Service of Summons

Rule 9: Delivery of summons by Court.—

(1) Where the defendant resides within the jurisdiction of the Court in which the suit is instituted, or has an agent resident within that jurisdiction who is empowered to accept the service of the summons, the summons shall, unless the Court otherwise directs, be delivered or sent either to the proper officer to be served by him or one of his subordinates or to such courier services as are approved by the Court.

(2) The proper officer may be an officer of a Court other than that in which the suit is instituted, and, where he is such an officer, the summons may be sent to him in such manner as the Court may direct.

(3) The services of summons may be made by delivering or transmitting a copy thereof by registered post acknowledgment due, addressed to the defendant or his agent empowered to accept the service or by speed post or by such courier services as are approved by the High Court or by the Court referred to in sub-rule (1) or by any other means of transmission of documents (including fax message or electronic mail service) provided by the rules made by the High Court:

Provided that the service of summons under this sub-rule shall be made at the expenses of the plaintiff.

(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-rule (1), where a defendant resides outside the jurisdiction of the Court in which the suit is instituted, and the Court directs that the service of summons on that defendant may be made by such mode of service of summons as is referred to in sub-rule (3) (except by registered post acknowledgment due), the provisions of Rule 21 shall not apply.

(5) When an acknowledgment or any other receipt purporting to be signed by the defendant or his agent is received by the Court or postal article containing the summons is received back by the Court with an endorsement purporting to have been made by a postal employee or by any person authorised by the courier service to the effect that the defendant or his agent had refused to take delivery of the postal article containing the summons or had refused to accept the summons by any other means specified in sub-rule (3) when tendered or transmitted to him, the Court issuing the summons shall declare that the summons had been duly served on the defendant:

Provided that where the summons was properly addressed, pre-paid and duly sent by registered post acknowledgment due, the declaration referred to in this sub-rule shall be made notwithstanding the fact that the acknowledgment having been lost or mislaid, or for any other reason, has not been received by the Court within thirty days from the date of issue of summons.

(6) The High Court or the District Judge, as the case may be, shall prepare a panel of courier agencies for the purposes of sub-rule (1).


Rule 9-A: Summons given to the plaintiff for service.—

(1) The Court may, in addition to the service of summons under rule, on the application of the plaintiff for the issue of a summons for the appearance of the defendant, permit such plaintiff to effect service of such summons on such defendant and shall, in such a case, deliver the summons to such plaintiff for service.

(2) The service of such summons shall be effected by or on behalf of such plaintiff by delivering or tendering to the defendant personally a copy thereof signed by the Judge or such officer of the Court as he may appoint in this behalf and sealed with the seal of the Court or by such mode of service as is referred to in sub-rule (3) of Rule 9.

(3) The provisions of Rules 16 and 18 shall apply to a summons personally served under this rule as if the person effecting service were a serving officer.

(4) If such summons, when tendered, is refused or if the person served refuses to sign an acknowledgment of service or for any reason such summons cannot be served personally, the Court shall, on the application of the party, re-issue such summons to be served by the Court in the same manner as a summons to a defendant.


Rule 10: Mode of service.—

Service of the summons shall be made by delivering or tendering a copy thereof signed by the Judge or such officer as he appoints in this behalf, and sealed with the seal of the Court.


Rule 11: Service on several defendants.—

Save as otherwise prescribed, where there are more defendants than one, service of the summons shall be made on each defendant.


Rule 12: Service to be on defendant in person when practicable, or on his agent.—

Wherever it is practicable service shall be made on the defendant in person, unless he has an agent empowered to accept service, in which case service on such agent shall be sufficient.


Rule 13: Service on agent by whom defendant carries on business.—

(1) In a suit relating to any business or work against a person who does not reside within the local limits of the jurisdiction of the Court from which the summons is issued, service on any manager or agent, who, at the time of service, personally carries on such business or work for such person within such limits, shall be deemed good service.

(2) For the purpose of this rule the master of a ship shall be deemed to be the agent of the owner or charterer.


Rule 14: Service on agent in charge in suits for immovable property.—

Where in a suit to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for wrong to, immovable property, service cannot be made on the defendant in person, and the defendant has no agent empowered to accept the service, it may be made on any agent of the defendant in charge of the property.


Rule 15: Where service may be on an adult member of defendant’s family.—

Where in any suit the defendant is absent from his residence at the time when the service of summons is sought to be effected on his at his residence and there is no likelihood of his being found at the residence within a reasonable time and he has no agent empowered to accept service of the summons on his behalf, service may be made on any adult member of the family, whether male or female, who is residing with him.

Explanation.—A servant is not a member of the family within the meaning of this rule.


Rule 16: Person served to sign acknowledgement.—

Where the serving officer delivers or tenders a copy of the summons to the defendant personally, or to an agent or other person on his behalf, he shall require the signature of the person to whom the copy is so delivered or tendered to an acknowledgement of service endorsed on the original summons.


Rule 17: Procedure when defendant refuses to accept service, or cannot be found.—

Where the defendant or his agent or such other person as aforesaid refuses to sign the acknowledgment, or where the serving officer, after using all due and reasonable diligence, cannot find the defendant who is absent from his residence at the time when service is sought to be effected on him at his residence and there is no likelihood of his being found at the residence within a reasonable time and there is no agent empowered to accept service of the summons on his behalf, nor any other person on whom service can be made, the serving officer shall affix a copy of the summons on the outer door or some other conspicuous part of the house in which the defendant ordinarily resides or carries on business or personally works for gain, and shall then return the original to the Court from which it was issued, with a report endorsed thereon or annexed thereto stating that he has so affixed the copy, the circumstances under which he did so, and the name and address of the person (if any) by whom the house was identified and in whose presence the copy was affixed.


Rule 18: Endorsement of time and manner of service.—

The serving officer shall, in all cases in which the summons has been served under Rule 16, endorse or annex, or cause to be endorsed or annexed, on or to the original summons, a return stating the time 

Rule 19: Examination of serving officer.—

Where a summons is returned under Rule 17, the Court shall, if the return under that rule has not been verified by the affidavit of the serving officer, and may, if it has been so verified, examine the serving officer on oath, or cause him to be so examined by another Court, touching his proceedings, and may make such further enquiry in the matter as it thinks fit; and shall either declare that the summons has been duly served or order such service as it thinks fit.


Rule 19-A: Simultaneous issue of summons for service by post in addition to personal service.— [Omitted by Act 46 of 1999, S. 15 (w.e.f. 1-7-2002)]

Rule 20: Substituted service.—

(1) Where the Court is satisfied that there is reason to believe that the defendant is keeping out of the way for the purpose of avoiding service, or that for any other reason the summons cannot be served in the ordinary way, the Court shall order the summons to be served by affixing a copy thereof in some conspicuous place in the Court House, and also upon some conspicuous part of the house (if any) in which the defendant is known to have last resided or carried on business or personally worked for gain, or in such other manner as the Court thinks fit.

(1-A) Where the Court acting under sub-rule (1) orders service by an advertisement in a newspaper, the newspaper shall be a daily newspaper circulating in the locality in which the defendant is last known to have actually and voluntarily resided, carried on business or personally worked for gain.

(2) Effect of substituted service.—Service substituted by order of the Court shall be as effectual as if it had been made on the defendant personally.

(3) Where service substituted, time for appearance to be fixed.—Where service is substituted by order of the Court, the Court shall fix such time for the appearance of the defendant as the case may require.


Rule 20-A: Service of summons by post.— [Omitted by Act 104 of 1976, S. 55 (w.e.f. 1-2-1977)]

Rule 21: Service of summons where defendant resides within jurisdiction of another Court.—

A summons may be sent by the Court by which it is issued, whether within or without the State, either by one of its officers or by post or by such courier service as may be approved by the High Court, by fax message or by electronic mail service or by any other means as may be provided by the rules made by the High Court to any Court (not being the High Court) having jurisdiction in the place where the defendant resides.


Rule 22: Service within presidency-towns of summons issued by Courts outside.—

Where a summons issued by any Court established beyond the limits of the towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay is to be served within any such limits, it shall be sent to the Court of Small Causes within whose jurisdiction it is to be served.


Rule 23: Duty of Court to which summons is sent.—

The Court to which a summons is sent under Rule 21 or Rule 22 shall, upon receipt thereof, proceed as if it had been issued by such Court and shall then return the summons to the Court of issue, together with the record (if any) of its proceedings with regard thereto.


Rule 24: Service on defendant in prison.—

Where the defendant is confined in a prison, the summons shall be delivered or sent or by post or by such courier service as may be approved by the High Court, by fax message or by electronic mail service or by any other means as may be provided by the rules made by the High Court to the officer in charge of the prison for service on the defendant.


Rule 25: Service where defendant resides out of India and has no agent.—

Where the defendant resides out of India and has no agent in India empowered to accept service, the summons shall be addressed to the defendant at the place where he is residing and sent to him or by post or by such courier service as may be approved by the High Court, by fax message or by electronic mail service or by any other means as may be provided by the rules made by the High Court, if there is postal communication between such place and the place where the Court is situate:

Provided that where any such defendant resides in Bangladesh or Pakistan, the summons, together with a copy thereof, may be sent for service on the defendant, to any Court in that country (not being the High Court) having jurisdiction in the place where the defendant resides:

Provided further that where any such defendant is a public officer in Bangladesh or Pakistan (not belonging to the Bangladesh or, as the case may be, Pakistan military, naval or air forces) or is a servant of a railway company or local authority in that country, the summons, together with a copy thereof, may be sent for service on the defendant, to such officer or authority in that country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.


Rule 26: Service in foreign territory through Political Agent or Court.—

Where—

(a) in the exercise of any foreign jurisdiction vested in the Central Government, a Political Agent has been appointed, or a Court has been established or continued, with power to serve a summons, issued by a Court under this Code, in any foreign territory in which the defendant actually and voluntarily resides, carries on business or personally works for gain, or

(b) the Central Government has, by notification in the Official Gazette, declared, in respect of any Court situate in any such territory and not established or continued in the exercise of any such jurisdiction as aforesaid, that service by such Court of any summons issued by a Court under this Code shall be deemed to be valid service, the summons may be sent to such Political Agent or Court, by post, or otherwise, or if so directed by the Central Government, through the Ministry of that Government dealing with foreign affairs, or in such other manner as may be specified by the Central Government for the purpose of being served upon the defendant; and, if the Political Agent or Court returns the summons with an endorsement purporting to have been made by such Political Agent or by the Judge or other officer of the Court to the effect that the summons has been served on the defendant in the manner hereinbefore directed, such endorsement shall be deemed to be evidence of service.


Rule 26-A: Summonses to be sent to officers of foreign countries.—

Where the Central Government has, by notification in the Official Gazette, declared in respect of any foreign territory that summonses to be served on defendants actually and voluntarily residing or carrying on business or personally working for gain in that foreign territory may be sent to an officer of the Government of the foreign territory specified by the Central Government, the summonses may be sent to such officer, through the Ministry of the Government of India dealing with foreign affairs or in such other manner as may be specified by the Central Government; and if such officer returns any such summons with an endorsement purporting to have been made by him that the summons has been served on the defendant, such endorsement shall be deemed to be evidence of service.


Rule 27: Service on civil public officer or on servant of railway company or local authority.—

Where the defendant is a public officer (not belonging to the Indian military, naval or air forces), or is the servant of a railway company or local authority, the Court may, if it appears to it that the summons may be most conveniently so served, send it for service on the defendant to the head of the office in which he is employed together with a copy to be retained by the defendant.


Rule 28: Service on soldiers, sailors or airmen.—

Where the defendant is a solider, sailor or airman, the Court shall send the summons for service to his commanding officer together with a copy to be retained by the defendant.


Rule 29: Duty of person to whom summons is delivered or sent for service.—

(1) Where a summons is delivered or sent to any person for service under Rule 24, Rule 27 or Rule 28, such person shall be bound to serve it if possible, and to return it under his signature, with the written acknowledgement of the defendant, and such signature shall be deemed to be evidence of service.

(2) Where from any cause service is impossible, the summons shall be returned to the Court with a full statement of such cause and of the steps taken to procure service, and such statement shall be deemed to be evidence of non-service.


Rule 30: Substitution of letter for summons.—

(1) The Court may, notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, substitute for a summons a letter signed by the Judge or such officer as he may appoint in this behalf, where the defendant is, in the opinion of the Court, of a rank entitling him to such mark of consideration.

(2) A letter substituted under sub-rule (1) shall contain all the particulars required to be stated in a summons, and, subject to the provisions of sub-rule (3), shall be treated in all respects as a summons.

(3) A letter so substituted may be sent to the defendant by post or by a special messenger selected by the Court, or in any other manner which the Court thinks fit; and, where the defendant has an agent empowered to accept service, the letter may be delivered or sent to such agent.


IMPORTANT CASE LAWS

1. Difference between non-service of notice and notice served but with procedural irregularities

Prabin Ram Phukan v. State of Assam, (2015) 3 SCC 605 : “In our considered opinion, there lies a distinction between non-service of notice and a notice though served but with some kind of procedural irregularities in serving. In the case of former category of cases, all consequential action, if taken would be rendered bad in law once the fact of non-service is proved whereas in the case of latter category of cases, the consequential action, if taken would be sustained. It is for the reason that in the case of former, since the notice was not served on the person concerned he was completely unaware of the proceedings which were held behind his back thereby rendering the action “illegal” whereas in the case of latter, he was otherwise aware of the proceedings having received the notice though with procedural irregularity committed in making service of such notice on him. If a person has a knowledge of the action proposed in the notice, then the action taken thereon cannot be held as being bad in law by finding fault in the manner of effecting service unless he is able to show substantial prejudice caused to him due to procedural lapse in making service on him. It, however, depends upon individual case to case to find out the nature of procedural lapse complained of and the resultant prejudice caused….”


2. Acceptance of report of the service of the summons

Deepali v. Pratap, (2015) 4 AIR Bom R 132:

“12………Perusal of Rules 17 and 19 of Order V of the Code of Civil Procedure show that in order to accept the service as valid service, particularly, when the report is to the effect that the respondent refused to accept the summons then, it become duty of the Court to examine the Process Serving Officer/Bailiff if his report is not on affidavit. Even if the Process Serving Officer gives his report on affidavit, discretion is with the Court to examine the Process Serving Officer in order to ascertain, whether his report of is correct or not in order to hold the service valid. After complying with these mandatory requirements, the Court is required to declare, whether the summons is duly served or not.

13. Harmonious construction of Rules 17 and 19 of Order V of the Code of Civil Procedure goes to show that acceptance of report of the service of the summons is a serious and solemn act and not merely an empty formality. Object to serve summons on the respondent is to enable him to know about institution of the proceedings against him and enable him to resist the said proceeding filed against him. Law of procedure is framed in such a manner that principle of natural justice is scrupulously followed. The basic requirement of this rule is that the decision should not be reached behind back of the affected party and such party should not be precluded from participating in the proceeding. Therefore, it becomes the prime duty of the Court concerned to see that all procedural requirements are duly adhered to prior to proceeding ex-parte against the concerned party to the litigation.”


3. Substituted Service in newspaper which is not subscribed

Sunil Poddar v. Union Bank of India, (2008) 2 SCC 326 : “……it is immaterial whether the appellants were subscribers of the said newspaper and whether they were reading it. Once a summons is published in a newspaper having wide circulation in the locality, it does not lie in the mouth of the person sought to be served that he was not aware of such publication as he was not reading the said newspaper.”


4, Service of Summon and Section 114 of Evidence Act

N.R. Krishnamoorthy v. N.R. Thulasiram & Ors., 2000 SCC OnLine Mad 624 : (2001) 2 LW 98:

Mere saying that the summons was served would not lead to the presumption of regularity of summons under S. 114 Evidence Act. In Raghunath v. Radhakanto (AIR 1961 Orissa 73) the Orissa High Court has held that

“But the fact of non service of summons and the absence of any proof of the alleged service of summons coupled with the fact that there was sufficient proof of alleged motive on the part of the landlord for obtaining an ex parte decree by fraudulent suppression of summons held was sufficient ground for setting aside the ex parte decree.”

In G.S. Mudaliar v. I.F. Corporation (AIR 1977 Madras 358) this court has held that

“Under the Code, affixture cannot be resorted to before exhausting all attempts at direct service on the persons named in the notice or summons. Where it was found that the judgment-debtors were not in their respective residences at the time the process-server called but the process-server did not make any attempt to serve the notices on any adult male members of the family in their residences and he straightway proceeded to affix the notices, stating that the judgment-debtors were out of town and that no case was made out for serving the judgment-debtors by affixture. Consequenly the order of the executing court declaring the judgment-debtors ex parte was without jurisdiction.”

The Delhi High Court has held in Punjab Oil Expellers Co. v. Madan Lal Nanda & Sons (AIR 1967 Delhi 28) that

“To ensure that every effort is made to effect personal service, court has a duty to pay attention to matters connected with issue and service of process.”


CONNECTED SECTIONS

1. Section 28

2. Section 29


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