[Case Brief] Ghanshyam Dass and Others v/s Dominion of India and Others, 1984

Ghanshyam Dass and Others v/s Dominion of India and Others was delivered on 20 March 1984 by a three-judge bench consisting of Justice AP Sen, Justice DA Desai, Justice V. Balakrishna Eradi. The instant judgment was ordered by Justice AP Sen. The instant judgment thus dealt with the following important sections/acts:

(1) Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Brief Facts and Procedural History:

As the factual matrix revealed, the father of plaintiffs late Seth Lachman Dass Gupta had entered into the contract with Governor General-in-council for the supply of charcoal to the Military Supply Depot at Agra. According to the terms of the contract if the price of charcoal increased by more than 10% of the stipulated rate during the subsistence of the contract, then the contractor would be entitled to the price at the higher rate. The price did increase subsequently but the military authorities refused to pay a certain sum of money at the increased rate.

Seth Lachman Dass issued a notice to the Dominion of India through Defence Secretary under Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure. He received a letter back from the authorities rejecting his claim but he could not institute a suit as he died in the meantime.

On November 12, 1949, the plaintiffs Ghanshyam Dass and his two minor brothers Shree Ram and Mohan Lal brought a suit in the Court of Civil Judge, Agra, for the recovery of a sum of Rs. 26, 000 against the Dominion of India through the Defence Secretary, New Delhi. The defendants contested the claim on the ground that the notice could not inure for the benefit of the plaintiffs and thus the suit was bad for the want of the notice under section 80 of the code. The learned civil judge did not accept the contention of the appellant and held that no further notice was required as the notice served by the plaintiff’s father must endure for their benefit. But on an appeal before the High Court, the High Court reversed the order and took the view that the notice given by the plaintiffs father was insufficient and not a valid notice under the code in so far as the plaintiffs are concerned.

Issue before the Court:

Whether the notice given by the plaintiff’s father Lachman Dass Gupta before his death under Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure Code, 1908, would endure for the benefit of plaintiffs or not?

Ratio of the Court (As authored by Justice AP Sen)

It is plain from the terms of section 80 that the notice must fulfil the requirements set out therein. It is essential that the notice must state the names, descriptions and places of residence of all the plaintiffs. A notice must be such as to enable the addressee or the recipient to identify the claimant. The provisions of section 80 are explicit and mandatory and it admits no implications or exemptions.

In an ultimate analysis, the question as to whether a notice under section 80 of the Code is valid or not is a question of judicial construction. Adopting the rule of substantial compliance, the essential requirement of a notice is that it must deal with the identity between the cause of action and the reliefs claimed in the notice as well as the plaint. A notice under section 80 of the code should be held to be sufficient if it substantially fulfils its object of informing the parites concerned of the nature of the suit to be filed. Thus the notice should not be scrutinized in a pedantric manner divorced from common sense.

Decision Held:

In the present case, the name, description and place of residence of the plaintiff, the father of the plaintiff was given in the notice but unfortunately he died before filing the suit. Thereafter within the period of limitation the suit was instituted by his sons on the basis of the said notice. Thus the notice undoubtedl fulfils the requirement of the section 80 of the code in so far as the cause of action and the relief claimed are concerned as they are abasolutely the same as set out in the plaint. The notice had duly reached the concerned department and they delat with the notice. Thus the government has the opportunity to examine the nature of the claim and decide whether it should accept or contest the claim. When the father could not file a suit due to his death, his right to file the suit devolved upon his heirs. If fresh notice is insisted upon in such cases the period of limitation to file a suit may expire in the meantime. Such a situation is not intended by the code. Section 80 of the code is merely a part of the adjective law and deals with the procedure alone and must be interpreted in a manner so as to subserve and advance the cause of justice rather than to defeat it.

References Made:

(1) Bhagchand Dagadusa & Others v/s Secretary of State of India in Council & Others (Privy Council)

(2) Vallayan Chettiar & Others v/s The Government of the Province of Madras & Another (Privy Council)

(3) Government of Province Bombay v/s Pestonji Ardeshir Wadia & Others (Privy Council)

(4) Dhian Singh Sobha Singh & Another v/s Union of India (Supreme Court)

(5) Union of India v/s Jeewan Ram (Supreme Court)

(6) State of Madras v/s C.P. Agencies (Supreme Court)

(7) Amar Nath Dogra v/s Union of India (Supreme Court)

(8) SN Dutt v/s Union of India (Supreme Court)

(9) Raghunath Dass v/s Union of India & Another (Supreme Court)

(10) Sanghram Singh v/s Election Tribunal, Kotah & Another (Supreme Court)

(11) Twenty-Seventh Report of Law Commission of India. (PP. 21-22)

(12) Fifty-Fourth Report of Law Commission of India. (PP. 56)

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