The Delhi High Court on May 15, 2019, in the case of Unilin Beheer B.V. v. Balaji Action Buildwell has held that it is mandatory to file an affidavit of admission or denial with a written statement. In case of failure, the Court will not take the statement on record and the contested documents filed by the plaintiff would be admitted by the Court.
A single judge Bench of Justice R.S Endlaw was hearing a suit wherein the main matter involved claims of patent infringement. After the plaintiff brought the suit in January 2018, the defendant filed a counterclaim in February the same year.
Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a written statement in April 2018 and refiled it in May 2018. However, the plaintiff failed to accompany the written statement with an affidavit of admission/denial. It was only when a third written statement was filed in October 2018, that the plaintiff finally filed this affidavit.
When the case was taken up by the Court in January this year, the defendant argued before the Court that the plaintiff’s written statement cannot be taken on record since it had been filed without the affidavit of admission/denial. It was also contended that the period for filing the statement had expired.
The defendant relied on Rules 3 and 4 of Chapter VII of the Delhi High Court (Original Sides) Rules, 2018.
Rule 3 states, “Alongwith the written statement, defendant shall also file an affidavit of admission/denial of documents filed by the plaintiff, without which the written statement shall not be taken on record.”
Whereas, Rule 4 states, “If the Court is satisfied that the defendant was prevented by sufficient cause for exceptional and unavoidable reasons in filing the written statement within 30 days, it may extend the time for filing the same by a further period not exceeding 90 days, but not thereafter. For such extension of time, the party in delay shall be burdened with costs as deemed appropriate. The written statement shall not be taken on record unless such costs have been paid/deposited. In case the defendant fails to file the affidavit of admission/denial of documents filed by the plaintiff, the documents filed by the plaintiff shall be deemed to be admitted. In case, no written statement is filed within the extended time also, the Registrar may pass orders for closing the right to file the written statement.”
Taking into consideration both these Rules, the Court observed that there is inconsistency/contradiction, in Rule 3 on the one hand, providing that written statement without affidavit of admission/denial shall not be taken on record and Rule 4 on the other hand, providing that the effect of nonfiling of affidavit of admission/denial shall be of the documents being deemed to be admitted.
In this regard, the Court held that if the affidavit of admission/denial does not accompany a written statement, it is equated to the non-filing of the written statement. Any other interpretation would render Rule 3 redundant.
“On the contrary the effect of holding that in such a situation, the written statement shall be deemed to have been not filed and the documents filed by the plaintiff deemed to be admitted, would allow full play to both Rules, without making any part thereof otiose. On further consideration, no inconsistency/contradiction is found in the two Rules. This interpretation is also in consonance with the legislative intent,” the court said.
Such an interpretation is also in line with the reason for introducing the 2018 Original Side Rules, the Court added, “With the experience of over fifty years of working of the 1967 Rules, attempt was made in the 2018 Rules to do away with the bottlenecks in the proceedings in the suits on the Original Side of this Court. One of such bottlenecks was the stage of admission/denial of documents, at which the suits remained pending, in large number of cases, for years and thereafter also not serving any purpose of expediting trial, with vague denials being made, putting the opposite party to proof of documents at the cost of consequent delays.”
Accordingly, the court held that “… in the event of the written statement being filed without affidavit of admission / denial of documents, not only shall the written statement be not taken on record but the documents filed by the plaintiff shall also be deemed to be admitted and on the basis of which admission the Court shall be entitled to proceed under Order VIII Rule 10 of the CPC.”
In the present case, however, the plaintiff corrected the error and filed an affidavit of admission/denial along with the written statement in October 2018. The Court found that this was filed within the time extension permissible under Rule 4 of the 2018 Rules. Therefore, it allowed the written statement to be taken on record subject to payment of costs of Rs.3 lacs to the counsel for the defendant.