Deciding Authority: Supreme Court of India

Date of Judgement: 5th February, 2003

Bench: Justice S.B. Sinha & Justice AR. Lakshmanan

Facts of the Case: The plaintiff-respondent filed a suit against the appellant herein for partition of certain immovable properties. The appellant No. 1 herein at the relevant point of time was aged 87. Alleging inter alia that she had lost her ability to understand and further is not capable to give instructions to her lawyer or anybody else relating to the said suit, a prayer was made by the respondent herein that she be summoned in the Court so as to enable the court to inquire about her state of mind and upon medical examination. This appeal is directed against a judgment and order dated 11.8.2000 passed by a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur in MCC. No. 482 of 1999 whereby and where under it refused to entertain an application filed by the appellants herein purporting to be under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (for short ’C.P.C.’) for recalling of an order passed by a learned Single Judge of the said Court dated 5.5.1999 passed in Civil Revision No. 2761 of 1998 which in turn arose out of an order dated 3.11.1998 passed by the Additional District Judge, Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh in Civil Suit No. 2-A of 1993 dismissing an application filed by the respondent herein under Order 32 Rule 15, C.P.C.

Judgement of the Case: The Supreme Court held that is evident that the Court is empowered to appoint a guardian in the event a person is adjudged to be of unsound mind. It further provides that even if a person is not so adjudged but is found by court on inquiry to be incapable of protecting his or her interest when suing or being sued by reason of any mental infirmity, an appropriate order thereunder can be passed. The respondent did not contend that appellant No. 1 herein is of unsound mind. As noticed hereinbefore, the respondent herself had filed an application before the trial court for holding an inquiry to the effect that she suffers from mental infirmity. The learned trial court refused to do the same and in that view of the matter the High Court, in our opinion, while setting aside the said order could only issue a direction directing the learned trial Judge to hold an inquiry so as to enable it to arrive at a finding as to whether the respondent herein was incapable of protecting her interest by reason of any mental infirmity or not. As no such inquiry was held, there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that, the learned Single Judge committed a jurisdictional error in passing the impugned judgment which, the Division Bench as noticed hereinbefore upheld. For the reasons aforementioned, the impugned judgments are set aside and the matter is directed to be remitted to the learned trial Judge for consideration of the matter afresh strictly in terms of Order 32 Rule 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure as also in the light of the observations made hereinbefore. This appeal is, thus, allowed. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.

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