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Object of serving a Notice under Section 80 CPC

The Supreme Court of India on March 20, 1984 in Ghanshyam Dass Vs. Dominion of India, AIR 1984 SC 1004 : 1984 (3) SCR 229 : (1984) 3 SCC 46 : 1984 (1) SCALE 528 considered the Scope of section 80 Code of Civil Procedure (Act V of 1908) (as is stood before the Amendment Act of 1976) .

A bench comprising of Justice A.P. Sen, Justice Desai, Justice Eradi and Justice V. Balakrishna answered the question “whether a fresh notice under section 80, C.P.C. is necessary and for want of such a fresh notice the suit itself is not maintainable”.

The Court of first instance held that no further notice under s. 80 was necessary as the notice served by the plaintiff’s father Seth Lachhman Dass must inure to their benefit. on appeal, the High Court reversed his decision on the point and held that the notice given by the plaintiff’s father was insufficient and was not a valid notice under s. 80 of the Code insofar as the plaintiff’s were concerned.

Object of serving a Notice under Section 80 CPC

Against the judgment, the plaintiff’s preferred an appeal by special leave. Allowing the appeal, the Apex Court held that the question as to whether a notice under s. 80 is valid or not is a question of judicial construction. S. 80 of the Code is but a part of the Procedure Code passed to provide the regulation and machinery, by means of which the courts may do justice between the parties.

It is therefore merely a part of the adjective law and deals with procedure alone and must be interpreted in a manner so as to subserve and advance the cause of justice rather than to defeat it. As far as possible, no proceedings in a court of law should be allowed to be defeated on mere technicalities. This is the principle on which ours laws of procedure are based.

The whole object of serving a notice under s. 80 is to give the Government sufficient warning of the case which is going to be instituted against it and that the Government, if it so wished can settle the claim without litigation or afford restitution without recourse to a court of law. Though the terms of s. 80 have to be strictly complied with, that does not mean that the notice should be scrutinised in a pedantic manner divorced from common sense.

The point to be considered is whether the notice gives sufficient information as to the nature of the claim such as would enable the recipient to avert the litigation. If the notice substantially fulfills its work of intimating the parties ‘concerned generally of the nature of the suit intended to be filed, it would be sufficient compliance of the section. While interpreting the pre-amended section the courts must have due regard to the change in law brought about by sub-s. (3) of s. 80, which shows legislative acceptance of the rule of substantial compliance instead of strict compliance.

See Also : Sangram Singh Vs. Election Tribunal, Kotah, Bhurey Lal Baya, AIR 1955 SC 425

In the present case the requirement of s. 80 that there must be identity between the cause of action and the relief claimed in the notice as well as in the plaint, fulfilled. As regards the requirement of identity of the person who issues the notice with the person who brings the suit, in this case the notice contained the name of the original claimant i.e. the father of the plaintiffs.

The notice reached the concerned department of the Government where the Government had opportunity to examine the nature of the claim and decide whether it should accept or contest the claim. The concerned Government authorities served a reply on the plaintiff’s father that his claim was not acceptable. There after he died and his right to file the suit for enforcement of the claim having devolved upon his heirs i.e. the plaintiff’s, the plaintiffs filed the suit for enforcement of the same claim.

In the circumstances, if s. 80 is held to have not been complied with, as done by the High Court, great injustice would be done to the plaintiffs in the matter of filing suits to the Government inasmuch as in case of insistence on fresh notice, the period of limitation to file the suit would expire in the meantime. Such a situation is not intended by the Code. Thus the requirement of s. 80 was clearly fulfilled in this case but the High Court having allowed the technical plea of the defendants, the plaintiffs have been deprived of their legitimate claim for at least 35 years.

The Apex Court overruled S.N. Dutt v. Union of India, [1962]1 S.C.R. 560; Mahadev Dattatraya Rajshri v. Secretary of States for India [1930] 32 Bom. L.R. 604; and Bachchu Singh v. Secretary of State for India in Council, [1902] 25 I.L.R. 187 and affirmed Raghunath Dass v. Union of India, [1969] 1 S.C.R. 450; Union of India v. A Jeewan Ram A.I.R. 1958 S.C. 905; State of Madras v. C.P. Agencies, A.I.R. 1960 S.C. 1309 and Amar Nath Gogra v. Union of India,[1964]1 S.C.R. 651.
The Court also referred Bhagchand Dagadusa v. Secretary of State of India in Council, [1927] I.A. 338; Vallayan Chettiar v. Government of the Province of Madras [1947] I.A. 74: and Government of the Province of Bombay v. Pestonji Ardeshir Wadia [1949] 76 I.A. 57.

Facts of the Case

Contract with Government and claims arising there from. Contractor issues notice to Government under section 80 C.P.C. (before the amendment in 1976) but dies before the institution of the suit. The legal representations of the contractor institutes the suit on the basis of the notice issued by the contractor.
The plaintiff’s father Seth Lachhman Dass Gupta entered into a contract with the Governor General-in-Council for the supply of charcoal to the Military Supply Depot, Agra and received payments for the same at the contractual rate from time to time. The contract contained an escalation clause viz. cl.8 to the effect that in case the price of charcoal was increased by more than 10% of the stipulated rate during the subsistence of the contract, the contractor would be entitled to the price at the higher rate.
During the period of the contract, the rate of charcoal went up continuously. The military authorities paid at the enhanced rate for the part of supplies while for the rest they refused to pay more than the contractual rate. He accordingly served a notice to the Government under s. 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 making a claim for payment of a sum of Rs. 20,710.50 p. in terms of clause 8 of the contract being the difference between the enhanced rate and the contractual rate for the supplies paid for.
But before he could bring the suit against the Government, he died. Thereupon, the respondents brought a suit as his legal heirs and successors claiming the amount. The defendants contested the claim inter alia on the ground that the notice given by Seth Lachhman Dass could not ensure for the benefit of the plaintiff’s and therefore the suit was bad for want of notice under s. 80 of the Code.
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