SC: Compromise decree can’t be challenged by stranger in a separate suit

The Hon’ble Supreme Court on 6th May 2020, Triloki Nath Singh v. Anirudh Singh(D) Thr. Lrs & Ors. pronounced decree passed on a compromise cannot be challenged by a stranger to the proceedings in a separate suit. A right has been given under Order 43 Rule 1A(2) of CPC, to a party, who denies the compromise and invites order of the Court in that regard in terms of proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC while preferring an appeal against the decree. Section 96(3) CPC shall not be a bar to such an appeal, because it is applicable where the factum of compromise or agreement is not in dispute.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

Whether the decree passed on a compromise can be challenged by the stranger to the proceedings in a separate suit.

Finality of decisions is an underlying principle of all adjudicating forums. Thus, creation of further litigation should never be the basis of a compromise between the parties. Rule 3A of Order 23 CPC put a specific bar that no suit shall lie to set aside a decree on the ground that the compromise on which the decree is based was not lawful. The scheme of Order 23 Rule 3 CPC is to avoid multiplicity of litigation and permit parties to amicably come to a settlement which is lawful, is in writing and a voluntary act on the part of the parties. The Court can be instrumental in having an agreed compromise effected and finality attached to the same. The Court should never be party to imposition of a compromise upon an unwilling party, still open to be questioned on an application under the proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC before the Court. (Para 17)

No appeal is maintainable against an order recording or refusing to record an agreement or compromise under Rule 3 of Order 23. Being conscious of this fact that the right of appeal against the order recording a compromise or refusing to record a compromise was being taken away, a new Rule 1A was added to Order 43 (Para 18)

Neither any appeal against the order recording the compromise nor remedy by way of filing a suit is available in cases covered by Rule 3A of Order 23 CPC. As such, a right has been given under Rule 1A(2) of Order 43 to a party, who denies the compromise and invites order of the Court in that regard in terms of proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC while preferring an appeal against the decree. Section 96(3) CPC shall not be a bar to such an appeal, because it is applicable where the factum of compromise or agreement is not in dispute. (Para 19)

Compromise decree passed by the High Court in the second appeal would relate back to the date of institution of the suit between the parties thereto. (Para 21)

Merely because appellant was not party to the compromise decree, will be of no avail to the appellant, much less give him a cause of action to question the validity of the compromise decree passed by the High Court by way of a substantive suit before the civil Court to declare it as fraudulent, illegal and not binding on him. Assuming, he could agitate about the validity of the compromise entered into by the parties to the partition suit, it is only the High Court, who had accepted the compromise and passed decree on that basis, could examine the same and no other Court under proviso to Rule 3 of Order 23 CPC. (Para 22)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_06-May-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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