1. This is a revision under Section 115, C. P. C. by Smt. Kiran Devi alias Sona against the order, dated 10-3-1962 of the District Judge of Aligarh dismissing her application under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. read with Section 141, C. P. C. for setting aside the ex parte order passed in the proceeding under Section 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act started on the application of Abdul Wahid, opposite party No. 1. It is not clear why his brother Jia Uddin, opposite party No. 2, was impleaded in the revision. It may be that he was assisting his brother, Abdul Wahib.
2. The present application under Section 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act was made on 2-2-1960 with the allegations that the two minor daughters of Smt. Kiran Devi were born through the applicant, Abdul Wahid, and he being the father was their lawful guardian and was entitled to their custody. It was prayed that the Court be pleased to make an order for their return and for the purpose of enforcing the order may cause the minors to be arrested and given into his custody. The application was allowed ex parte under order, dated 23-7-1960 but the ex parte order was later set aside on 17-12-1960. 11-2-1961 was in due course fixed for the hearing of the application under S, 25 and when Smt. Kiran Devi did not attend the Court ex parte proceeding was taken and an order in favour of Abdul Wahid was passed.
3. Thereafter a warrant was issued for the arrest of the minors and they were on 29-11-1961 produced in the Court of the District Judge. Aligarh, and were given in the custody of Abdul Wahid. On 3-1-1962 the mother of Smt. Kiran Devi applied for the custody of the minors but the application was summarily rejected and the present restoration application was moved on 9-1-1962 on the ground that Smt. Kiran Devi did not attend the Court of the District Judge on 11-2-1961 as on 5-1-1961 the Civil Judge of Kanpur had in a suit instituted by her and also by her two minor daughters issued an interim injunction order restraining Abdul Wahid from proceeding with the case under Section 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act.
4. The restoration application was made more than 30 days after the passing of the ex parte order. The learned District Judge was of opinion that the prescribed period of limitation for making the restoration application was 30 days and as the application was made beyond time, it was liable to dismissal. The District Judge did not enter into the merits and did not record a finding whether there was or was not a sufficient cause for non-appearance in Court on the date the ex parte order was passed.
5. The point for consideration is whether the limitation for making an application under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. read with Section 141, C. P. C. to have an ex parte order set aside is governed by Article 164 or by the residuary clause contained in Article 181 of the 1st Schedule of the Limitation Act. In case the limitation is governed by Article 164 it was necessary for the defendant to make the restoration application within 30 days of the ex parte order, otherwise such an application could be made within 3 years in view of the fact that the right to move the application accrued on the date the ex parte order was passed.
6. Article 164 applies to an application by a defendant for an order to set aside a decree passed ex parte. The 30 days' period of limitation prescribed for such an application commences from the date of the decree or where the summons was not duly served, when the applicant had knowledge of the decree. It shall be found that Article 164 speaks of a decree passed ex parte, and not an ex parte order, even though in other Articles reference has been made to both decrees and orders. When the Legislature used both the words 'decree' and 'order' in the Limitation Act, it can be assumed that there is difference between a decree and an order and Article 164 shall apply to only ex parte decrees, or ex parte orders having the force of a decree or order which, in the eye of law, amount to decrees.
7. The word 'decree' has not been defined in the Limitation Act, nor in the General Clauses Act, and, consequently, it can be assigned the meaning given to it under the Code of Civil Procedure. There under, as laid down in Section 2(2) thereof, "decree" means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit and may be either preliminary or final. It is further provided in this definition that the decree shall not include any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order, or any order of dismissal for default. The two important ingredients of a decree, therefore, are that there should be final expression of adjudication conclusively determining the rights of a party with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy and, secondly, that the expression of the adjudication is made in a suit and not in a miscellaneous proceeding not amounting to a suit. Consequently, if the proceeding does not amount to a suit the final order passed therein shall be an order and not decree.
8. The learned Advocate for the opposite party, however, contended before me that the word "decree" must be given its ordinary meaning as continued in Dictionaries and the word "decree" be held to be a final adjudication in any suit or proceeding. It was thus contended that, for all practical purposes, decree included a final order passed in a miscellaneous proceeding, and on this ground Article 164 of the Limitation Act be made applicable not only to applications for setting aside ex parte decrees but also ex parte orders. This contention can be repelled on account of certain provisions contained in the Limitation Act itself making a difference between a decree and an order, and also between a suit and an application. As already observed above, certain Articles of the Limitation Act apply to decrees, others to orders and some to both decrees and orders. When the Legislature did not intentionally use the word "order" in Article 164, it must be held that this Article does not govern applications for setting aside an ex parte order. Further, Section 3 of the Limitation Act speaks of a suit instituted, appeal preferred and application made, and 'suit as defined in Section 2(10) of the Limitation Act does not include an appeal or an application. When 'suit' does not include application and a suit is distinct from an application, orders passed in a proceeding started on an application must be treated separately. Thus an order passed in a suit finally determining the rights of the parties shall be a decree while a final order passed on the application shall simply be an order and not a decree, I am thus of opinion that the word "decree" must be given the meaning assigned to it in the Code of Civil Procedure.
9. By virtue of Section 141, C. P. C. the procedure provided in the Code of Civil Procedure in regard to suits has to be followed, as far as it can be made applicable, in all proceedings in any Court of civil jurisdiction. Consequently, Order IX. Rule 13, C. P. C. shall apply to miscellaneous proceedings and an application for setting aside an ex parte order passed in such proceeding shall be governed by Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. The limitation for making an application under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. has not been provided in the Code of Civil Procedure but such applications are generally governed by Article 164 of the Limitation Act. It shall, however, be found that Article 164 has been worded generally and not with reference to Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. Consequently, Article 164 shall be given a wider or restricted meaning depending upon the nature of the application. Article 164 shall thus be applicable to an application under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. and also to an application made under any other enactment for setting aside an ex parte decree. Further, Order IX, Rule 13 shall also apply to an application for setting aside an ex parte order passed in a miscellaneous proceeding; but such an application shall not be governed by Article 164. In other words, in view of the wording of Article 164, it cannot be laid down that this Article shall be applicable to all the applications falling within the scope of Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C.
10. To put it differently, the prescribed period of limitation for an application under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. for selling aside an ex parte decree is 30 days, but not for an application to set aside an ex parte order, with the result that an application for setting aside an ex parte order shall be governed by the residuary clause contained in Article 181 of the Limitation Act and the period of limitation for such an application shall be three years. The application of a different rule of limitation for setting aside an ex parte order appears to be inequitable considering that the ex parte decree can be set aside within 30 days only; but where the provisions of the law, all the more, of the Limitation Act, are clear and unambiguous, the Courts cannot take a different view on grounds of equity or justice. After all, a party has the right to seek redress before the Courts of law though the right cannot be enforced it no steps are taken within the prescribed period. Equity and fair play can thus be construed as much in favour of Smt. Kiran Devi as in favour of Abdul Wahid. What can be said on behalf of Abdul Wahid is that the period of limitation for making an application for setting aside an ex parte order be not in excess of the period within which the ex parte decree can be set aside. On the other hand, Smt. Kiran Devi can say that the Courts should lean favourably towards her as she had obtained an injunction on 5-1-1961 and she could rightly assume that the order would be served before the date fixed for hearing (11-2-1961).
11. A similar view was expressed in Hindusthan Bank Ltd v. Meharaj Din, AIR 1920 Lah 51, where it was held that while dealing with ex parte order in proceedings under the Companies Act the Court should proceed under Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C.; and that Article 181, and not Article 164, of the Limitation Act shall apply to such an application. Similarly, in M.A. Wahid v. Jubeda Begum, AIR 1952 Nag 190, an order under Section 7 of the Guardians and Wards Act on an application made under Section 10 was not regarded as a decree for the reason that the proceeding had started on an application and not by presentation of a plaint. The Privy Council decision in Hansraj Gupta v. Dehra Dun Mussoorie Electric Tramway Co. Ltd., AIR 1933 PC 63, can be of assistance in determining whether the present proceeding can be deemed to be a suit. It was laid down therein that:
"The word "suit" ordinarily means, and apart from some context must be taken to mean, a civil proceeding instituted by the presentation of a plaint."
12. The learned Advocate for the opposite party invited my attention to a few reported decisions but they can all be distinguished on facts, or therein, the opinion was expressed without any comment. Ram Narain v. Jai Narain, AIR 1961 All 125, arose out of a proceeding under Section 14 of the Religious Endowments Act, 1863. The words "sue" and "decree" have been used in Section 14 which make it clear that the proceeding is none other than a suit. Umar Din v. Raghunath Sahai, AIR 1932 Lah 522, cannot be used in preference to the Division Bench decision of the same High Court in AIR 1920 Lah 51 (supra). Further, Abdul Qadir, J. made no comments and simply held that an application for setting aside an ex parte order being governed by Order IX, Rule 13, C. P. C. would fall within the purview of Article 164 of the Limitation Act, and Article 181 cannot apply to it. Similarly, in Fleming Shaw and Co. v. Mangalchand Dwarkadas, AIR 1924 Sind 56, the opinion was expressed without commenting upon the scope of Article 164 of the Limitation Act. Rupchand Bilaram, A. J. C. relied upon the decision in Subbiah Naicker v. Ramanathan Chettiar, ILR 37 Mad 462: (AIR 1914 Mad 162), but that case arose out of a proceeding under Section 47, C. P. C. and by virtue of the definition contained in Section 2(2) of the C. P. C. the order passed amounted to a decree. The Madras decision could not thus be made applicable to such orders as did not amount to a decree.
13. The learned District Judge has placed reliance upon the decision of this Court in Ram Narain v. Gorey, 1956 All LJ 906, but that case arose out of suit and, consequently, the ex parte order passed was none other than a decree.
14. To sum up, Article 164 of the Limitation Act does not apply to applications for setting aside an ex parte order and such applications shall be governed by Article 181 of the Limitation Act. The period prescribed under Article 181 is three years commencing from the date of accrual of the right to apply. The ex parte order was passed on 11-2-1961, and the restoration application was moved within 11 months and hence within time. The finding recorded by the District Judge to the contrary is thus illegal and deserves to be set aside. Considering that the learned District Judge has not expressed any opinion on merits, it is desirable to remand the restoration application to enable him to pass an order in accordance with the law.
15. The revision is hereby allowed and the order, dated 10-3-1962 of the District Judge of Aligarh is set aside. The application for setting aside the ex parte order shall now be registered at its original number and disposed of in accordance with the law. Costs on parties.