FINANCIAL COMMISSIONER REVENUE’S
STANDING ORDER No. 68
1. Prefatory Words. As result of my inspections of different courts and offices I deem it necessary to issue instructions in partial modification, and mainly in amplification, of my circular No. 148-Cir/A.P., dated the 28th August, 1962.
2. Weekly and Daily Work --- Arrangement. Most of the Revenue Officers are functioning as Magistrates, besides doing executive work of a varied nature. It is, therefore, necessary for litigants, lawyers and other persons having business with, or requiring the assistance of, the officers to know exactly the time of each working day at, and the days of the week, on which certain type of business would be transacted or the specified nature of cases would be tried, or dealt with, by each officer.
3. The following suggestions might be usefully acted upon by the officers: -
i.Allocation of Week-days for Revenue and Criminal Work. (a) Officers stationed at one place should decide between themselves which day(s) of the week a particular officer would be doing revenue case work and which day(s) he would be doing criminal work. If the revenue work to be done by a Magistrate is nominal, it may be done on a day meant for criminal work but it should not be assigned a place at the bottom of the cause list.
(a)This would mean that no lawyer would ordinarily be having his cases listed for hearing in more than two revenue courts/officers on any one day and that ordinarily no criminal work would be done on the day or the part of the day revenue cases are heard. Impression would not be given that revenue work is usually, or has been, relegated.
(ii) Day (s) to be allotted to each police station. (a) Each Magistrate should have fixed day or days of the week allotted solely or primarily to the work concerning one police station. If the work from a particular police station is heavy, one or two days in the seek may be allotted to it for taking up fresh cases for evidence i.e. cases in each of which larger number of witnesses are likely to appear. One day in the week may be fixed, if necessary, for cases in each of which a stray witness is likely to appears, on such a day may even be heard cases from more than on e police station.
(b) This procedure will ensure, inter-alia, more interest by the investigating officers in prosecution of cases and securing attendance of witnesses and less absence of the police officers from their police stations. And one or the other representative of the police station would carry the court summonses and notices back with him to the police station.
(iii) Miscellaneous work relating to litigants and executive or other cases, e.g. talbu cases, each of which is likely to be heard or adjourned in a matter of minutes and in which presence of the members of the public or Government servants is necessary, should be disposed or immediately after the reception of fresh application, plaints, complaints and petitions i.e. arziswal
(iv) Disposal of Certain work before Meetings. (a) Even if a meeting has to be fixed at short notice which the officers are required to attend, the magistrates who are also revenue officers should see that they dispose of the miscellaneous and other executive work concerning the public as well as the cases fixed merely for appearance of the parties i.e. Talbi cases at the usual time --- during the first hour or so the working day and then attend the meeting.
(b) Meeting may preferably be fixed for afternoon in winter leaving forenoon for judicial and quasi-judicial case work.
4. Decorum of Court. No visitor should be received on the dais, and much less taken to the retiring room, during the period fixed for hearing of judicial and quasi-judicial cases.
5. Presiding Officer to fix cases for Hearing. (i) The responsibility for fixing cases for hearing on different dates should not be transferred to the readers, as, it seems, is mostly done. Moreover, the litigants should not get the impression that, in reality, it is the reader who has the power to fix a long or a short date for hearing of cases and that the presiding officer is merely a rubber stamp of the reader.
(ii) Cases-Calendar-Cardboard. In the interest of speedy disposal of the cases and facility of the presiding officers, each of them should have a calendar of the dates of the current month affixed, say, to one side of a foolscap cardboard and a calendar of dates of the next month pasted on a different cardboard. The calendar for the month following the next month may be pasted to the side opposite to the side on which the current month’s calendar is pasted. Both cardboard calendars should be lying on the table before the officer.
(iii) the calendar may be in the following form, mutatis mutandis: -
(vi) Quantity of Work. It will be for each officer, according to his capacity, time available to him on a particular date and the nature of cases which shall come up for hearing before him, to determine for himself the number of cases in which main body of witnesses is to be examined; number of cases in which the remaining witnesses are to be examined and the number of cases for arguments to be fixed on a particular date.
6. A Peshi Parchi should be handed over to each illiterate party not represented by counsel, vide 1-1-C, 13, Punjab High Court Rules and Orders.
7. Adjournment-Work. (i) The presiding officer may have a slip pasted on the top of each file on which he could note the next date of hearing and also indicate the purpose of adjournment by using a letter or two, e.g., E/W or W/Ar., and at the same time put a tally mark in the calendar before him leaving it to the reader to write the order in detail, the names of the counsel for the parties present and witnesses examined etc., and the cause of the adjournment.
(ii) Payment of Process Fee. The reader should know that as a rule so much time is to be allowed for payment of process fee, e.g. a day; for furnishing list of witnesses and payment of the diet money, e.g. 2/3 days etc. If any longer period is required, say, for furnishing the list of witnesses of putting in the list of documents, or even payment of process fee, the presiding officer should give an indication on the slip for the reader to write the interlocutory order in detail. The officer would thus be relieved of routine work.
8. Daily Work Abstract. The reader should at the end of each day’s work note in the peshi register the number of witnesses examined, number of witnesses sent away without being examined and the number of cases in which orders were announced.
9. (i) Chapter 1-B of the Punjab High Court Rules and Orders, Volume 1, would be found useful not only by officers functioning as revenue courts or criminal courts but by revenue and executive officers also.
(ii) Petition Box. To methodize and facilitate the receipt and disposal of applications/petitions a petition box should placed outside the office/court room. It should be locked and attended by an official of the court/office. It should be opened in the presence of the presiding officer thrice a day --- first, 15 minutes or immediately after the court/office opens; secondly, a little before the lunch break; thirdly, 15 minutes before the close/rising of the office/court. Application/petitions that may come up after the 3rd clearance of the petition box should be received personally be the presiding officer.
(iii) Reception and Disposal of Plaints, Petitions, Applications and Complaints. (a) It may only be added to what is provided in chapter 1-B of the Punjab High Court Rules & Order that the petitioners/applicants and plaintiffs who hand over their petitions/complaints and plaints in the morning should, if orders are not communicated to them forthwith, be disposed of before the lunch/rest break; those approaching immediately before the lunch/rest break should be disposed of about quarter of an hour before the close the working day and those who come last of all should be asked to appear next morning and should be disposed of first of all next morning.
(iv) As and when required, dates fixed for consideration of hearing of the applications, petitions, complaints and suits should be announced.
(v) If the Collector/Assistant Collector/Magistrate has a stamp like that of Post Office, with the help of which the time and date of receipt of the application/complaint/plaint could be recorded, it may be used by the reader under the supervision of the presiding officer. Otherwise, the presiding officer would be well advised to record his initials and date on the left margin at the top of each document received in the morning, in the middle of the margin of each document received in the middle of working day and at the bottom of the margin of each document received at the fag-end of the day.
(vi) The procedure set forth above would make it easier, say, for the students desirous of getting copies of certificates attested and persons who are not accompanied by influential persons or represented by counsel to understand the working of the officers, including time at which they are required to appear before the Collectors/Magistrates and without interfering with their other work and be curb on the whims and fancies of the ministerial officers.
10. Submission of Copies for Speedy Disposal. Each of the persons bringing applications, representations or complaints of an executive nature on which reports/comments of one or more authorities are to be had before the officer receiving the applications can dispose them of may in the interest of efficiency and speedy disposal of the matter in which they are interested, be advised to put in as many copies of the original (s) as the number of authorities at which the matter has to be referred for report or comments. They should invariably be told the date on and time at which they may expect orders to be announced in their presence or that the orders would be communicated to them by post.
11. Preliminary Scrutiny of Plaints etc. On the presentation or receipt of plaints or applications under one or the other Act, the Collectors or Assistant Collectors would be well advised to keep the following among other points in view; these points are quite often forgotten: -
i.Whether the plaint or application contains particulars specified in Order 7, Rule I of C.P.C.;
ii.Whether any of the parties to the suit/application is a minor one, if so, whether he is properly represented;
iii.Whether the plaint/application is duly signed and verified;
iv.Whether the matter is within the jurisdiction of the officer/court or must be returned for presentation to the proper officer/court;
Explanation: As between Tehsildar and Naib-Tehsildar both of whom are Assistant Collectors, the division of work on a territorial (circle) basis is an internal matter. Therefore, plaint/application received by any of them need not be returned for being presented to the other, but orders should be passed for kaifiyat and after preliminary scrutiny the plaintiff/applicant should be told that he should appear before the other officer on a date which should be fixed. This applies to the Collector, too, if the concerned Collector is on tour.
v.Whether the documents attached to the application/plaint are accompanied by lists in the prescribed form and are in order;
vi. Whether the address of the plaintiff/applicant for service during the pendency of the case has been filed; and,
vii.Whether duly executed powers of attorney are attached.
Explanation: Mere relationship confers no legal authority.
12. Immediate Scrutiny. It has been noticed that even the persons who put in duly stamped applications requiring a court fee stamp of Rs. 1-25 only, and are accompanied by: -
a) documents, e.g. extracts of the record of rights and the crop inspection registers;
b) copies, i.e. duplicates or triplicates of the application;
c) addresses of the parties;
d) required amount of process fee, and
e) powers of attorney,
are usually required by orders recorded in the hand of the reader to appear again after 10-15 days, by which date the reader directs himself to scrutinize the application. Scrutiny of any such like applications should not take more than two minutes and of a plaint more than 3 to 5 minutes.
There is, therefore, little reason why the applicant/plaintiff should be required to go back to his house which may be in the remote part of a hilly district or 20-30 miles away in a district and come back again after a week or a fortnight to hear whether that application or plaint is in order, prima facie.
13. Process Fee. Paras, which relate to process fee, of Chapter 5-A Volume I of the Rules and orders of the Punjab High Courts, should be perused carefully.
Mode of Service. The extract of Chapter 7-B, which relates to mode of service of Volume IV of the Rules and Orders of the Punjab High Court, should be perused.
Criminal Processes. Chapter 3, Volume IV should be referred to.
14. The following are some of the reasons why the revenue officers and also others should familiarize themselves with the Rules and Orders of the High Court and the relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure: -
i.The High Court Rules are not, in any way, in conflict with sections 13 and 21 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1887, and sections 39 to 92 of the Punjab Tenancy Act 1887, but may be treated as supplementary to, or clarification of, those provisions.
ii.Rulings by most of the High Courts are available as to which constitutes proper service and what is meant, in particular circumstance, by the expression “due and reasonable diligence” which is to be used by the process servers to find the defendants/respondents. Very few rulings, perhaps none at all, are available of the Financial Commissioners on the subject of proper service.
iii.The process serving agencies which are, through the District Judges and the Sub-Judges, under the control of the High Court, are expected to comply the High Court Rules and Orders and the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, relevant to the issue and service of processes.
15. Proverbial law-delays are said to be due to the inefficiency of the process serving agencies, which, already observed, are under the High Court. Nevertheless, I have noticed that in most cases the delay in the conclusion of the litigation has been due to inefficiency, or ignorance of procedure on the part of the presiding officers. Therefore, these rules and relevant provisions of the C.P.C. cannot be too strongly commended for being studied by all the officers functioning as Collectors and Assistant Collectors and those functioning in quasi-judicial capacity.
16. (i) Adequate Time for Attempt (s) at Service. The presiding officers should make it a point to leave sufficient time to the process server from the date he is likely to be handed over to have two rounds of his beat before he returns the process.
(ii) The presiding officers would be well advised to fix an interim date for scrutiny of the process issued and received. The date of return of the process should be clearly written on it, which will be in addition to and different from the date fixed for the appearance of the parties.
(iii) Instead of pasting a slip prescribed by Chapter 7-B of Volume IV of the Rules & Orders of the Punjab High Court Part B for personal attention to service, Rule 3(b) the ahlmad/clerk issuing the process should clearly note immediately below the last interlocutory order the date on which the process was issued/dispatched and the office or officer to whom it was dispatched. If the process in not received back, served or unserved, the reader should report, below the note made by the ahlmad, the date(s) on which the process fee was paid and addresses of the persons to be served were intimated and the date of entry of the stamp used for posting the process or delivery thereof by hand to the Nazir or/naib-Nazir.
17. Representative of a Party. The revenue officers/courts quite forget that the person incharge, on behalf of the owner or the farmer, of the land which, or the produce of which, is the subject of proceedings may, in the absence of the owner or farmer, be considered as his agent. It is wrong to accept a father or a son or for that matter any relation as a representative of any party simply on the ground of relationship. Therefore, attention is drawn to section 20(1) of the Punjab Land Revenue Act and section 99 of the Punjab Tenancy Act and Order 5, Rule 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
18. Substituted Services. When ordering substituted service under section 20 of the Punjab Land Revenue Act or section 90 of the Punjab Tenancy Act, the revenue officers/courts would be well advised to keep in mind Order 5, Rule 20 of the C.P.C. and before deciding about the mode of publications of the summons, notice or proclamation they should consider the requirements of Order 21, Rule 55 of the C.P.C.
19. Panchayatghar, Patwarkhana for affixing copies of Summons etc. For affixing one of the copies of the summons or notice, as the case may be, in the village concerned, its panchayatghar or the Patwarkhana may also be considered as one of the conspicuous of prominent places.
20. Precaution for Substituted Service. It may be borne in mind that not less than two attempts at personal service must be made with due and reasonable diligence, before the question of ordering substituted service is considered. It is the duty of the applicant, petitioner or plaintiff to furnish correct address of the opposite party.
21. Temporary absence of the person to be served upon from the place of residence or shifting of the principal place of residence, is no ground for ordering substituted service.
22. Publication of Notice in Newspapers. The relevant rules of the Punjab High Court Rules IV-7-B-4 to 10 which relate to the use of newspapers require to be carefully studied and borne in mind, for it is often seen that the publication of a notice of summons in newspapers is treated as a mere farce and quite often results in a fraud on the law.
23. Hundreds of cases are remanded in appeals and revisions owing to the failure of the revenue officers to observe the procedure stated in paras 16 to 20 and 21 and 22.
24. Refusal to Adjournment in certain cases. No adjournment should be granted to the respondents/defendants to put replies to applications/written statements which should vide Order 8 Rule I of the C.P.C. be accompanied by:
i. all documents in the possession or power of the respondent/defendant on which he bases his defence or claim to set off, if any;
ii. list of other documents not in the possession or power of the respondent/defendant but on which he relies in support of his case;
iii. a statement, vide Order 8, Rules 11 and 18 of the C.P.C., and his address for service; and
iv. a duplicate(s) of the reply or written statement to be supplied to the opposite party.
25. Modification of Claims/Defence. The reply/written statement must, like the application/plaint, contain specific pleadings, be concise and avoid evasive denials.
26. The revenue officer/presiding officer/court may require, vide Order 6, Rule 5 of the C.P.C., the applicant to furnish a further and better statement of the nature of the claim or defence or further and better particulars of any matter stated in the application/plaint and may at any stage of the proceeding allow, vide Order 6, rule 17, C.P.C., either party to alter or amend his pleadings in such manner and on such terms as may be just. Nevertheless, such manner and such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties. Similarly, the respondent/defendant may, vide Order 8, Rule 9, C.P.C., be required to furnish an additional reply, written statement or additional written statement.
26A. (i) Framing of Issues. Framing of issues, which are material propositions of fact and/or law in controversy between the parties and on the correct determination of which the correct decision of the case depends, is a matter which requires utmost care and attention of the presiding officer. This important duty is either ignored or relegated to the reader or the counsel of the parties.
(ii) It has come to my notice that the revenue officers adjourn cases, at the request of the counsel, merely for merely for framing of issues. The application/plaint, the pleas, reply/written statements, admissions and denials as well as examination of the parties and the documents produced with the pleadings being before the presiding officer and fresh in the mind of the counsel, there is little reason for postponing the case for framing of issues, which will mean only procrastination. It is, therefore, desirable that as a rule no case should be adjourned for framing of issues merely.
27. Issues be framed as a rule. It is almost, as a rule, supposed that in the cases decided in a summary manner the framing of issues is banned or is at least, not indicated. It may be noted that real difference between a case decided in a summary manner and a case decided after holding regular trial or enquiry is that in the former type of cases only memoranda of the statements of witnesses are prepared by the presiding officer in his own hand and, in the latter, type of cases examination, cross-examination and re-examination of each witness is recorded in detail in the narrative form. Attention is invited to the Rulings: 1955 A.I.R. Bhopal 9 and 1962 L.L.T. 36, and to Standing Order 3, para 2, Order 37, Rule 7 of the C.P.C.
28. Incorrect Practice. The practice followed is that evidence is recorded in detail, and usually by the readers, and no issues are framed, i.e., the illegal procedure is avoided and the illegal practice is observed.
29. Issues save Time. (i) Examination of the parties in person, the time spent in studying the elucidating the pleadings at the outset with a view to ascertaining the real matter in dispute between the parties and framing the issue, vide Order 14, Rules 1 and 3, in precise terms usually mean a saving of several months and sometimes of year or two in the latter stages of the litigation, including the enquiry, trial and the proceedings before the appellate and the revisional authorities. A word of caution may be added against deciding cases on preliminary issues. An order should be pronounced on all the issues to avoid remand order.
Explanation: The landowners applicants and their attorneys usually and the lawyers of the landowners, more often not, mention in the application under section 14-(1) of the Punjab Security Land Tenures Act, 1953, 5/6 grounds of the seven grounds for eviction listed in section 9(1) thereof the tenants and their representatives are equally heedless and prolix in listing the pleas in defence. Out of the four or five pleas raised by each party, not more than three are really in the mind of the party and evidence is not led about more than two. Therefore, it is very necessary for the presiding officers to examine the parties directly with a view to appreciating the points really in dispute between the parties.
30.Chapter I-E, Volume I, of the Punjab High Court Rules and Orders, maybe kept in view.
31. Order 7, Rule 14 of the C.P.C. requires the plaintiff to produce in court with the plaint the document which is the basis of his claim and to attach with the plaint a list of such documents on which he relies in support of his cases. Order 8, Rule 1 of the C.P.C. similarly requires the defendant to produce with the written statement any documents upon which his defence or claim to set off is founded, and to annex with it a list of all documents on which he wants to rely.
32. Duties of Parties regarding Documents in their possession. Order 13, Rule 1 of the C.P.C. lays down that the party shall produce at the first hearing of the case all documentary evidence of every description in the possession or power on which it intends to rely and which has not already been put in, and all documents which the party has been ordered by the presiding officer to produce. There are rulings of the High Courts to that effect and Rule 1-G-3 of Volume I of the Punjab High Court Rules and Orders contemplates that the presiding officer should formally call upon the parties at the first hearing at the time of framing issues to produce their documents and should make a note that he has done so. Duration of a week-to-ten days after the framing of issues should normally suffice for production of documents.
33. Requisitioning of Records. Most of the parties and less their counsel, make requests to the presiding officers to send for the records of revenue courts and officers and even of the other offices. Some of these requests are made just to fish for evidence and other to cause confusion. Every application, the law requires, vide Order 13 Rule 10(2) of the C.P.C. should be supported by an affidavit showing how the record is material, and that applicant cannot, without any reasonable delay or expense, obtain a duly authenticated copy of the record/document or of such portion(s) thereof as the applicant requires, of that the production of the original(s) is necessary of the purposes of justice.
34. It is quite often seen that whole files are sent for the attention of the presiding officer is not directed towards any particular document on those files. No body is sure at any stage of the case whether the judgment order has been recorded on the basis of whole of the requisitioned file, and if not, on the basis of which documents on the file. Even if the original files are sent for, in the light of Order 13, Rule 10 of the C.P.C., it would be in the fitness of things to get certified copies of the relevant documents exhibited in the case and placed on the file of the case which is under enquiry/trial for completion of the record.
35. Recording of Evidence. Readers or ministerial officials cannot record evidence of witnesses, whether in criminal or revenue cases. Any transgression of this rule is liable to be taken serious notice of.
36. Contents of Judgments, Orders etc. judgment/order of original authorities, as well as appellate authorities, in judicial and quasi-judicial cases should contain (i) a concise statement of the case, (ii) points for determination, (iii) the decision thereon, and (iv) the reasons for such decision, vide Order 20, Rule 4, Order 41, Rule 31, C.P.C.
37. A mere catalogue of documents without consideration of their probative value or a mere list of witnesses without any appreciation of their evidence makes of order/judgment unsatisfactory.
38. Judgment. A judgment or appealable order passed on the evidence on the basis of a witness whom the opposite party had no opportunity to cross-examine cannot be maintained. The presiding officers’ private knowledge or opinion in a case cannot be imported. The case must be decided on the evidence before the presiding officer. If he intends to use his personal knowledge, he is bound to give evidence like any other witness. Any order passed on such knowledge without any reference to the evidence in the case is liable to be set aside. A judgment/order is bad if it is based on a question neither raised in the pleadings nor included in any issue though it is open for the presiding officer to find that the case of a party lies somewhere between the cases of both the parties.
39. Necessary Formalities regarding Judgments. The judgment/orders of such authorities, except in departmental enquiries and the like, should be dated and signed in open court at the time of pronouncing them on a date already fixed or on a date for which due notice shall be given to the parties or their counsel, vide Order 20, Rule 1 and Order 41, Rule 31 of the C.P.C. It has generally been seen that the orders of the Collector and the Assistant Collectors containing a direction that the same be communicated to the parties affected thereby are, in more cases than not, not complied with by their offices on the letter and spirit of the orders and the communication is quite often delayed
40.Paras of judgment/orders should be numbered.