By Nihit Nagpal and Anuj Jhawar
The Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order dated May 09, 2022 in Bharat Kalra Vs Raj Kishan Chabra has reiterated that the time limit for filing of the written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is not mandatory if it is not a Commercial Suit under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015.
Brief facts of the case
A suit for grant of injunction had been filed by the Plaintiff, however the written statement by the Defendant had not been filed within time and the Trial Court had refused to condone the delay (of 193 days). The Hon’ble Delhi High Court had upheld the Trial Court order refusing to condone the delay in filing of the written statement on the ground that there was “no plausible explanation and coherent reason” explaining the delay in filing the written statement.
Time-limit for filing written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure is not mandatory
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the suit for injunction filed by Plaintiff in the instant case is not one which is governed by the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. Therefore, the time limit for filing the written statement under Order VIII Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is not mandatory in view of the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Kailash V. Nankhu & Ors. wherein it had been held that the purpose of providing the time schedule for filing the written statement under Order VIII, Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is to expedite and not to scuttle the hearing. The provision spells out a disability on the defendant; it does not impose an embargo on the power of the Court to extend the time. Though, the language of the Proviso to Rule 1 of Order VIII of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is couched in negative form, it does not specify any penal consequences flowing from the non- compliance. The provision being in the domain of procedural law, it must be held to be directory and not mandatory. The power of the Court to extend time for filing the Written Statement beyond the time schedule provided by Order VIII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is not completely taken away. Though Order VIII, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is a part of procedural law and hence directory, keeping in view the need for expeditious trial of civil causes which had persuaded Parliament to enact the provision in its present form, it has been held that ordinarily the time schedule contained in the provision is to be followed as a rule and departure therefrom would only be by way of exception. A prayer for extension of time made by the Defendant shall not be granted just as a matter of routine and merely for asking, more so when the period of 90 days has expired. Extension of time may be allowed by way of an exception, for reasons to be assigned by the Defendant, and also be placed on record in writing, howsoever briefly, by the Court upon being satisfied. Extension of time may be allowed if it is needed to be given for circumstances which are exceptional, occasioned by reasons beyond the control of the Defendant, and grave injustice being likely to be caused to the Defendant if the time is not extended. Costs may be imposed and affidavit or documents in support of the grounds pleaded by the Defendant for extension of time may be demanded, depending on the facts and circumstances of a given case.
In view of the Kailash V. Nankhu & Ors. judgement, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that delay in filing of the written statement can very well be compensated with costs, but denying the benefit of filing of the written statement absolutely, is unreasonable.
 CIVIL APPEAL NO.3788 OF 2022 (@ SLP(C) No.63 of 2022)
 (2005) 4 SCC 480