[Case Brief] Union of India v/s Khader International Constructions & Others, 2001

Union of India v/s Khader International Constructions & Others was decided on 8th May 2001 by a two-judge bench of the Honourable Supreme Court of India. The appellant in the present case is the Union of India, while the first respondent is a limited company by name Khader international Constructions Ltd.

Brief Facts and Procedural History

Khader International Constructions filed a suit before the Sub-Court, Kochi, and sought permission to sue as an indigent person. On this, Union of India raised objections and contended that the plaintiff being a public limited company was not a ‘person’ coming within the purview of Order XXXIII, Rule 1 CPC, and the word ‘person’ referred to therein applies only to a natural person and not to other juristic persons. The Subordinate Judge permitted Khader Constructions to sue as an indigent person. Aggrieved thereby, Union of India filed a Revision and the same was dismissed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court and that judgment of the High Court is assailed in this present appeal before the Supreme Court.

Issues before the Court

Whether Khader International Constructions is entitled to sue as an indigent person under Order XXXIII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure?

Ratio of the judge

Any juristic person such as a company or idol can maintain a suit. These persons can be either decree-holders or judgment-debtors and in all these instances, the term ‘person’ is used to describe such company or idol or other juristic person as provided in the General Clauses Act. The definition of the term ‘person’ is given in the General Clauses Act according to which such term shall include any company or association or body of individuals whether incorporated or not. The said definition provides that the word ‘person’ would include both natural and artificial persons.

A company being a juristic person, it would be represented by a person competent to represent it. It is enough that a person competent to represent a company need present the application under Rule 3 of Order XXXIII. Minors, lunatics or persons under any disability are also entitled to file suit either represented through a guardian or next friend. They can also maintain an application under Order XXXIII. Under such circumstances, the real petitioner is not the person to present the application, but the guardian or the next friend who is competent to represent such petitioner to present the application under Rule 3, Order XXXIII. Therefore, to give meaning to the word ‘person’, the procedure prescribed under Rule 3 has no significance.

Therefore, the word ‘person’ has to be given its meaning in the context in which it is used. It refers to a person who is capable of filing a suit and this being a benevolent provision; it is to be given an extended meaning.

Decision Held

Thus a public limited company, which is otherwise entitled to maintain a suit as a legal person, can very well maintain an application under Order XXXIII, Rule 1 CPC. The Court held that the word ‘person’ mentioned in Order XXXIII includes not only a natural person but other juridical persons also. The appeal was thus dismissed.

The present judgment, thus, deals with the following important provisions of Civil Procedure Code: (1) Rule 3, Order XXXIII, (2) Rule 1, Order I, and (3) Rule 1, Order XXXIII.

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