Raghunath Dass Vs. Union of India
& ANR  INSC 164 (26 July 1968)
26/07/1968 HEGDE, K.S.
CITATION: 1969 AIR 674 1969 SCR (1) 450
R 1984 SC1004 (10,22)
Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act 5 of
1908), s. 80---Notice under section sent under trade name of proprietary
firm--Suit filed in name of proprietor--Validity of notice--Suit whether
The appellant was the sole proprietor of a
business carried on by him under the name and style of M/s. Raghunath Dass
Mulkhraj. He sent a notice under s. 80 C.P.C. on behalf of 'M/s. Raghunath Dass
Mulkhraj to the General Manager East Indian Railway Calcutta in connection with
a claim for compensation for lost goods. The notice was signed by him as
proprietor 'for M/s. Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj'. When he subsequently filed a
suit against the Railway its maintainability was challenged on the ground that
the notice under s. 80 was invalid, as there was no identity between the person
who sent the notice and the person who filed the suit. The suit was decreed by
the trial Court but the plea that the notice was invalid was accepted by the
The appellant with certificate, came to this
HELD: The object of the notice contemplated
by s. 80 is to give to the concerned Governments and public officers
opportunity to reconsider the legal position and to make amends or settle the
claim, if so advised without litigation so that public time and money may not
be wasted. The provisions in s. 80 Civil Procedure Code are not intended to be
used as boobytraps against ignorant and illiterate persons. [454 B-C] In the
present case although the notice has been sent under the appellant's trade name
he had clearly indicated that he 'signed it as the proprietor of the business.
The notice had to be read as a whole and in a manner not divorced from common
sense. So read the notice could not have given the Union of India the
impression that it was issued on behalf of a partnership concern. The High
Court had wrongly held that the notice was invalid. [454 H, 455 E] S.N. Dutt v.
Union of India,  1 S.C.R. 560, distinguished.
Dhian Singh Sobha Singh and Anr. v. The Union
of India,  S.C.R. 781, 795, relied on
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1005 of 1965.
Appeal from the judgment and decree dated
April 24, 1962, of the Allahabad High Court in First Appeal No. 205 of 1950.
E.C. Agarwala and P.C. Agarwala, for the
V.A. Seyid Muhammad and S.P. Nayar, for
respondent No. 1.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hegde, J. The only question that arises for decision in this appeal by
certificate is whether the High Court is right in holding that the notice
issued by the appellant- plaintiff under s. 80, Civil 451 Procedure Code is
defective and therefore the suit is not maintainable.
The plaintiff dispatched on July 29, 1947
certain copper articles from Gujranwala through North Western Railway to a
place called Aghawanpur near Moradabad. That consignment never reached the
destination. Consequently the plaintiff claimed a sum of P.s. 13,880 as
damages. The learned Civil Judge, Moradabad, who tried the suit decreed the
plaintiffs claim in a sum of Rs. 10,206/9/- with interest at six per cent from
15th August 1947 till the date of realisation. As against that decision, the
union of India went up in appeal to the High Court of Allahabad. The decree of
the trial court was assailed on several grounds one of them being that the
notice issued under s. 80, Civil Procedure Code is invalid. The High Court
accepted the contention of the Union of India that the notice in question is
invalid but rejected the other pleas advanced on its behalf. It accordingly
allowed the appeal and dismissed the suit on the sole ground that the notice
issued did not comply with the requirements of s. 80, Civil procedure Code.
It is not disputed that at the relevant time,
the plaintiff carried on his business at Gujranwala under the name and style of
Raghunath Das Mulkhraj. He was the sole proprietor of that concern. He sent
several notices to the concerned authorities demanding compensation for his
goods lost in transit.
It is not necessary to refer to all the
notices issued by the plaintiff. It is sufficient for our purpose if we
consider the legality of the last notice sent by him viz. on June 19, 1948. If
that notice is valid then undoubtedly the suit is maintainable. The notice in
question reads thus:
"From: M/s. Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj,
C/o. Dr. Khamani Singh, Katghar Gan Khana, Moradabad.
The General Manager, East Indian Railway,
A notice like this has already been given to
the Secretary, Central Government of India, New Delhi and now it is being given
to you according to Amendment in the procedure code.
We have the honour to serve you with the
following notice under section 80, Civil Procedure Code. The facts leading upto
the said notice are as follows:
1. That we are the refugees of Gujranwala
(West Punjab) and now residing in Katghar, Gari Khana, Moradabad.
2. That under R.R. No. 550240, dated 29th
July 1947 Ex-Gujranwala to. Agwanpur weighing 52 bundles 73 mds. 29 seers were
booked from Gujranwala to Agwanpur.
3. That the aforesaid consignment has not
been delivered to us so far due to the Railway's negligence, misconduct and gross
4. That the non-delivery of the said
consignment we have suffered a great loss and damage.
5. That on 14th October 1947, we preferred a
claim against the Railway and claimed the sum of Rs. 12,554/1 for the loss
non-delivery of the aforesaid goods.
Price of the goods .......... Rs.
10206-9 Our profit 20% thereon .......... Rs.
2041-5 Our damage for the much money locked
up @ 1% p.m... Rs. 306-3 TOTAL: ...... Rs. 12554-1
6. That the Chief Commercial Manager, E. 1.
Railway by his letter No. A-2/5196/47, dated 25th November 1947 acknowledged
the receipt of our claim.
7. That thereafter nothing was heard from him
in spite of our several reminders and requests for early payment.
8. That so far the goods have not been
delivered to us nor our claim in respect thereof settled and paid. Hence this
notice is served to you.
9. That now we claim the sum of Rs. 1331/10
as detailed above inclusive damage @ 1% till 26th June 1948.
10. That the cause of action for this notice
and the suit to be filed here after arose at Moradabad (U.P.) which is the
District where the goods ought to have been delivered on or about 13th August
1947 when the same should have been delivered and thereafter on the various
dates mentioned in the correspondence and on the expiry of the period of this
11. That we nope and will request you to
please pay to us the amount of the claim at an early date and not to force us
to go to the law courts in our present and 453 plight in which case you and the
Railway will be responsible and liable for all our costs and damages.
Yours faithfully, For M/s. Raghunath Dass
Mulkhraj Sd./: Raghunath Dass Proprietor Dated:
Copy to: Chief Commercial Manager,
Calcutta." The High Court held that the notice in question does not meet
the requirements of the law as the person who issued the notice is not the same
person who filed the suit. In so deciding it heavily relied on the decision of
this Court in S.N. Dutt v. Union of India. ( 1 ) Section 80, Civil Procedure
Code requires, among other things, that the notice must state the name,
description and place of residence of the plaintiff. It is true that the notice
purports to emanate from M/s. Raghunath Dass MuLkhraj. It is also true that in
the body of the notice in several places the expression 'we' is used. Further
the plaintiff had purported to sign for M/s. Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj. But at
the same time he signed the notice as the proprietor of the concern
"Raghunath Dass Mulkhrai". That is a clear indication of the fact
that "Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj" is a proprietary concern and the
plaintiff is its proprietor. Whatever doubts that might have been possibly
created in the mind of the recipient of that notice, after going through the
body of the notice as to the identity of the would be plaintiff, the same would
have been resolved after going through the notice as a whole. In the plaint,
the plaintiff definitely stated that he was carrying on his business under the
name and style of "Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj" meaning thereby that the
concern known as "Raghunath Das Mulkhraj" is a proprietary concern
and the name given to it is only a trade name. He had also stated in the plaint
that he had given a notice under s. 80 of the Civil Procedure Code. In the
written statement filed on behalf of the Dominion of India, the validity of the
notice issued was not challenged. Regarding the notice in question.
the only averment in the written statement is
that found. in paragraph 8 therein and the same "That the suit is. barred
by s. 80, C.P.C. as no notice under that section appears to have been served on
this administration." From this it follows that the Dominion of India did
not challenge the validity of the notice. It is no more in dispute that the
notice (1)  1 S.C.R. 560.
454 sent by the plaintiff had been served on
the authorities concerned. The Union of India did not take the plea that the
identical person who issued the notice had not instituted the suit.
The object of the notice contemplated by that
section is to give to the concerned Governments and public officers
opportunity' to reconsider the legal position and to make amends or settle the
claim, if so advised without litigation. The legislative intention behind that
section in our opinion is that public money and time should not be wasted on
unnecessary litigation and the Government and the public officers should be
given a reasonable opportunity to examine the claim made against them lest they
should be drawn into avoidable litigations. The purpose of law is advancement
of justice. The provisions in s. 80, Civil Procedure Code are not intended to.
be used as booby traps against ignorant and illiterate persons. In this case we
are concerned with a narrow question. Has the person mentioned in the notice as
plainsong brought the present suit or is he someone else ? This question has to
be decided by reading the notice as a whole in a reasonable manner.
In Dhian Singh Sobha Singh and anr. vs. The
Union of India(1) this Court observed that while the terms of s. 80 of the
Civil Procedure Code must be strictly complied with that does not mean that the
terms of the section should be construed in a pedantic manner or in a manner
completely divorced from common sense. The relevant passage from that judgment
is set out below:
"We are constrained to observe that the
approach of the High Court to this question was not well founded. The Privy
Council no doubt laid down in Bhagchand Dagadusa rs. Secretary of State that
the terms of section should be strictly complied with. That does not however
mean that the terms of the notice should be scrutinised in a pedantic manner or
in a manner completely divorced from common sense. As was stated by Pollock
C.B. in Jones vs. Nicholls, "we must import a little common sense into
notices of this kind." Beaumont C.J. also observed in Chandu Lal Vadilal
vs. Government of Bombay "One must construe section 80 with some regard to
common sense and to the object with which it appears to have been passed."
It is proper to expect that the authorities who received the notice would have
imported some common sense into it.
At any rate they should have done so and we
must assume that they did. The fact that they did not object to the validity of
the notice in (1)  S.C.R. 781, 795.
their pleadings shows that they never
considered the person who brought the suit as being someone other than who
issued the notice.
It is the contention of Mr. Seyid Mohammad,
learned Counsel for the Union of India that the present case falls within the
rule laid down by this Court in S.N. Dutt v. Union of India(1). We are not
persuaded that it is so. In S.N. Dutt's case a notice was. sent by a lawyer on
behalf of the concern known as S.N. Dutt & Co. The notice in question did
not indicate either specifically or by necessary implication that the concern
in question is a proprietary concern and S.N. Dutt was its sole proprietor.
Referring to that notice, this Court observed "The prima facie impression
from reading the notices would be that Messrs.
S.N. Dutt & Co. was some kind of
partnership firm and notices were being given in the name of that partnership
firm. It cannot therefore be said, on a comparison of the notices in this case
with the plaint that there is identity of the person who issued the notice with
the person who brought the suit." Further in that case the defendant
challenged the validity of the notice right from the beginning.
In the present case the Union of India could
not have been left with the impression that the notice had been issued on
behalf of a partnership firm. There are clear indications in the notice showing
that the plaintiff was the sole proprietor of the concern known as
"Raghunath Dass Mulkhraj". Hence the decision in S.N. Dutt's case
does not govern the case before us.
In the result we allow this appeal, set aside
the judgment of the High Court and restore the judgment and decree of the trial
court. The Union of India shall pay the costs of the appellant both in this
Court as well as in the High Court.
(1)  1 S.C.R. 560.