Bombay High Court: Lower courts must go ‘digital’ in serving summons, notices

Mumbai: Observing that the subordinate courts must be ‘practical’ enough, the Bombay High Court recently said that courts should adopt ‘modern ways’ of serving summons/notices through WhatsApp or Email. The HC, however, held that the courts must also consider if the contesting party has a ‘knowledge’ of the litigation initiated against them, and then pass orders.

A single-judge bench of Justice Mridula Bhatkar said, “The rules pertaining to service gives an option that the summons can be served in such other manner as the Court thinks fit. Thus, the manner which the Court opts for should be akin to the earlier mode of service, which is mentioned in the Rule.” “For this, the court can take into account the modern ways of service which are available due to the internet connection. It can be served also by courier or by Email or by WhatsApp etc. The court should be satisfied with such service,” Justice Bhatkar said. Justice Bhatkar, however, held it important for contesting parties to have knowledge of the summons. “The service is neither an empty formality nor procedural ritual but the soul of the service is to have the knowledge of the proceedings to the defendant or the contesting party.

Therefore, there may be a service laid down as per the procedure, however, still there is no communication of the proceedings to the other party and, therefore, the knowledge is absent,” Justice Bhatkar observed. “However, the moment the defendant acquires the knowledge of the proceedings and he approaches the court and the fact is brought before the court that he really never had any knowledge, then even though there is a procedural compliance in serving, the court has to take realistic and just view and not to limit itself in the procedural wrangles,” Justice Bhatkar ruled. The significant pronouncement was delivered while dismissing a writ petition challenging the orders of a district court in Pune, which quashed an ex-parte order passed by a lower court. The lower court had an ex-parte order against a firm after it failed to appear before the court despite several summon duly served upon him.

The district court had however considered the fact that the firm had no knowledge of the proceedings against it and had accordingly passed the ex-parte order of the lower court.

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