A Court Becomes “Functus Officio”, It Cannot Reopen the Case, Once It has Passed a Conditional Order. Enlargement of Time U/S 148 CPC Must be Done in Judicious Manner, not Arbitrarily.


A Court Becomes “Functus Officio”, It Cannot Reopen the Case, Once It has Passed a Conditional Order. Enlargement of Time U/S 148 CPC Must be Done in Judicious Manner, not Arbitrarily.

Sometimes we see our courts pass orders in relation to one of the parties to a case, stating that if that party does not comply the order passed by the court, his/her suit shall stand rejected/dismissed etc. Such orders are called Conditional Orders which operate automatically if the condition is not fulfilled.

Recently, such a case of conditional order came before the Supreme Court for adjudication wherein the trial court directed the Petitioner/Plaintiff on 27.04.2010 to pay the court fee on  the next date of hearing, failing which the plaint would stand rejected. However, the plaintiff did not submit the fee and the trial court, on its own motion and without the request of the plaintiff, extended the time for submitting the court fee on the next date of hearing. The respondent challenged this order by filling a revision which was accepted and the plaint was rejected. The case ultimately reached the SC after going through the HC and the Revisional Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that conditional orders must be deprecated and stopped as they are against the safe administration of justice to the litigants. Section 148 of the CPC states that if a court has fixed or granted a time for doing an act, the said court may from time to time enlarge the said period in its discretion, even though the said period has expired. The law has given this power to the courts for the reason that there might be exigencies, hard circumstances beyond the control of the litigants to comply with the order of the court, so the courts can enlarge the time owing to the circumstances of the case. If a conditional order is passed by a court and the litigant is not in a position to fulfil it as the circumstances are beyond his control or there is some “force majeaure”, he will be non-suited for the only reason that the court has passed a conditional order and it has become functus officio. 

The SC ruled that once a conditional order has been passed the court becomes completely fucntus officio, which means that the matter has ended, the court has passed the order and it has no more vested with the jurisdiction to reopen the case. Reopening of a case is such a matter which cannot be allowed to the courts as the law does not provide for this. It is a settled principle of law that once a matte has been decided by a court it cannot be reopened by the same court. It means that the courts are not vested with jurisdiction to reopen the cases or orders they have passed. Therefore, the SC held that courts cannot reopen cases where a conditional order has been passed by them.

The Court further asserted that CPC is primarily a procedural law that is aimed for the safe administration of the process of litigation. Hence, the process of litigation or in other words, setting the judicial branch of the state into motion for adjudication upon the a matter is a means to achieve the ultimate goal, that is to say, the final adjudication of the disputes. The goal of adjudication of a lis finally cannot be achieved unless it is allowed to proceed. A conditional order may not allow a dispute to proceed further. Hence, the courts should show restraint from issuing conditional orders.

The SC, at the end, dismissed the CPLA of the petitioner stating that the trial court had becomes functus officio the moment it had passed the conditional order. The orders of the Revisional Court and the HC were maintained.

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