"How not to draft a plaint" should be taught in law colleges, Delhi HCSeptember 10 2019
While dealing with a case in which the plaintiff became the "victim of her own non-essential verbosity", the Delhi High Court has asserted that "how not to draft a plaint" should be taught in law colleges to avoid such "bloopers" in the drafting of pleadings.
The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in a suit dealing with recovery of possession of an immovable property and a counterclaim for recovery of over Rs. 5 crore.
Five defendants in the case were co-owners of a property in New Delhi's Rajouri Garden area. As alleged in the plaint, defendant no 1 had taken huge cash loans from the husband of the plaintiff and a sum of more than Rs. 3.8 crore was due from him.
In September 2015, the defendant No 1 approached the plaintiff's husband stating that he was interested in selling the property in which he was co-owner with other defendants.
It was thus agreed that the entire property shall be transferred/sold in the name of the plaintiff for a total consideration of Rs. 8.5 crore, out of which Rs. 1.5 crore was to be paid through five cheques of Rs. 30 lakh in the name of each of the defendants.
When the husband of the plaintiff went to the site, it was revealed by defendant No.1 had already sold the back portion of the property to some third party.
It was subsequently agreed that the consideration/purchase price would be reduced proportionately i.e. by 32% and thus, the entire sale consideration amount was fixed at Rs 5.78 crore. After deducting Rs 1.5 crore and the cash loan extended to the defendant, a sum of Rs 48 lakh was left as balance sale consideration.
Eventually, a sale deed for a total sale price Rs. 1.5 crore was executed and registered by the defendants in favour of the plaintiff. The plaintiff thus paid the balance amount of Rs. 48 lakh in cash to defendant no.1 and the five cheques of Rs. 30 lakh each.
However, physical possession of the property was never transferred to the plaintiff.
While contesting the suit, the defendants denied all liabilities and stated that the plaintiff, out of the agreed sale consideration of Rs 8.5 crore, had paid only a sum of Rs 1.5 crore by five cheques, and Rs 2.3 crore in cash, leaving an unpaid balance of Rs 4.7 crore towards the sale consideration.
The defendants contended that the sale consideration was never reduced from Rs. 8.5 crore to Rs. 5.78 crore, and since the balance amount was still due, the plaintiff had not acquired any right in the property.
Attention was also drawn to an averment in the plaint admitting to an oral agreement on delivery of possession only on payment of the entire sale consideration, notwithstanding the registered sale deed recording delivery of possession.
After hearing the parties, the Court observed that the party seeking judgment on admissions had itself in its pleadings admitted a contract contrary to the written document.
It thus perused Section 92 of the Evidence Act and stated,
"when the terms of any contract, grant or other disposition of property or any matter required by law to be reduced to the form of a document, have been proved according to Section 91 by proving the said document, no evidence of any oral agreement or statement shall be admitted, as between the parties to any such instrument or their representatives, for the purpose of contradicting, varying, adding to or subtracting from its terms."
The Court thus observed that the defendants were barred from leading any evidence to prove the contradictory sale consideration or the possession of the property.
However, in the present case, there was no need for the defendants to lead any evidence on the issues, because the plaintiff herself admitted the two facts in the plaint.
"In the present case, the plaintiff has admitted the consideration to be other than that mentioned in the registered sale deed, not only in the plaint but also in the proceedings before the Collector of Stamps and in fact paid the excess stamp duty..the plaintiff in the plaint has herself admitted that though the sale deed so recorded but the agreement of the parties was that possession would be delivered only on payment of entire sale consideration."
The Court thus remarked,
"..till it is proved whether the sale consideration was Rs.8.50 crores as pleaded by the defendants/Counter Claimants or Rs.5.78 crores as pleaded by the plaintiff and whether the same has been paid or not, the question of the plaintiff, as per her own admissions, being entitled to possession does not arise."
Stating that an admission made in pleadings is not to be treated in the same manner as an admission in a document, the Court observed that it was not necessary for the plaintiff to plead in the manner that she did for the relief of recovery of possession.
"...but the plaintiff is found to have nevertheless so pleaded and is a victim of her own non-essential verbosity."
The Court thus remarked,
"This is a classic textbook case of, how not to draft a plaint, which should be taught in law colleges and to young lawyers so that such bloopers in drafting of pleadings, damaging to one's own client, are avoided."
In view of the above, the plaintiff was found not entitled to a decree for possession on admissions.
The plaintiff was represented by Advocates Sangeeta Chandra and Deepak Khadaria.
The defendants were represented by Advocates Tanmaya Mehta, Saurabh Gupta, Puneet Yadav, Siddhanth K Singh, Anurag Sahay, Raghav Wadhwa & Mallika Bhatia.
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