Civil Revision Petition No.2030 of 2016 05-01-2017 Dr.Talluri Satish Chandra . Petitioner Thoram Venkateswara Rao and two others . Respondents

THE HON'BLE SRI JUSTICE  M. SEETHARAMA MURTI        

Civil Revision Petition No.2030 of 2016

05-01-2017

Dr.Talluri Satish Chandra . Petitioner
                               
Thoram Venkateswara Rao and two others . Respondents    

Counsel for the Petitioner: Sri K. V. Bhanu Prasad

Counsel for Respondents: Sri Vedula Venkata Ramana, learned Senior Counsel  
appearing for Sri Y. Ashok Raj, learned counsel.

<Gist :

>Head Note:

? Cases referred:

1.2012 (3) ALD 28 (SC)


THE HONBLE SRI JUSTICE M.SEETHARAMA MURTI          

Civil Revision Petition No.2030 of 2016

ORDER:


        This Civil Revision Petition by the Decree Holder under Section 115
of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, (the Code) is directed against the
order, dated 11.02.2016, of the learned II Additional District Judge,
Ranga Reddy District, at L.B.Nagar, passed in E.P.No.234 of 2015 in Lok
Adalat Case No.1127/2013 filed by the Decree Holder under Order XXI
Rule 34 of the Code against the judgment debtors 1 to 3/respondents 1
to 3 herein to direct them to execute and register the sale deed in
respect of decree A schedule property in favour of the Decree Holder
and requesting the executing Court to execute the sale deed in favour of
the Decree Holder on failure of the judgment debtors to comply with the
Courts directions.

2.      I have heard the submissions of Sri K.V.Bhanu Prasad, learned
counsel appearing for the revision petitioner/Decree Holder (herein after
DHr) and Sri Vedula Venkata Ramana, learned senior counsel
representing Sri Y.Ashok Raj, learned counsel appearing for the
respondents/judgment debtors 1 to 3 (hereinafter, JDrs).  I have
perused the material record.

3.      The facts, which are necessary to be stated as a prelude to this
order, in brief, are as follows:
        On the first information lodged by the DHr, a case in Crime No.173
of 2013 was registered by the Police Station, Technical Team, the
Central Crime Station, Hyderabad.  Pursuant thereto, a Calendar Case
(hereinafter, CC) was taken on file by the learned XII Additional Chief
Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad, for the offences punishable under
Sections 406, 420 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  At the request
of the parties, the said CC was referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement
in the presence of the informant and the accused.  On such reference
made to the Lok Adalat of Metropolitan Lok Adalat Bench, Hyderabad, 
and on the parties arriving at an amicable settlement, an Award under
Section 21 of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, (the Act, for
brevity) was passed by the Lok Adalat Bench of Metropolitan Criminal
Courts, Hyderabad.  Both the parties and all the members of the Bench
including the Judicial Member duly signed the Award.  To the Award, the
MOU, with the terms of settlement executed between the parties on
05.12.2013 at Hyderabad, was enclosed.  Having thus obtained the
Award, the DHr filed E.P.No.234 of 2015 before the Principal District
Court, Ranga Reddy District, vide SR No.3353 of 2015.  And, on
06.04.2015, the said EP was made over to the II Additional District Court,
Ranga Reddy District, and was assigned the number E.P.No.234 of 2015.
The said EP was filed against the JDrs 1 to 3 to direct them to execute
and register the sale deed in respect of decree A schedule property in
favour of the Decree Holder. The EP was filed in the said Court as the A
schedule property is situated within the local limits of the jurisdiction of
the said Court.  On receiving notices, the judgment debtors entered
appearance and contended that the executing Court has no jurisdiction
to entertain the Execution Petition filed for execution of the Lok Adalat
Award.

4.      On merits and by the orders impugned, the learned II Additional
District Judge, Ranga Reddy, having observed that the award is related to
a criminal case/CC originally on the file of the XII Additional Chief
Metropolitan Magistrate, Hyderabad, and that the Decree Holder is a
resident of Vijayawada and that except the judgment debtors 2 and 3,
the others are residents of Bhimavaram of West Godavari District and
that even the third judgment debtor is not residing within the limits of
Hyderabad city, held that the Decree Holder used the Lok Adalat
mechanism as a tool and is intending to execute the award illegally and
contrary to the provisions of the Act, and therefore, dismissed the
execution petition.

5.      Aggrieved thereby, the Decree Holder filed this revision petition.

6.      The learned counsel for the Decree Holder would submit as
follows:        The award of a Lok Adalat is an Award whether passed by
the Lok Adalat Bench of the Criminal Courts or the Lok Adalat Bench of
the Civil Courts.  Under Section 21 of the Act, every award shall be
deemed to be a decree of a Civil Court or, as the case may be an order of
any other Court.  Every Award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and
binding on the parties to the disputes.  As the A schedule immovable
property is situated within the local limits of the jurisdiction of the Court
at Ranga Reddy District, the execution petition for execution of the
Award is correctly instituted in that District Court.  The said Court
without raising any objection received the proceeding on file and made it
over to the II Additional District Court.  After registering the execution
petition, the II Additional District Court (hereinafter, Executing Court)
rightly took up the matter for disposal.  However, the JDrs raised
untenable contentions and the issue of lack of jurisdiction.  And, the
Executing Court erroneously accepted the contentions and dismissed the
Execution Petition.  When an issue of jurisdiction was raised, the
Executing Court ought to have decided the said issue of jurisdiction only
and ought not to have made any observations on the merits of the
matter.  If the Executing Court felt that it has no jurisdiction to execute
the decree, it ought to have returned the proceeding for presentation
before proper Court instead of dismissing the same by making
unwarranted and uncalled for observations.  There is no restriction on
the power of the Lok Adalat Bench to pass an award based on the
agreement arrived at between the parties even in a case referred by the
criminal Court and the Award passed by the Lok Adalat being a decree of
a Civil Court, the Executing Court ought to have disposed of the
execution petition on its merit, instead of dismissing it.  The observations
of the Court below to the effect that the Award was passed by a Lok
Adalat Bench on a reference of a criminal case made by a Criminal Court
and that the Award related to immovable properties and hence, the
Execution Petition cannot be entertained by it and that the Decree
Holder used the Lok Adalat mechanism as a tool and is intending to
execute the award illegally and contrary to the provisions of the Act
demonstrate that the executing Court is prejudiced in the matter.

7.      Per contra, the learned Senior Counsel supported the orders of the
Executing Court to the effect that it has no jurisdiction to execute the
award of the Lok Adalat passed by the Adalat Bench of the City Criminal
Courts Unit on a reference of a criminal case made by a Criminal Court.
He further submitted that the terms of the Award show that it is not
executable.  He also submitted that in his opinion, the remedy open to
the Decree Holder is to file a suit for specific performance, but not an
execution petition of the present nature.  He also added that it is for the
DHr to pursue the remedy, which the law permits and it is not for the
JDrs to suggest any remedy.

8.      I have given earnest consideration to the facts and the submissions.
9.      Before proceeding further, it is apt to encapsulate the factual
matrix.  The DHr lodged first information with the police concerned
alleging that the JDrs committed offences punishable under the
provisions of the Indian Penal Code.  Eventually, a Calendar Case was
taken on file by the learned XII Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate,
within the Metropolitan Sessions Unit, Hyderabad.  At the request of the
parties, the said CC was referred to the Lok Adalat for settlement in the
presence of the informant and the accused.  The Lok Adalat Bench of the
City Metropolitan Unit consisting of three members including a Judicial
Member took up the case as Lok Adalat Case no.1127 of 2015.  On the
parties arriving at an amicable settlement, the said Bench passed the
Award dated 05.12.2013.  The terms of settlement were reduced into
writing in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dated
05.12.2013 and the said MOU is annexed to the Award.  Thus, the Award
was passed by the Lok Adalat Bench of City Metropolitan Unit in a
Calendar Case on a reference made by a Magistrate.  Some of the terms
of the settlement, which have become part of the Award, relate to
immovable properties more fully described in A and B schedule of the
said MOU.  Be that as it may, the present EP was filed by the DHr for a
direction to the JDrs to execute and register the sale deed in favour of
the Decree Holder in respect of A schedule property.  In view of the
fact that the said immovable property is situated within the local limits
of the jurisdiction of the Court at Ranga Reddy District, the DHr filed the
Execution Proceedings before the Principal District Court, Ranga Reddy
District.  The same was made over to the II Additional District
Court/Executing Court and was numbered as E.P.No.234 of 2015.  When   
the issue of jurisdiction was raised by the JDr, the EP was dismissed;
however by making certain observations, which are unnecessary and 
unwarranted in the facts and circumstances of the case.

10.     In this backdrop and setting of admitted facts, now the important
questions that arise for determination are

Whether the Executing Court, that is, the II Additional District Court
at Ranga Reddy District, is having jurisdiction to entertain the EP?
And, if not, which is the Court competent to entertain the EP for
Execution of the Award in question?

11.     The undisputed legal position is that the Award of a Lok Adalat is a
decree of a Civil Court.  The Award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to
be a decree of the civil Court in view of the provision of Section 21 of the
Act, which reads as follows: -

21. Award of Lok Adalat.(1) Every award of the Lok Adalat shall be
deemed to be a decree of a civil court or, as the case may be, an
order of any other court and where a compromise or settlement has
been arrived at, by a Lok Adalat in a case referred to it under sub-
section (1) of section 20, the court-fee paid in such case shall be
refunded in the manner provided under the Court Fees Act, 1870 (7
of 1870).

(2) Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all
the parties to the dispute, and no appeal shall lie to any court
against the award.

As per sub-section (2) of the said Section, the Award made by the Lok
Adalat shall be final and binding on all the parties to the dispute and no
appeal shall lie to any Court against the Award.  In-fact, it is not in
dispute that the subject Award, which shall be deemed to be a Decree of
a Civil Court, has become final.

12.     Since the Award was one passed in a criminal case by a Lok Adalat
bench of the Metropolitan Unit of the Metropolitan Sessions Division of
Hyderabad, the first incidental and short question is as to whether the
said facts would make any critical difference and would be sufficient not
to deem the Award in question as a decree of the Civil Court.  This
question appears to be no longer res integra in view of the decision of
the Supreme Court in K.N. Govindan Kutty Menon v. C.D. Shaji .  The
facts of this cited case which gave rise to an important question as to the
interpretation of Section 21 of the Act are as follows: The appellant
therein filed a complaint (CC.No.1216 of 2007) before the Judicial
Magistrate of First Class (Court No.1, Ernakulam) against the respondent
therein under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.  The
Magistrate referred the said complaint to Ernakulam District Legal
Services Authority for trying the case for settlement between the parties
in the Lok Adalat.  On appearance of the parties, an Award was passed
for payment of the balance amount in five equal installments as
stipulated therein giving liberty to the appellant therein to recover the
entire balance amount in lump sum in case of default of payment of the
said amount as per the schedule of installments.  As the installments
were not paid as settled and as per the Lok Adalat Award, an execution
petition in CC.no.1216 of 2007 was filed in the Principal Munsif Court,
Ernakulam, seeking the execution of the Award.  The Judge of the
Principal Munsif Court dismissed the petition holding that the Award
passed by the Lok Adalat on the reference from the Magistrate cannot be
construed as a decree executable by the Civil Court.  Aggrieved
thereof, the DHr approached the High Court of Kerala by way of a writ
petition.  The High Court dismissed the writ petition.  The Supreme Court
while allowing the Criminal Appeal and setting aside the orders of the
Courts below directed the executing Court to restore the execution
petition and proceed further in accordance with law.  In the said
decision, after referring to the provisions of law and the precedents, the
position that emerged was summarized as follows:
1) In view of the unambiguous language of Section 21 of the Act,
every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a
civil court and as such it is executable by that Court.
2) The Act does not make out any such distinction between the
reference made by a civil court and criminal court.
3) There is no restriction on the power of the Lok Adalat to pass an
award based on the compromise arrived at between the parties in
respect of cases referred to by various Courts (both civil and
criminal), Tribunals, Family court, Rent Control Court, Consumer
Redressal Forum, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal and other Forums
of similar nature.
4) Even if a matter is referred by a criminal court under Section 138
of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 and by virtue of the
deeming provisions, the award passed by the Lok Adalat based on a
compromise has  to be treated as a decree capable of execution by a
civil court.

From the ratio in the decision it is clear that the Act does not make out
any distinction between the reference made by a civil court and criminal
court and that the award passed by the Lok Adalat based on a
compromise has to be treated as a decree capable of execution by a civil
court.  Therefore, following the precedential guidance, which squarely
applies to the facts of the case, it can safely be held that the Award in
question can be construed as a decree of a civil Court.  In the cited case
the execution petition was directed to be entertained by the Principal
Munsif concerned though the award was made on a reference of a
criminal case by a Magistrate.  From the precedential guidance, it is thus
also clear that even though the Award was passed pursuant to a
reference of a criminal case made by a criminal Court, the Award being a
decree of a civil Court can be executed by Civil Court.

13.     The next important question is as to whether the execution
proceedings for the execution of the subject Award can straight away be
instituted before the Court situated within Ranga Reddy District on the
ground that the subject matter is an immovable property situated within
the local limits of the District Court of Ranga Reddy District.

13.1    On giving earnest consideration to the facts, this Court finds that
the answer to the question presents two possible and probable views.
Hyderabad District (Judical District) has two units: (i) City Civil Court
Unit, dealing with civil jurisdiction; and (ii) Metropolitan Criminal Courts
Unit dealing with the criminal jurisdiction.  Since the Award was passed
by a Lok Adalat Bench of the Metropolitan Criminal Courts Unit of
Hyderabad District, the first possible view is that the execution
proceedings shall be filed before the City Civil Court and a transfer of the
proceedings to the Ranga Reddy District Court shall be sought as the A
schedule property is situated within the local limits of the District Court
at Ranga Reddy District.  The other possible view is that the execution
proceedings can straight away be filed before the District Court, Ranga
Reddy District, as the property is situated within the local limits of the
jurisdiction of the said Court.  In the considered view of this Court, when
the decree is deemed to be a decree of the Civil Court, the normal
procedure of Execution which would be applicable to any decree of a
Civil Court would likewise be applicable to the Award of the Lok Adalat
also.  Under Section 38 of the Code the Decree may be executed by the
Court which passed it or by the Court to which it is sent for execution.
Under section 39 of the Code, the Court which passed a Decree may on
the application of the DHr send it for execution to another Court of
competent jurisdiction.  Further, under Section 39 (2) of the Code the
Court which passed a decree may of its own motion send it for execution
to any Subordinate Court of Competent Jurisdiction.  Generally, no Court
which passed the Decree is authorized to execute such decree against
property outside the local limits of its jurisdiction.
13.2    On the above analysis, the principles that emerge may be
summarized as follows:
(1)  Since the Act does not make out any distinction between the
reference made by a civil Court or a criminal Court, every Award of
the Lok Adalat, whether passed on a reference made by a civil Court
or a criminal Court shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil Court
and as such, it is executable.
(2)   Even if a matter is referred by a criminal Court and the Award
was passed by a Lok Adalat Bench of a criminal Unit, yet the Lok
Adalat Award is capable of execution by a civil Court within the said
Unit or within the District.
(3)    If such civil Court is not authorized to execute such decree
against any person or property outside the local limits of its
jurisdiction, then the decree may be executed by the competent
civil Court to which it is sent on the application of the decree holder.
In the instant case, as the Award was passed by a Lok Adalat Bench of
the Metropolitan Legal Services Authority of Hyderabad District, the
execution petition ought to have been filed before the competent civil
Court within the City Civil Court Unit of Hyderabad District.  However,
since the A schedule immovable property is situated outside the local
limits of the jurisdiction of the Courts within City Civil Court Unit and as
the said property is situate within the local limits of the jurisdiction of
the Civil Court, Ranga Reddy District, the Decree Holder ought to have
filed an appropriate application before the competent civil Court within
the City Civil Court Unit of Hyderabad District seeking transfer of the
decree to a competent civil Court within Ranga Reddy District.

13.3    Viewed thus, this Court accordingly holds that the DHr ought to
have first filed the execution petition before a competent Civil Court of
the City Civil Court Unit of the Hyderabad District and ought to have
sought transfer of the decree to the competent Civil Court of Ranga
Reddy District as the A schedule property is situated within the local
limits of the District Court at Ranga Reddy District.  Be that as it may, as
the Execution proceedings are already instituted in the competent
Executing Court at Ranga Reddy District, this Court, while exercising its
suo motu powers of transfer and the supervisory jurisdiction, deems it
appropriate to permit the DHr to continue to proceed with the execution
proceedings in the said Executing Court instead of driving the Decree
Holder from pillar to post.

14.     On the above analysis, this Court finds that the order impugned is
unsustainable and is liable to be set aside.

15.     In the result and for the reasons afore-stated, the order impugned
is set aside and the learned Judge of the II Additional District Court,
Ranga Reddy District, is directed to entertain the E.P.No.234 of 2015 in
Lok Adalat Case No.1127/2013 filed by the Decree Holder and dispose of
the same in strict accordance with the procedure established by law,
however, uninfluenced by the observations in the order, which is now set
aside, nevertheless after giving a reasonable and fair opportunity to both
the sides to advance their respective contentions, which the law permits.
      There shall be no order as to costs.

      Pending miscellaneous applications, if any, shall stand closed.

_____________________  
M. SEETHARAMA MURTI, J    
5th January, 2017

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