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Lenient view should be adopted by the Court during the production of documents under O. 8 R.1A(3)- Supreme Court

In the case of Sugandhi (dead) by Lrs. & ANR v. P. Rajkumar Rep. by his Power Agent Imam Oli, (CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3427 OF 2020), the Supreme Court had stated that the court should take a lenient view when an application is made for the production of the documents under sub­rule (3) of Rule 1A, order 8.

The facts of the case initiate with the present appeal which is directed against the Order dated 19.02.2019 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras, Madurai Bench, in C.R.P.(NPD)(MD)No.2609   of   2018   whereby the   High   Court has dismissed the revision petition filed by the appellants challenging the refusal to entertain an application under Order 8 Rule 1A(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (for short ‘C.P.C.’) seeking leave of the court to produce additional documents.

  The appellants herein are the defendants in the suit, O.S. No.257 of 2014, on the file of the Principal Sub­Judge, Pudukottai, and the respondent is the plaintiff.  For the sake of convenience, parties are referred to in their respective positions before the Trial Court.  The

plaintiff filed the suit for injunction alleging that the defendants are attempting to grab the suit schedule property.  When the suit was posted for the evidence of the defendants, they filed an application seeking leave to produce certain documents.  It was contended that they had recently traced these documents related to the suit property and that was why they could not produce them along with the written statement.  This application was opposed by the plaintiff.  The Trial Court by its Order dated 11th October, 2018 dismissed the application. As noticed above, the High Court has confirmed the order of the Trial Court.

Mr. R. Anand Padmanabhan, learned counsel appearing for the appellants­defendants,   submits that the said documents are necessary for just determination of the case. He argued that the courts below have rejected the application on flimsy grounds. On the other hand, Mr. S. Mahendran, learned counsel appearing for the respondent­plaintiff, has supported the impugned orders of the courts below.  It is argued that the defendants are not entitled as a matter of right to produce the documents, particularly when the plaintiff has concluded his evidence.

It had been held in the present case that “Sub­rule (1) mandates the defendant to produce the documents in his possession before the court and file the same along with his written statement.   He must list out the documents which are in his possession or power as well as those which are not. In case the defendant does not file any document or copy thereof along with his written statement, such a document shall not be allowed to be received in evidence on behalf of the defendant at the hearing of the suit.  However, this will not apply to a document produced for cross examination of the plaintiff’s witnesses or handed over to a witness merely to refresh his memory. Sub­rule (3) states that a document which is not produced at the time of filing of the written statement, shall not be received in evidence except with the leave of the court. Rule (1) of Order 13 of C.P.C. again makes it mandatory for the parties to produce their original documents before settlement of issues.

Sub­rule (3), as quoted above, provides a second opportunity to the defendant to produce the documents which ought to have been produced in the court along with the written statement, with the leave of the court.  The discretion conferred upon the court to grant such leave is to be exercised judiciously.  While there is no straight jacket formula, this leave can be granted by the court on a good cause being shown by the defendant.”

It is often said that procedure is the handmaid of justice. Procedural and technical hurdles shall not be allowed to come in the way of the court while doing substantial justice.  If the procedural violation does not seriously cause prejudice to the adversary party, courts must lean towards doing substantial justice rather than relying upon procedural and technical violation. We should not forget the fact that litigation is nothing but a journey towards truth which is the foundation of justice and the court is required to take appropriate steps to thrash out the underlying truth in every dispute.  Therefore, the court should take a lenient view when an application is made for production of the documents under sub­rule (3).”

Coming to the present case,   the defendants have filed an application assigning cogent reasons for not producing the documents along with the written statement.   They have stated that these documents were missing and were only traced at a later stage.  It cannot be disputed that these documents are necessary for arriving at a just decision in the suit.  We are of the view that the courts below ought to have granted leave to produce these documents.

Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, the appeal succeeds and it is accordingly allowed.  The orders impugned herein are set aside.   The application (I.A. No.551 of 2018 in O.S. NO.257 of 2014) filed by the appellants­defendants before the Principal Sub­Judge, Pudukottai, is accordingly allowed.  Parties to bear their own costs.

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