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GUARDIAN – NEXT FRIEND : Distinction (Short notes)

June 21, 2021

 In relation to a child, includes any person who, in the opinion of the competent authority having cognizance of any proceeding in relation to a child, has, for the time being, the actual charge of or control over, that child, [Section 2(k), Children Act, 1960 .

Guardian means a person having the care of the person of a minor or his property or of both his person and property, Section 4(2), Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 .  Guardian means a person having the care of the person of a minor or of his property or of both his person and property and includes

(i) a natural guardian,

(iii) a guardian appointed or declared by court and

(iv) a person empowered to act as such by or under any enactment relating to any court of wards, Section 4(b), Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956

 In relation to a child, means his natural guardian or any other person having, in the opinion of the Committee or, as the case may be, the Board, the actual charge of the child, and recognized by the Committee or, as the case may be, the Board as a guardian in the course of proceedings, [Section 2(31), Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015.  ‘Guardian’ means “a person having the care of the person of a minor or of his property or of both his person and property” and inter alia includes a natural guardian, Gaurav Nagpal v. Sumedha Nagpal(2009) 1 SCC 42.

Next Friend:-

At law, an infant having a guardian might sue by his guardian, as such or by his next friend, though he must always have defended by his guardian. In equity he sued by next friend and not by guardian and defended by guardian ad litem

“Next friend” acts for the benefit of the “minor” or other person who is unable to look after  his or her own interests or manage his or her   own   law   suit   (person   not  sui   juris) without   being   a   regularly appointed guardian as per Hindu Guardianship Act. He acts as an officer of the Court, especially appearing to look after the interests of a minor or a disabled person whom he represents in a particular matter. The afore­said provision authorises filing of the suit on behalf of the minor by a next friend. If a suit by minor is instituted without the next   friend,   the   plaint   would   be   taken   off   the   file   as   per   Rule   2   of Order   XXXII   of   the   Code.     Order   XXXII   Rules   1  and   3  of   the   Code together make a distinction between a next friend and a guardian ad litem; i.e., (a) where the suit is filed on behalf of a minor and (b) where the suit is filed against a minor.  In case, where the suit is filed on behalf of the minor, no permission or leave of the Court is necessary for   the   next   friend   to   institute   the   suit,   whereas   if   the   suit   is   filed against a minor, it is obligatory for the plaintiff to get the appropriate guardian ad litem appointed by the Court for such minor. A “guardian ad   litem”  is   a   special   guardian   appointed   by   a   court   in   which   a particular litigation is pending to represent a minor/infant, etc. in that particular litigation and the status of guardian ad litem exists in that specific litigation in which appointment occurs. See. Nagaiah v. Chowdamma, (2018) 2 SCC 504.

The Madras High Court in  Kaliammal, minor by Guardian, Patta Goundan v. Ramaswamy Goundan, AIR 1949   Mad.   859  observed   that   there   is   no   need   of   sanction   of   the Court for a next friend to sue, if he is not incapacitated.  This was also the  view taken by the High Court of Allahabad in K. Kumar v. Onkar Nath, AIR 1972 All. 81. The   Kerala   High   Court   upheld   the   same   in   no   uncertain terms in Gopalaswamy Gounder v. Ramaswamy Kounder, AIR 2006 Ker 138. In that case, the High Court observed that any person who does not have any interest adverse to that of the minor can figure as his next friend. It held as follows:

“Law   does   not   contemplate   the   appointment   of   a next   friend   for   a   minor   who   institutes   a   legal proceeding   either   as   a   Plaintiff   or   as   a   Petitioner. The object of a minor being represented through a next friend is only for the purpose of enabling the opposite party to look upon the next friend for costs, if any, ordered against the minor…” Where   the   minor   institutes   a   proceeding   as   a Plaintiff or applicant any person who does not have any interest adverse to that of the minor can figure as  his  next friend. The mere fact that the minor’s mother Selvi was appointed as the guardian of the minor   in   execution   proceedings   where   the   minor was   impleaded   as   an   additional   Respondent,   will not   disable   Gopalaswamy   Kounder   from   styling himself   as   the   next   friend   of   the   minor   for   the purpose of filing the petitions under Order 21, Rule 90 Code of Civil Procedure There was absolutely no necessity   for   the   next   friend   to   seek   his appointment  as   the next  friend nor  was the  court below   justified   in   dismissing   the   said   application. Even in a case where the proceedings are instituted by   the   minor   through   his   next   friend,   the   real Plaintiff  or applicant is the minor himself and not the next friend.”

Not   only,   is   there   no   provision   for   appointment   of next friend by   the   Court,   but   the   permission   of   the   Court   is   also   not necessary. However, even in respect of minor defendants, various High Courts are consistent in taking the view that the decree cannot be set aside even where certain formalities for the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the defendant have not been observed.  The High Courts   have   observed   in   the   case   of   minor   defendants,   where   the permission of the Court concerned under Order XXXII Rule 3 of the Code is not taken, but the decree has been passed, in the absence of prejudice   to   the   minor   defendant,   such   decree  cannot  be  set  aside. The   main   test   is   that   there   has   to   be   a   prejudice   to   the   minor defendant for setting aside the decree. For reference, see the cases of Brij   Kishore   Lal   v.   Satnarain   Lal   &   Ors.,   AIR   1954   All.   599, Anandram   &   Anr.   v.   Madholal   &   Ors.   AIR   1960   Raj.   189 Rangammal   v.   Minor   Appasami   &   Ors.   AIR   1973   Mad.12, Chater Bhuj Goel v. Gurpreet Singh AIR 1983 Punjab 406 & Shri Mohd.  Yusuf  and  Ors.  v.  Shri Rafiquddin Siddiqui.  ILR  1974 (1) Delhi 825. 

“Guardian” as defined under the Hindu Guardianship Act is a different concept from the concept of “next friend” or the “Guardian ad litem”.     Representation   by   “next   friend”   of   minor   plaintiff   or   by “guardian  ad litem” of minor defendant is purely temporary, that too for the purposes of that particular law suit. But   such guardian   should   not   have   adverse   interest   against   minor.     If   the natural guardian or the duly constituted guardian has adverse interest against the minor in the law suit, then a next friend or guardian  ad litem,   as   the   case   may   be,   would   represent   the   minor   in   the   civil litigation.

It is by now well settled and as per the provisions of Order XXXII   of   Code   that   any   person   who   is   of   sound   mind,   who   has attained majority, who can represent and protect the interest of the minor, who is a resident of India and whose interest is not adverse to that of the minor, may represent the minor as his next friend. Such person who is representing the minor plaintiff as a next friend shall not be party to the same suit as defendant. Rules 6 and 7 of Order XXXII of the Code specifically provide that the next friend or guardian in the suit shall not without the leave of the Court receive any money or immovable property and shall not without the leave of the Court enter into any agreement or compromise.  The rights and restrictions of the natural guardian provided under the Hindu Guardianship Act do not conflict with the procedure for filing a suit by a next friend on behalf of the minor.   Not only is there no express prohibition, but a reading of Order XXXII of the Code would go to show that wherever the legislature thought it proper to restrict the right of the next friend, it has expressly provided for it in Rules 6 and 7 of Order XXXII of the Code.  Rule 9 of Order XXXII – apart from other factors, clarifies that where a next friend  is not a guardian appointed or declared by the authority competent in this behalf and an application is made by the guardian so appointed or declared who desires to be himself appointed in the place of the next friend, the Court shall remove the next friend unless   it   considers,   for   reasons   to   be   recorded,   that   the   guardian ought   not   to   be   appointed   as   the   next   friend   of   the   minor.     Order XXXII, Rules 12, 13 and 14 of the Code empower the minor plaintiff to take a decision either to proceed with the suit or to abandon the suit, after attaining majority.  Thus, after attaining majority,  if the plaintiff elects   to   proceed   with   the   suit,   he   may   do   so   by   making   an application,   consequent   upon   which   the   next   friend   ceases to represent  the minor plaintiff from the date of attaining majority by the minor.  Order XXXII Rule 12 of the Code requires the minor plaintiff to have the option either to proceed with the suit or to abandon the suit and  does not  at all  provide that if no such election is made by the minor  plaintiff  on attaining majority, the suit is to be dismissed on that ground. In case, if the Court discovers during the pendency of the suit that the minor plaintiff has attained majority, such plaintiff needs to be called upon by the Court to elect whether he intends to proceed with the suit or not. In other words the minor who attained majority during the pendency of the matter must be informed of the pendency of the suit and in the absence of such a notice the minor cannot be imputed with the  knowledge of the pendency of the suit.

The principles arising out of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Hindu Guardianship Act may not be apposite to the next friend appointed under Order XXXII of the Code. The appointment of a guardian  ad   litem to represent the   defendant   or   a   next   friend   to represent the plaintiff in a suit is limited only for the suit and after the discharge   of   that   guardian  ad   litem/next   friend,   the   right/   duty   of guardian as defined under sub­section (b) of Section 4 of the Hindu Guardianship   Act   (if   he   has   no   adverse   interest)   automatically continues as guardian. In other words, a next friend representing the minor in the suit under Order XXXII, Rule 1 of the Code, will not take away   the   right   of   the   duly   appointed   guardian   under   the   Hindu Guardianship Act as long as such guardian does not have an adverse interest or such duly appointed guardian is not removed as per that Act.  See. Nagaiah v. Chowdamma, (2018) 2 SCC 504.

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