Order XX of Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) which prescribes time limit for courts to pronounce judgments will not apply to High Courts, the Supreme Court reiterated (SJVNL v. M/s CCC HIM JV).
In an order passed on February 12, a Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and BR Gavai said that if there is a six months hiatus between reserving a judgment and delivering it, either party can move an application to the Chief Justice of the High Court, who may then decide that the matter be heard afresh.
“A reading of our judgment in Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar [(2001) 7 SCC 318] and, para 9 in particular, makes it clear that Order 20 of the CPC does not apply to the High Court,” the Court said.
The Bench was hearing an appeal filed against a judgment of a Division Bench of the Himachal Pradesh High Court which had on December 29, 2020 set aside a judgment of the single-judge on the ground that there was delay of nine months by the single-judge in delivering the judgment.
The single-judge had concluded hearing and reserved its verdict on December 24, 2019. The judgment was delivered on September 30, 2020. The Division Bench had placed reliance on Order XX of CPC to set aside the verdict of the single-judge.
Order XX states that a court, after the case has been heard, shall pronounce judgment in an open court, either at once, or as soon thereafter as may be practicable.
It adds that where the judgment is not pronounced at once, every endeavour shall be made by the court to pronounce the judgment within thirty days from the date on which the hearing of the case was concluded but, where it is not practicable so to do on the ground of the exceptional and extraordinary circumstances of the case, the court shall fix a future day for the pronouncement of the judgment, and such day shall not ordinarily be a day beyond sixty days from the date on which the hearing of the case was concluded.
The Supreme Court, however, placed reliance on its judgment in Anil Rai to hold that Order XX of the CPC does not apply to the High Court.
“In fact, para 10 then goes on to lay down a series of guidelines which ought to be imposed for the High Court in which, inter alia, it is mentioned that only after six months hiatus between reserving a judgment and delivering it, either party can move an application to the Chief Justice of the High Court, who may then decide that the matter be heard afresh,” the Court noted.
No such application was moved in the present case, it added.
The Court, therefore, set aside the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court and remanded the matter back to the Division Bench to be heard afresh and decided on merits.