Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal v. National Bldg. Material Supply [1969 SC]

Judgment Summarized by Delhi Law Academy – Jaipur

  • On March 11, 1950, Manohar Lal s/o. Jai Jai Ram commenced an action in the Court of the Subordinate Judge, Nainital, for a decree for Rs. 10,139/12 being the value of timber supplied to the defendant – the National Building Material Supply, Gurgaon. The action was initiated in the name of “Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal” which was the name in which the business was carried on. The plaintiff Manohar Lal subscribed his signature at the foot of the plaint as “Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal, by the pen of Manohar Lal”, and the plaint was also similarly verified. The defendant by its written statement contended that the plaintiff was an unregistered firm and on that account incompetent to sue.

  • On July 18, 1952, the plaintiff applied for leave to amend the plaint. Manohar Lal stated that “the business name of the plaintiff is Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal and therein Manohar Lal the owner and proprietor is clearly shown and named. It is a joint Hindu family business and the defendant and all knew it that Manohar Lal whose name is there aLong with the father’s name is the proprietor of it. The name is not an assumed or fictitious one. The plaintiff on those averments applied for leave to describe himself in the cause title as “Manohar Lal proprietor of Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal” and in paragraph 1 to state that he carried on the business in timber in the name of Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal. Apparently no reply was filed to this application by the defendant. The Subordinate Judge granted leave to amend the plaint. He observed that there was no doubt that the real plaintiff was Manohar Lal himself, that it was Manohar Lal who intended to file and did in fact file the action, and that the amendment was intended to bring what in effect had been done in conformity with what in fact should have been done.”

Rules of procedure are intended to be a handmaid to the administration of justice. A party cannot be refused just relief merely because of some mistake, negligence, inadvertence or even infraction of the rules of procedure. The Court always gives leave to amend the pleading of a party, unless it is satisfied that the party applying was acting mala fide, or that by his blunder, he had caused injury to his opponent which may not be compensated for by an order of costs. However negligent or careless may have been the first omission, and, however late the proposed amendment, the amendment may be allowed if it can be made without injustice to the other side.

In Amulakchand Mewaram v. Babulal Kanalal [AIR 1933 Bom. 304], Beaumont, C.J., in delivering the judgment of the Bombay High Court set out the principles applicable to cases like the present and observed:

[T]he question whether there should be an amendment or not really turns upon whether the name in which the suit is brought is the name of a non-existent person or whether it is merely a misdescription of existing persons. If the former is the case, the suit is a nullity and no amendment can cure it. If the latter is the case, prima facie, there ought to be an amendment because the general rule, subject no doubt to certain exceptions, is that the Court should always allow an amendment where any loss to the opposing party can be compensated for by costs.

This Court considered a somewhat similar case in Purushottam Unedbhai case. A firm carrying onbusiness outside India filed a suit in the firm name in the High Court of Calcutta for a decree for compensation for breach of contract. The plaintiff then applied for amendment of the plaint by describing the names of all the partners and striking out the name of the firm as a mere misdescription.

This Court observed:

Since, however, a firm is not a legal entity the privilege of suing in the name of a firm is permissible only to those persons who, as partners, are doing business in India. Such privilege is not extended to persons who are doing business as partners outside India. In their case they still have to sue in their individual names. If however, under some misapprehension, persons doing business as partners outside India do file a plaint in the name of their firm they are misdescribing themselves, as the suit instituted is by them, they being known collectively as a firm. It seems, therefore, that a plaint filed in a Court in India in the name of firm doing business outside India is not by itself a nullity. It is a plaint by all the partners of the firm with a defective description of themselves for the purpose of the Code of Civil Procedure. In these circumstances, a Civil Court could permit, under the provisions of Section 153 (or possibly under Order VI, Rule 17, about which we say nothing), an amendment of the plaint to enable a proper description of the plaintiffs to appear in it in order to assist the Court in determining the real question or issue between the parties.

These cases do no more than illustrate the well-settled rule that all amendments should be permitted as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real question in controversy between the parties, unless by permitting the amendment injustice may result to the other side.

In the present case, the plaintiff was carrying on business as commission agent in the name of “Jai Jai Ram Manohar Lal.” The plaintiff was competent to sue in his own name as Manager of the Hindu undivided family to which the business beLonged; he says he sued on behalf of the family in the business name. The observations made by the High Court that the application for amendment of the plaint could not be granted because there was no averment therein that the misdescription was on account of a bona fide mistake, and on that account the suit must fail, cannot be accepted. In our view, there is no rule that unless in an application for amendment of the plaint it is expressly averred that the error, omission or misdescription is due to a bona fide mistake, the Court has no power to grant leave to amend the plaint. The power to grant amendment of the pleadings is intended to serve the ends of justice and is not governed by any such narrow or technical limitations.

Since the name in which the action was instituted was merely a misdescription of the original plaintiff, no question of limitation arises; the plaint must be deemed to have been instituted in the name of the real plaintiff on the date on which it was originally instituted.

The appeal is allowed and the decree passed by the High Court is set aside. The proceedings will stand remanded to the High Court for disposal according to law on the merits of the dispute between the parties.

There is consistent and reliable evidence establishing that all the accused had attacked the house of the informan