Narendra Sharma

Hon’ble Supreme Court in Afcons Infrastructure Ltd. & Anr. Vs. Cherian Varkey Construction Co. (P) Ltd. & Ors. {(2010) 8 SCC 24; Decided on 26.07.2010} held as follows in para 13.5 and 16 respectively:

13.5) A classic example of correcting an error committed by the draftsman in legislative drafting is the substitution of the words `defendant’s witnesses’ by this Court for the words `plaintiff’s witnesses’ occurring in Order VII Rule 14(4) of the Code, in Salem Bar-II {Salem Advocate Bar Assn. II Vs. UOI (2005 6 SCC 344)}. We extract below the relevant portion of the said decision :

“Order VII relates to the production of documents by the plaintiff whereas Order VIII relates to production of documents by the defendant. Under Order VIII Rule 1-A(4) a document not produced by defendant can be confronted to the plaintiff’s witness during cross-examination. Similarly, the plaintiff can also confront the defendant’s witness with a document during cross-examination. By mistake, instead of ‘defendant’s witnesses’, the words ‘plaintiff’s witnesses’ have been mentioned in Order VII Rule 14(4). To avoid any confusion, we direct that till the legislature corrects the mistake, the words ‘plaintiff’s witnesses, would be read as ‘defendant’s witnesses’ in Order VII Rule 14(4).  We, however, hope that the mistake would be expeditiously corrected by the legislature.”

“16. In view of the foregoing, it has to be concluded that proper interpretation of section 89 of the Code requires two changes from a plain and literal reading of the section. Firstly, it is not necessary for the court, before referring the parties to an ADR process to formulate or re-formulate the terms of a possible settlement. It is sufficient if the court merely describes the nature of dispute (in a sentence or two) and makes the reference. Secondly, the definitions of `judicial settlement’ and `mediation’ in clauses (c) and (d) of section 89(2) shall have to be interchanged to correct the draftsman’s error. Clauses (c) and (d) of section 89(2) of the Code will read as under when the two terms are interchanged:

(c) for “mediation”, the court shall refer the same to a suitable institution or person and such institution or person shall be deemed to be a Lok Adalat and all the provisions of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 (39 of 1987) shall apply as if the dispute were referred to a Lok Adalat under the provisions of that Act;

(d) for “judicial settlement”, the court shall effect a compromise between the parties and shall follow such procedure as may be prescribed.

The above changes made by interpretative process shall remain in force till the legislature corrects the mistakes, so that section 89 is not rendered meaningless and infructuous.”

Note: The views expressed are my personal and a view point only.

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June 2021