Written Statement can be Filed after 90 days in Hard Cases

The time limit for filing of the written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure is not mandatory except in commercial suits, the Supreme Court (SC) reiterates it in Bharat Kalra v Raj Kishan Chabra.

The SC relied on the judgement in Kailash v Nankhu & Ors.[ (2005) 4 SCC 480]. Therefore, the delay in filing of the written statement could very well be compensated with costs but denying the benefit of filing of the written statement is unreasonable.

The Order VIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) provides that the Defendant shall, within thirty days from the date of service of summons on him, present a written statement of his defence. If the defendant fails to file the written statement within the said period of thirty days, he shall be allowed to file the same on such other day, as may be specified by the Court, for reasons to be recorded in writing, but which shall not be later than ninety days from the date of service of summons.

In Kailash v Nankhu & Ors, it was held that the purpose of providing the time schedule for filing the written statement under Order VIII, Rule 1 of CPC is to expedite and not to scuttle the hearing. The provision spells out a disability on the defendant. It does not impose an embargo on the power of the court to extend the time.

Though, the language of the proviso to Rule 1 of Order VIII of the CPC is couched in negative form, it does not specify any penal consequences flowing from the non- compliance. The provision being in the domain of the Procedural Law, it has to be held directory and not mandatory. The power of the Court to extend time for filing the written statement beyond the time schedule provided by Order VIII, Rule 1 of the CPC is not completely taken away.

Though Order VIII, Rule 1 of the CPC is a part of Procedural Law and hence directory, keeping in view the need for expeditious trial of civil causes which persuaded the Parliament to enact the provision in its present form, it is held that ordinarily the time schedule contained in the provision is to be followed as a rule and departure therefrom would be by way of exception. A prayer for extension of time made by the defendant shall not be granted just as a matter of routine and merely for asking, more so when the period of 90 days has expired.

Extension of time may be allowed by way of an exception, for reasons to be assigned by the defendant and also be placed on record in writing, howsoever briefly, by the court on its being satisfied. Extension of time may be allowed if it was needed to be given for the circumstances which are exceptional, occasioned by reasons beyond the control of the defendant and grave injustice would be occasioned if the time was not extended. Costs may be imposed and affidavit or documents in support of the grounds pleaded by the defendant for extension of time may be demanded, depending on the facts and circumstances of a given case.

The Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu V. Union of India, also held that there is no restriction in Order VIII Rule 10 that after expiry of ninety days, further time cannot be granted. The court has wide power to ‘make such order in relation to the suit as it thinks fit’.

Therefore, the provision of Order VIII Rule 1 providing for upper limit of 90 days to file written statement is directory. However, the order extending time to file written statement cannot be made in routine. The time can be extended only in exceptionally hard cases. While extending time, it has to be borne in mind that the legislature has fixed the upper time limit of 90 days.

The discretion of the court to extend the time shall not be so frequently and routinely exercised so as to nullify the period fixed by Order VIII Rule 1.