10 June 2024


High Court of Delhi

Rattan Mehta and Ors. Vs. Gayatri Shah and Ors.




Answer given to the interrogatories can be used as evidence and its veracity can be established only at trial

By way of present appeal filed under Order XLIII Rule 1(f) read with Section 151 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC), the Appellants have assailed the order passed by the trial Court, whereby the Appellants'/defendants' defence was struck off and the written statement filed by them was directed to be taken off the record.

The only issue that arises for consideration in the present case is whether the Defendants' answer to the interrogatories, in the manner it was given, i.e., denying entering into and execution of the Agreement, would attract consequences envisaged under Order 11, Rule 21 of CPC.

Section 30 of CPC provides that, the Court can also exercise powers on its own motion and pass such orders as may be necessary or reasonable in all matters relating to the delivery and answering of interrogatories, the admissions of documents and facts, and the discovery, inspection, production, impounding and return of documents or other material objects producible as evidence.

In the facts of the present case, it is observed that the Trial Court vide order directed the Defendants to answer interrogatories. However, the same were not answered by them and they rather chose to challenge the order and avoided answering the interrogatories. It was when this Court, vide judgment, called upon the defendants to explain their non-compliance and answer the interrogatories, that the interrogatories supplied by the plaintiffs came to be answered.

On a reading of Order 11 Rule 21 CPC, this Court is of the opinion that, a party is obligated to answer the interrogatory served upon it with the leave of Court and there shall not be willful non-compliance of the order of the Court. Further, under Rule 11, where any person omits to answer or answers insufficiently, the party interrogating may apply to the Court for an order requiring him to answer or to answer further, as the case may be. Insufficient answers would mean incomplete or incoherent answers, and not incorrect answers, since at the time of exchange of interrogatories and answers between the parties, the Court is not required to conduct a summary trial to assess the veracity of the answers. Consequence of striking off of the defendant's defence is a result only of 'failure' to answer the interrogatory, and does not follow when the answer may not be to the liking of the person delivering the interrogatory or allegedly incorrect.

Under Order 11, Rule 22 of CPC, the answer given in response to an interrogatory can be used in evidence, and therefore, its correctness and veracity will be established only at trial. Undoubtedly, it is incumbent upon a person answering the interrogatories to be truthful in the answers, and if the person is eventually found to have given false answers, they can be visited with consequences like perjury, in accordance with law, since the answer given in response to interrogatory can be used in evidence under Rule 22. All such consequences are within the domain of the Trial Court which shall eventually deal with the evidence produced by the parties before it. The impugned order passed by the Trial Court is liable to be set aside. Appeal allowed.

Tags : Defence Struck off Legality

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