Posted On by &filed under High Court, Patna High Court.


Patna High Court
Bokaro & Ramgur Ltd. vs The State Of Bihar And Ors. on 15 February, 1973
Equivalent citations: AIR 1973 Pat 340
Author: M M Prasad
Bench: M M Prasad

ORDER

Madan Mohan Prasad, J.

1. This is an application in revision against an order passed by the Subordinate Judge of Hazaribagh consolidating several suits,

2. The petitioner. Messrs. Bokaro and Ramgur Ltd., is the first defendant in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955, in which the State of Bihar is the plaintiff. There are several other suits filed by the State of Bihar against the present petitioner and others. They are Title Suit Nos. 45 of 1960, 16 of 1961 and 65 of 1970. The petitioner is plaintiff in another suit. Title Suit No. 93 of 1964, in which the State of Bihar is the first defendant. There is another suit by the State of Bihar against several companies, other than the petitioner, and Raia Bahadur Kamakhya Narain Singh, who is the first defendant therein, and that is Title Suit No. 53 of 1954. It appears that petitions were filed by the State of Bihar for consolidation of these suits with the result that one order was passed on the 17th June. 1972 consolidating Title Suits Nos. 16 of 1961 and 53 of 1954 and another order was passed in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 on the same date by which Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 was consolidated with Title Suits Nos. 53 of 1954, 45 of 1960, 65 of 1970 and 93 of 1964. The result is that all the six suits have been consolidated. The petitioner has come up against the second order mentioned above bearing order No. 222 passed in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. The petitioner has a grievance against the consolidation of Title Suit No. 29 of 1955, in which it is the first defendant, with Title Suit No. 53 of 1954, to which it is not a party.

3. In support of the present application, learned counsel for the petitioner has raised two points; Firstly, that the Court below had no jurisdiction to consolidate the suits, except with the consent of the parties, in the absence of any statutory provision enabling it to do so; and. secondly, that the facts of the two cases, the parties, the Issues arising and the reliefs prayed therein are entirely different from each other, and consequently, even if the learned Subordinate Judge had jurisdiction to do so, it was not a fit case for consolidation.

4. With regard to the first point, learned counsel has submitted that, there being no provision in the Code of Civil Procedure for consolidation of suits, the learned Subordinate Judge had no jurisdiction to do so. It is said that, in view of the Evidence Act, the evidence of one suit cannot be treated as evidence in another suit by an order of consolidation, in the absence of any provision to that effect in the Evidence Act itself. In support of his argument, learned counsel has placed reliance on the cases of Bhopo (Fakirbhai) v. Bai Mani (AIR 1961 Guj 92), Satish Chandra Ghosh v. Smt. Sarba Mangala Dutta (AIR 1970 Tripura 89) and Hamid v. (Maulvi) Abdul Ghani (AIR 1933 Pat 61).

5. In the case of Bhopo Fakirbhai, AIR 1961 Guj 92 (supra), a learned Single Judge of the Gujarat High Court took a view which seems to lend support to the argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner. The learned Judge said that an order to treat the evidence in one suit as the evidence in another suit cannot be passed without the consent of the parties in both the suits; and in the absence of any such provision in the Evidence Act, the learned Judge was of the opinion that evidence cannot, and ought not to be heard in common in the suits without the consent of the parties. With great respect. I am unable to concur in the view taken by the learned Judge for reasons which I shall give hereinafter. In the case of Satish Chandra Ghosh (AIR 1970 Tripura 89). the learned Judicial Commissioner of Tripura held that a court can order consolidation of suits in appropriate cases and the basic principles governing consolidation of suits are that there is similarity or identity of the matter in issue in the two suits and that the suits are between the same parties. He further observed that the object of consolidation is to avoid multiplicity of suits between the same parties when the matter in issue is substantially the same in the two suits. On the facts of the case before him, he found that the matters in issue in the two suits were not identical or similar. He also placed reliance on the case of Bhopo Fakirbhai aforesaid. In the ease of Hamid (AIR 1933 Pat 61), a learned Single Judge of this Court held that it is a material irregularity in the exercise of inherent jurisdiction to order consolidation against the will of almost all the parties of cases which have very little in common. In that case before the learned Judge the two suits did not have much in common. This case cannot be an authority for the proposition that even though some basic issues may be common, the suits cannot be consolidated, unless there is consent of the parties. It appears that an earlier Bench decision of this Court, in Qazi Syed Muhammad Afzar v. Mankumar Mahton ILR 1 Pat 669 = (AIR 1922 Pat 566 (1)), was not brought to the notice of the learned Judge. The cases referred to above are, therefore, of no avail to the petitioner.

6. There are a large number of decisions of different High Courts which have well settled the proposition that a Court has inherent right to order consolidation of suits in appropriate cases. To refer to the decisions of this Court alone, the earliest one is the one reported in ILR 1 Pat 669 = (AIR 1922 Pat 566 (1)) (supra). The learned Judges of this Court relied on this very principle and reference was made to the case of Kalicharan Dutt v. Surja Kumar Mondal, ((1913) 17 Cal WN 526). The point which has been raised in the instant case before me was the very point raised before the learned Judges, namely, that the jurisdiction cannot be exercised without the consent of the parties. The argument was repelled and Courts, J., with whom Das. J. agreed, observed, that, if the Court has jurisdiction to consolidate under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure it must have that jurisdiction without the consent of the parties, for if this were not so it would not have inherent jurisdiction to consolidate at all, for consent of the parties cannot confer a jurisdiction that does not exist. In another case, Ramavtar Prasad Verma v. Satdeo Lal, (AIR 1939 Pat 30), a learned Single Judge of this Court held that in deciding whether two suits should be consolidated or not the whole question is whether or not in the long run it will be expeditious and advantageous to all concerned to have the suits tried together as analogous cases. It was also observed that, where it appears that there is sufficient unity or similarity in the matter in issue in the two suits to warrant their consolidation, it is a fit case for such consolidation. The learned Judge further held that, if in such circumstances the trial Court refuses consolidation, then it is a fit case in which the High Court can interfere in its re-visional jurisdiction. Reliance was placed on the decision in the case of Hamid, AIR 1933 Pat 61 (supra). In Harinarain Choudhary v. Ram Asish Singh. (AIR 1957 Pat 124), another learned Judge of this Court held that the Court has inherent power ex debito justitiae to consolidate suits where it is in the ends of justice to do so to avoid needless expense and inconvenience to parties. The learned Judge adopted and reiterated the principles laid down in the earlier cases that in deciding whether two or more suits are to be consolidated or not the whole question is whether or not in the long run it will be expeditious and advantageous to all concerned to have the two suits tried together as analogous cases and where it appears that there is sufficient unity or similarity in the matter in issue in the suits, or that the determination of the suits rests mainly on a common question it is convenient to have them tried as analogous cases. Reliance was placed on the earlier two cases of Muhammad Afzar , ILR 1 Pat 669 = (AIR 1922 Pat 566 (1)) and Ramavtar Prasad Verma, AIR 1935 Pat 30 (supra). I respectfully concur in the view expressed by the learned Judge, and I would like to add further that the question to be considered should also be as to whether or not the non-consolidation of the two or more suits is likely to lead apart from multiplicity of suits, to leaving the door open for conflicting decisions on the same issue which may be common to the two or more suits sought to be consolidated. In my view, the convenience of the parties and the expenses in the two suits are subsidiary to the more important consideration, namely, whether it will avoid multiplicity of suits and eliminate chances of conflicting decisions on the same point.

7. In view of what I have said earlier. I am unable to accept the contention of learned counsel for the petitioner that the Court below had no jurisdiction at all to order consolidation in the absence of any specific provision to that effect in the Code of Civil Procedure or in the Evidence Act, unless and until the consent of the parties is available. The first point, therefore, fails.

8. Coming now to the question as to whether, on the facts of the present cases, the order passed by the learned Subordinate Judge is a proper order, it will be necessary to state a few important facts which formed part of the case made out by the parties and which have given rise to the different suits aforesaid. Most of the facts stated hereinafter have been stated in almost all the suits with which we are concerned and the different suits have arisen on account of certain transactions during the course of the long history which forms the background of the suits aforesaid. They are as follows:–

9. The case of the State of Bihar in the different suits aforesaid is that the Ramgarh Estate in the district of Hazaribagh belonged to Raja Bahadur Kamakhya Narain Singh. After the Government of Bihar decided to abolish zamindaris and to take over the estates of Zamindars the Bihar Abolition of Zamindaris Act was passed in the year 1948. The aforesaid Raja Bahadur had put up a fight in law Courts to get this enactment declared ultra vires. Next came the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, According to a notification issued under Section 3 of the Act of 1950, the Ramgarh Estate is said to have been taken over by the State of Bihar. In order to defeat the objects and the provisions of the enactments aforesaid and to save his properties from going to the State of Bihar and failing that to prevent the State from setting the advantages which he was getting as the proprietor it is said that the Raja Bahadur entered into several transactions which are fraudulent or sham and colourable transactions. It is said that he conceived a plan and actually set up various bogus companies and transferred some of his rights in respect of his estate to those companies. It will be relevant to mention that defendants 2 to 10 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 are said to be such companies with which we are concerned for the decision of the present matter. It is also said that to prevent the State of Bihar from implementing the programme of abolition of zamindaris the Raja Bahadur also got several suits instituted by those companies which had been set up by himself in which suits a prayer was made for a permanent injunction against the State restraining it from taking possession of the properties of the Ramgarh Estate. The State of Bihar is defendant to all those suits which have been filed by the aforesaid defendants 2 to 10 of Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. It has also been stated by the State of Bihar that certain interests were transferred to, and certain concessions were made in favour of, the present petitioner by those companies which have been impleaded as defendants 2 to 10 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. Various suits therefore, were filed by the State against the petitioner and others for different reliefs on the allegations aforesaid. The petitioner and others also filed different suits for different contrary reliefs.

10. It will now be relevant to state as to what these suits, with which we are concerned, are for. I would first take up Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 which has been ordered to be consolidated with Title Suit No. 53 of 1954. It is necessary to mention in this connection that the petitioner had been granted a prospective licence in respect of the mineral wealth in the lands falling within the Ramgarh Estate as far back as in the year 1913, as a result of which, and, by the agreement between the proprietor of the Ramgarh Estate and the company-petitioner, certain royalties and rent had to be paid at a particular rate. After the vesting of the estate, if any under the Land Reforms Act, the State of Bihar would step into the shoes of the proprietor of the Ramgarh Estate. Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 has been filed for realisation of such royalty and rent at a particular rate from the petitioner. It may be mentioned that the right of the State of Bihar based on the factum of vesting of the estate, its right to realise royalty and rent at the agreed rate and its right to exercise the right of forfeiture in relevant circumstances have been challenged by the petitioner. It will thus be necessary for the decision of this suit to find out as to whether or not the estate had vested in the State of Bihar under the Land Reforms Act and whether the State became entitled to realise rent and royalty thereby and whether it was entitled to claim royalty and rent at the agreed rate. In this connection It is also necessary to mention that the Raja Bahadur having transferred his interest to the companies, which are said to be bogus companies, some of those companies had entered into an agreement with the petitioner by certain indentures reducing the royalty and rent payable by the petitioner to the proprietor of the Ramgarh Estate or his successor-in-interest. Those companies claimed to be the successors-in-interest of the Raja Bahadur and therefore, alleged themselves to be entitled to reduce the royalty or rent. Those companies, as stated earlier, challenged the factum of vesting of the estate altogether, thereby disputing the right of the State of Bihar to realise the royalty and rent at all. It may be mentioned at this very stage that by certain indentures some of those companies had also deleted the clause of forfeiture and waived their right in this respect alleging themselves to be the successors-in-interest of the Raja Bahadur. The matter of forfeiture is relevant in one of the suits, namely. Title Suit No. 45 of 1960. It will thus be necessary ever for the decision of Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 to find out whether these companies, which are defendants 2 to 10, are bogus companies and whether they had inherited any right from the late proprietor of the Ramgarh Estate.

11. I will now briefly refer to the other suits. It appears that according to the case of the State of Bihar there was a certain breach of the conditions of the lease granted in favour of the petitioner which gave rise to the exercise of the right of re-entry in accordance with the forfeiture clause contained in the agreement between the proprietor of the Ramgarh Estate and the petitioner. The State of Bihar claimed forfeiture of the lease and the right of re-entry and, therefore, filed Title Suit 45/1960 for recovery of possession against the petitioner as defendant No. 1. The defence of the petitioner is that the forfeiture clause was excluded by the indentures executed by some of the companies aforesaid which are defendants 2 to 10 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955, and, therefore, the State of Bihar had no right of forfeiture. Title Suit No. 53 of 1954 is for a declaration that the transfers made by the Raja Bahadur to the various companies, which are defendants in this suit and which have been made defendants 2 to 10 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955, are sham, colourable and farzi transactions which did not pass any title to the transferees. The relief claimed in that suit as a part of the aforesaid declaration is that the State of Bihar became entitled to possession of the estate on the publication of the notification under the Bihar Land Reforms Act. It was also prayed that the sub-leases made by those companies were all sham transactions end did not create, any right in the transferees. Permanent injunction against the defendants from executing documents in respect of the properties in question was also sought for. A decree for compensation was also asked for. In Title Suit No. 16 of 1961 filed by the State of Bihar against the petitioner and others the transfer made by Jharkhand Mines and Industries Limited (defendant No. 2 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955) in favour of the petitioner was challenged and recovery of possession over the lease hold areas granted by the aforesaid company to the petitioner has been prayed for. These leases are said to be in respect of the areas which had not been leased out earlier and are comprised within the Ramgarh Estate. Title Suit No. 45 of 1960, however related to the areas which had already been leased out earlier before the dispute between the State of Bihar and the Raja Bahadur arose. Both these suits are, however, for possession. There is yet another suit. Title Suit No. 65 of 1970. That suit arose in the following circumstances. In Title Suit No. 45 of 1960 the petitioner had challenged the factum of vesting of the estate in the State of Bihar during the hearing of a petition for appointment of a Receiver and on the ground that it being a lessee had challenged the lessor’s interest and that being a good ground for forfeiture, the State of Bihar claimed forfeiture and consequently its right of re-entry. So, this suit for possession was filed by the State of Bihar against the petitioner. Mention may be made of yet another suit which is Title Suit No. 93 of 1964. In this suit the petitioner as the plaintiff and the State of Bihar is the defendant. The suit is for a declaration that the transactions entered into between the other companies aforesaid and the petitioner are genuine and permanent injunction has been prayed for as against the State of Bihar from proceeding with Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. Briefly speaking, this suit has been filed by the petitioner to counteract the reliefs prayed for in Title Suits Nos. 29 of 1955 and 45 of 1960.

12. It is quite obvious from the aforesaid recitals of facts that the issues in all these suits are so intimately connected with each other and that it is only a few basic questions which will determine the fate of the suits aforesaid. At this stage it would be relevant to mention that the petitioner itself asked for consolidation of several of the suits. An application was filed by the petitioner on the 18th February, 1971 in Title Suit No. 93 of 1964 for analogous hearing of that suit with Title Suits Nos. 29 of 1955 and 45 of 1960. This was allowed by an order dated the 20th February 1971 and all the three suits aforesaid as also Title Suit No. 65 of 1970 were made analogous. The result is that four of these six suits have been made analogous on the prayer of the petitioner itself. There thus remains to consider only the question whether or not Title Suit No. 53 of 1954 and Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 have sufficient similarity and unity which would justify consolidation of the two suits.

13. It needs to be mentioned that the petitioner is not a party in Title Suit No. 53 of 1954. As stated earlier, that is a suit against the different companies, who are defendants 2 to 10 in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. The fact must, however, be stated that although the petitioner is not a party it claims to have derived interests from those companies and, in fact, the petitioner is setting up such interests as a bar to the right of the State of Bihar to get the reliefs prayed for in Title Suit No. 29 of 1955. In Title Suit No. 29 of 1955, as stated earlier, the petitioner is very much one of the defendants and defendants 2 to 10 are the very companies’ from which the petitioner claims to have derived the interests. In my view therefore, the mere fact that the petitioner has not been impleaded in Title Suit No. 53 of 1954 is no consequence because those who may loosely be said to be its predecessors-in-interest are parties in Title Suit No. 53 of 1954. Upon the determination of the rights of those companies would depend the validity and legality of the interests said to have been derived from them by the petitioner, and upon the decision of that question will depend as to whether or not Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 ought to be decreed as against the petitioner, and others.

14. Turning now to the similarity and unity of issues, from what I have stated earlier it will appear that most important points in both the suits for determination would be as to whether or not the Ramgarh Estate had vested in the State of Bihar, whether or not the transactions by which the Raja Bahadur transferred his interests to defendants 2 to 10, the different companies were, farzi and sham transactions, thus giving them no fight, title or interest, and whether the petitioner which claimed to have derived interests therefrom, could really get any legal interest in other words, whether the transactions in favour of the petitioner were of any consequence. If the State of Bihar never came to have the Ramgarh Estate by virtue of the Bihar Land Reforms Act, naturally both its suits, whether it be Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 or Title Suit No. 53 of 1954 would fail. That is one of the common points in the two suits aforesaid. Similarly, if the transactions made by the Raja Bahadur in favour of the different companies were sham or farzi, then the State of Bihar would naturally step into the shoes of the ex-proprietor and all these companies would derive nothing therefrom. There is not, therefore, the slightest doubt in my mind that the basic questions to be considered in both Title Suit No. 53 of 1954 and Title Suit No. 29 of 1955 are the same and they are the determining questions which are involved in almost all the suits. On merits, therefore, the consolidation of the two suits against which grievance has been made is quite proper. On the other hand, if the suits had not been consolidated, there would be left room for conflicting decisions in the different suits on the same questions apart from the question of convenience or expenses in prosecuting the suits. The basic considerations being in favour of consolidation, I find that no legitimate grievance can be made against the order of the Court below.

15. In view of both the points raised by learned counsel for the petitioner having failed, this application is dismissed with costs. Hearing fee rupees one hundred only.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

109 queries in 0.218 seconds.