further pleaded that Ayyappan  Chettiar  executed  Will  dated 13.12.1990 in favour of the plaintiff, and after  death  of  his  father  in 1997, the plaintiff is in exclusive possession of  the  property.   Alleging that the defendant has no  right  over  the  disputed  property,  relief  of permanent injunction against him is sought in the suit.  Plaintiff  Andisamy Chettiar and defendant Subburaj Chettiar are sons of Ayyappan Chettiar.

 

The defendant filed his written statement and contested  the  suit.   It  is not disputed in the written statement that Ayyappan Chettiar, who  purchased the property from Gurusamy Naicker, died  on  12.10.1997.   However,  it  is disputed that Ayyappan Chettiar executed Will dated  13.12.1990,  relied  by the plaintiff.  It is alleged by the defendant that the plaintiff has  filed suit for permanent injunction only to evade partition of the  property.   It is also pleaded  by  the  defendant  that  apart  from  two  sons,  Ayyappan Chettiar  had  three  daughters,  namely,  Lakshmi,  Avudaithai  and  Andal. Lakshmi and Andal died intestate leaving legal heirs, as such, suit  is  bad for non-joinder of remaining daughter of Ayyappan Chettiar and  legal  heirs of pre-deceased daughters.

On the basis of pleadings of the parties following  issues  were  framed  by the trial court: –

Whether Ayyappan Chettiar executed a Will in  favour  of  the  plaintiff  in respect of the property in suit?

Whether the plaintiff is entitled to the relief of permanent injunction?

To what other relief, if any, the plaintiff is entitled?

 

The plaintiff got examined himself as PW-1 Andisamy  Chettiar  and  he  also got examined PW-2 Selvarajan, stated to be attesting witness  of  the  Will. Nine documents (including Will Ex.A-4) were  filed  by  the  plaintiff.   On behalf of the defendant, he got himself examined as DW-1 Subburaj  Chettiar, and filed three documents.  The trial  court,  after  hearing  the  parties, decided issue No. 1 against the plaintiff holding that the plaintiff  failed to prove that Ayyappan Chettiar executed the Will relied on by him.  On  the basis of finding on issue No. 1, issue Nos. 2 and  3  are  also  decided  in favour of the defendant, and the suit was dismissed vide judgment and  order dated 05.02.2007.

Aggrieved by the decree passed by  the  trial  court,  the  plaintiff  filed appeal (A.S. No.  55  of  2007)  before  the  first  appellate  court,  i.e. Subordinate Judge, Virudhunagar. During the pendency of A.S. No.  55  of  2007  before  the  first  appellate court, an application (I.A. No. 3 of  2008)  was  moved  on  behalf  of  the plaintiff with following prayer: –

“Therefore it is just and necessary that this Hon’ble  Court  be  graciously pleased to direct  a  scientific  investigation  to  find  out  whether  the signature of  Ayyappan  Chettiar,  my  father  in  Ex.  A-4  is  genuine  by comparing the signature of Ayyappan Chettiar, in Ex. A-4 with  his  admitted signatures in Ex. B-1 to  B-3,  by  a  competent  hand-writing  expert,  and further direct him to file a report to the scientific investigation done  by him and justice thus rendered.” The first appellate court, vide order dated  12.03.2008,  allowed  the  I.A. No. 3 of 2008, and directed the appellant to deposit a sum of  Rs.5000/-  as fee.

 

The defendant challenged the order passed  by  the  first  appellate  court, allowing the application for additional evidence, before the High  Court  in Civil Revision Petition (PD) (MD) No. 1787 of  2008,  which  is  allowed  by said court by the impugned order assailed before us.

Under the scheme of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908  (for  short  “the  Code”) whether oral or documentary, it is the trial court before whom  parties  are required to adduce their evidence.  But in three  exceptional  circumstances additional evidence can be adduced before the appellate court,  as  provided under S. 107(1)(d) read with Rule 27 of Order XLI of the Code.  Rule  27  of Order XLI reads as under: –

“27. Production of  additional  evidence  in  Appellate  Court.  –

(1)  The parties to an appeal shall not be entitled to produce  additional  evidence, whether oral or documentary, in the Appellate Court.  But if –  The Court from whose decree the appeal is preferred  has  refused  to  admit evidence which ought to have been admitted, or (aa)  the party seeking to produce  additional  evidence,  establishes  that notwithstanding the exercise of due diligence, such evidence was not  within his knowledge or  could  not,  after  the  exercise  of  due  diligence,  be produced by him at the time when the decree appealed against was passed, or

The Appellate Court requires any document to be produced or any  witness  to be  examined  to  enable  it  to  pronounce  judgment,  or  for  any   other substantial cause, The Appellate Court may allow such evidence or document to be  produced,  or witness to be examined.

(2) Wherever additional evidence is  allowed  to  be  produced  by  an Appellate Court, the Court shall  record  the  reason  for  its  admission.” (emphasis supplied)

From the opening words of sub-rule (1) of Rule 27,  quoted  above,  it  is clear that the parties are  not  entitled  to  produce  additional  evidence whether oral or documentary in  the  appellate  court,  but  for  the  three situations mentioned above.   The  parties  are  not  allowed  to  fill  the lacunae at the appellate stage.  It is against the spirit  of  the  Code  to allow a party to adduce additional evidence without  fulfillment  of  either of the three conditions mentioned in Rule  27.  In  the  case  at  hand,  no application was moved before the trial court seeking scientific  examination of the document (Ex.A-4), nor can it be said that  the  plaintiff  with  due diligence could not have  moved  such  an  application  to  get  proved  the documents relied upon by him.  Now it  is  to  be  seen  whether  the  third condition, i.e. one contained in clause (b) of sub-rule (1) of  Rule  27  is fulfilled or not.

In K.R. Mohan Reddy v. Net Work Inc.[1], this Court has held as under: –

“19. The appellate court should not pass an order so  as  to  patch  up  the weakness of the evidence of the unsuccessful party before the  trial  court, but it will be different if the court itself requires  the  evidence  to  do justice between the parties. The ability to  pronounce  judgment  is  to  be understood as the ability to pronounce judgment satisfactorily to  the  mind of  the  court.  But  mere  difficulty  is  not  sufficient  to  issue  such direction……”

In North Eastern Railway Admn. v. Bhagwan Das[2], this Court observed thus:-

“13. Though the general rule is that ordinarily the appellate  court  should not travel outside the record of the lower court  and  additional  evidence, whether oral or documentary is not  admitted  but  Section  107  CPC,  which carves out an exception to the general rule, enables an appellate  court  to take additional evidence or to require such evidence to be taken subject  to such conditions and limitations as may be prescribed. These  conditions  are prescribed  under  Order  41  Rule  27  CPC.  Nevertheless,  the  additional evidence can be admitted only when the circumstances as  stipulated  in  the said Rule are found to exist…..…”

In N. Kamalam (dead) and another v. Ayyasamy  and  another[3],  this  Court, interpreting Rule 27 of Order XLI of the Code, has observed in  para  19  as under: –

“……. the provisions of Order 41 Rule 27 have not been engrafted in the  Code so as to patch up the weak points in the case and to fill  up  the  omission in the court of appeal – it does not authorize any lacunae or  gaps  in  the evidence to be filled up.  The authority and jurisdiction  as  conferred  on to the appellate court to  let  in  fresh  evidence  is  restricted  to  the purpose of pronouncement of judgment in a particular way.”

In Union of India v. Ibrahim Uddin and another[4], this Court  has  held  as under: –

“49. An application under Order 41 Rule 27 CPC is to be  considered  at  the time of hearing of appeal on merits so as to find out whether the  documents and/or the evidence sought to be adduced have any relevance/bearing  on  the issues involved. The admissibility of additional evidence  does  not  depend upon the relevancy to the issue  on  hand,  or  on  the  fact,  whether  the applicant had an opportunity for adducing such evidence at an earlier  stage or not, but it depends upon whether or not the appellate court requires  the evidence sought to be adduced to enable it to pronounce judgment or for  any other substantial cause. The true test, therefore is, whether the  appellate court is able to pronounce judgment  on  the  materials  before  it  without taking  into  consideration   the   additional   evidence   sought   to   be adduced…………..”

Learned counsel for the appellant argued before us that the High  Court,  in revision, at an interim stage of appeal pending before the  lower  appellate court,  should  not  have  interfered  in  the  matter  of  requirement   of additional evidence.

We have considered the argument advanced on  behalf  of  the  appellant  and also perused the law  laid  down  by  this  Court  as  to  the  exercise  of revisional power under Section 115 of the Code in such matters.  In  Mahavir Singh and others v. Naresh Chandra and another[5], explaining the  scope  of revision in the matters of acceptance of additional evidence  by  the  lower appellate court  interpreting  expression  “or  for  any  other  substantial cause” in Rule 27 of Order XLI, this Court has held as under: –

“The words “or for any other substantial cause” must be read with  the  word “requires”, which is set out at the commencement of the provision,  so  that it is only where, for any  other  substantial  cause,  the  appellate  court requires additional evidence, that this rule would apply as noticed  by  the Privy Council in Kessowji Issur v. G.I.P. Rly. [ILR (1907-08) 31  Bom  381].

It is under these circumstances such a power could be exercised.  Therefore, when the first appellate court did not  find  the  necessity  to  allow  the application, we fail to understand as  to  how  the  High  Court  could,  in exercise of its power under Section 115 CPC, have interfered  with  such  an order, particularly when the whole appeal is not before  the  Court.  It  is only in the circumstances when the appellate court  requires  such  evidence to pronounce the judgment the necessity to adduce additional evidence  would arise and not in any other circumstances. When  the  first  appellate  court passed the order on the application filed under Order 41 Rule  27  CPC,  the whole appeal was before it and if the first  appellate  court  is  satisfied that additional evidence was not required, we fail to understand as  to  how the High Court could interfere with such an order under Section 115 CPC.”

In Gurdev Singh and others v. Mehnga Ram  and  another[6],  this  Court,  on similar issue, has expressed the view as under: –

“We have heard learned  counsel  for  the  parties.  The  grievance  of  the appellants before us is that in an appeal filed by them before  the  learned Additional District Judge, Ferozepur, in an  application  under  Order  XLI, Rule 27(b), Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) the  learned  Additional  District Judge at the final hearing  of  the  appeal  wrongly  felt  that  additional evidence was required to be produced as requested by the appellants  by  way of examination of a handwriting expert.  The  High  Court  in  the  impugned order exercising jurisdiction under Section 115 CPC took the view  that  the order of the appellate court  could  not  be  sustained.  In  our  view  the approach of the High Court in  revision  at  that  interim  stage  when  the appeal was pending for final hearing before the learned Additional  District Judge was not justified and the High Court should not have  interfered  with the order which was within the jurisdiction  of  the  appellate  court.  The reason is obvious. The appellate court  hearing  the  matter  finally  could exercise jurisdiction one  way  or  the  other  under  Order  XLI,  Rule  27 specially clause (b). If the order was wrong on merits, it would  always  be open for the respondent to challenge the same in accordance with law  if  an occasion arises to carry the matter in  second  appeal  after  an  appellate decree is passed. But at this interim stage, the High Court should not  have felt itself convinced that the order was without jurisdiction. Only on  this short question,  without  expressing  any  opinion  on  the  merits  of  the controversy involved and on the legality  of  the  contentions  advanced  by both the learned counsel for the parties regarding additional  evidence,  we allow this appeal, set aside the order of the High Court.”

In view of the law laid down by this Court, as  discussed  above,  regarding exercise of revisional powers in the matter of allowing the application  for additional evidence, when appeal  is  pending  before  the  lower  appellate court, the impugned order passed by the High Court cannot be upheld and  the same is set aside.  However, to do complete justice between the parties,  we think it just and proper to direct the first appellate court to  decide  the application for additional evidence afresh  in  the  light  of  observations made by this Court regarding principles on which such an application can  be allowed or rejected.  We order accordingly.   We  further  clarify  that  we have not expressed any opinion as to the merits of the  case.   Accordingly, the appeal is disposed of.  No order as to costs. …………………..…………J.

[Dipak Misra]

.………………….……………J.

[Prafulla C. Pant]

New Delhi;

December 08, 2015.

———————–

[1]    (2007) 14 SCC 257

[2]    (2008) 8 SCC 511

[3]    (2001) 7 SCC 503

[4]    (2012) 8 SCC 148

[5]    (2001) 1 SCC 309

[6]    (1997) 6 SCC 507