It is well settled that the court must be extremely liberal in granting the prayer for amendment, if the court is of the view that if such amendment is not allowed, a party, who has prayed for such an amendment, shall suffer irreparable loss and injury.
It is also equally well settled that there is no absolute rule that in every case where a relief is barred because of limitation, amendment should not be allowed. It is always open to the court to allow an amendment if it is of the view that allowing of an amendment shall really sub-serve the ultimate cause of justice and avoid further litigation.
In L.J. Leach & Co. Ltd. & Anr. v. Jardine Skinner & Co., AIR 1957 SC 357, supreme Court at paragraph 16 of the said decision observed as follows:
“16. It is no doubt true that courts would, as a rule, decline to allow amendments, if a fresh suit on the amended claim would be barred by limitation on the date of the application. But that is a factor to be taken into account in exercise of the discretion as to whether amendment should be ordered, and does not affect the power of the court to order it, if that is required in the interest of justice…..”
Again in T.N. Alloy Foundry Co. Ltd. v. T.N. Electricity Board & Ors., (2004) 3 SCC 392, supreme Court observed as follows:
“3. It is not disputed that the appellate court has a coextensive power of the trial court. We find that the discretion exercised by the High Court in rejecting the plaint was in conformity with law.”
Principles governing amendment even after limitation period
The principles governing an amendment which may be permitted even after the expiry of the statutory period of limitation were laid down by the Privy Council in its judgment in Charan Das & Ors. v. Amir Khan & Ors., AIR 1921 PC 50.
In this case, the Privy Council laid down the principles thus:
“…..That there was full power to make the amendment cannot be disputed, and though such a power should not as a rule be exercised where its effect is to take away from a defendant a legal right which has accrued to him by lapse of time, yet there are cases: see for example Mohummud Zahoor Ali v. Rutta Koer, where such considerations are outweighed by the special circumstances of the case, and their Lordships are not prepared to differ from the Judicial Commissioner in thinking that the present case is one.”
It would be useful to also notice the observations of this Court in, Pirgonda Hongonda Patil v. Kalgonda Shidgonda Patil & 2 Ors., 1957 SCR 595: AIR 1957 SC 363, wherein this Court considered an objection to the amendment on the ground that the same amounted to a new case and a new cause of action. In this case, Court laid down the principles which would govern the exercise of discretion as to whether the court ought to permit an amendment of the pleadings or not.
The Court approved the observations of Batchelor, J., in the case of Kisandas Rupchand & Anr. v. Rachappa Vithoba Shilwant and Ors. reported in ILR (1909) 33 Bom 644, when he laid down the principles thus:
“10. …..“All amendments ought to be allowed which satisfy the two conditions
(a) of not working injustice to the other side, and
(b) of being necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties … but I refrain from citing further authorities, as, in my opinion, they all lay down precisely the same doctrine.
That doctrine, as I understand it, is that amendments should be refused only where the other party cannot be placed in the same position as if the pleading had been originally correct, but the amendment would cause him an injury which could not be compensated in costs.
It is merely a particular case of this general rule that where a plaintiff seeks to amend by setting up a fresh claim in respect of a cause of action which since the institution of the suit had become barred by limitation, the amendment must be refused; to allow it would be to cause the defendant an injury which could not be compensated in costs by depriving him of a good defence to the claim.
The ultimate test therefore still remains the same: can the amendment be allowed without injustice to the other side, or can it not?” …..”
The power can be exercised at any stage
Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the power to allow an amendment is undoubtedly wide and may be appropriately exercised at any stage in the interests of justice, notwithstanding the law of limitation. In this behalf, in Ganga Bai v. Vijay Kumar & Ors., (1974) 2 SCC 393, this Court held thus:
“22. …..The power to allow an amendment is undoubtedly wide and may at any stage be appropriately exercised in the interest of justice, the law of limitation notwithstanding. But the exercise of such far-reaching discretionary powers is governed by judicial considerations and wider the discretion, greater ought to be the care and circumspection on the part of the Court…..”
Again in M/s Ganesh Trading Co. v. Moji Ram, (1978) 2 SCC 91, this Court laid down the principles thus:
“4. It is clear from the foregoing summary of the main rules of pleadings that provisions for the amendment of pleadings, subject to such terms as to costs and giving of all parties concerned necessary opportunities to meet exact situations resulting from amendments, are intended for promoting the ends of justice and not for defeating them.
Even if a party or its Counsel is inefficient in setting out its case initially the shortcoming can certainly be removed generally by appropriate steps taken by a party which must no doubt pay costs for the inconvenience or expense caused to the other side from its omissions. The error is not incapable of being rectified so long as remedial steps do not unjustifiably injure rights accrued.”
Principles to allow amendment of pleading equally apply to Written Statement
The principles applicable to the amendments of the plaint are equally applicable to the amendments of the written statements. The courts are more generous in allowing the amendment of the written statement as question of prejudice is less likely to operate in that event.
- The defendant has a right to take alternative plea in defense which, however, is subject to an exception that by the proposed amendment other side should not be subjected to injustice and that any admission made in favor of the plaintiff is not withdrawn.
- All amendments of the pleadings should be allowed which are necessary for determination of the real controversies in the suit provided the proposed amendment does not alter or substitute a new cause of action on the basis of which the original lis was raised or defense taken.
- Inconsistent and contradictory allegations in negation to the admitted position of facts or mutually destructive allegations of facts should not be allowed to be incorporated by means of amendment to the pleadings.
- The proposed amendment should not cause such prejudice to the other side which cannot be compensated by costs.
- No amendment should be allowed which amounts to or relates in defeating a legal right accruing to the opposite party on account of lapse of time.
- The delay in filing the application for amendment of the pleadings should be properly compensated by costs and error or mistake which, if not fraudulent, should not be made a ground for rejecting the application for amendment of plaint or written statement.
(See South Konkan Distilleries & Anr. v. Prabhakar Gajanan Naik & Ors., (2008) 14 SCC 632)
Additional and different approach
But undoubtedly, every case and every application for amendment has to be tested in the applicable facts and circumstances of the case. As the proposed amendment of the pleadings amounts to only a different or an additional approach to the same facts, this Court has repeatedly laid down the principle that such an amendment would be allowed even after the expiry of statutory period of limitation.
In this behalf, in A.K. Gupta & Sons Ltd. v. Damodar Valley Corporation, AIR 1967 SC 96 : (1966) 1 SCR 796, this Court held thus:
“7. …..a new case or a new cause of action particularly when a suit on the new case or cause of action is barred: Weldon v. Neale [19 QBD 394]. But it is also well recognised that where the amendment does not constitute the addition of a new cause of action or raise a different case, but amounts to no more than a different or additional approach to the same facts, the amendment will be allowed even after the expiry of the statutory period of limitation:…..”
In entitled, G. Nagamma & Anr. v. Siromanamma & Anr., (1996) 2 SCC 25, Court considered the proposed amendment of the plaint and noticing that neither the cause of action would change nor the relief would be materially affected, allowed the same. Court in this case noticed that in the plaintiff’s suit for specific performance, the plaintiff was entitled to plead even inconsistent pleas and that in the present case, the plaintiffs were seeking only the alternative reliefs. It appears that the plaintiffs had filed a suit for specific performance of an agreement of re-conveyance.
By the application under Order VI Rule 17 of the CPC for amendment of the plaint, the appellants were pleading that the transactions of execution of the sale deed and obtaining a document for re-conveyance were single transactions viz. mortgage by conditional sale. They also wanted to incorporate an alternative relief to redeem the mortgage. At the end of the prayer, the plaintiff sought alternatively to grant of a decree for redemption of the mortgage. This amendment was permitted by the Court.
Period of Limitation
One of the cardinal principles of law in allowing or rejecting an application for amendment of the pleading is that the courts generally, as a rule, decline to allow amendments, if a fresh suit on the amended claim would be barred by limitation on the date of filing of the application. But that would be a factor to be taken into account in the exercise of the discretion as to whether the amendment should be ordered, and does not affect the power of the court to order it, if that is required in the interest of justice.
In Ragu Thilak D. John v. S. Rayappan & Ors., (2001) 2 SCC 472, supreme Court also observed that where the amendment was barred by time or not, was a disputed question of fact and, therefore, that prayer for amendment could not be rejected and in that circumstances the issue of limitation can be made an issue in the suit itself like the one made by the High Court in the case on hand.
In a decision in Vishwambhar & Ors. v. Laxminarayan (Dead) through Lrs. & Anr., (2001) 6 SCC 163, this Court held that the amendment though properly made cannot relate back to the date of filing of the suit, but to the date of filing of the application.
Again, in Vineet Kumar v. Mangal Sain Wadhera, (1984) 3 SCC 352 : AIR 1985 SC 817, this Court held that if a prayer for amendment merely adds to the facts already on record, the amendment would be allowed even after the statutory period of limitation.
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