In India, a civil case involves a legal dispute between two or more parties seeking monetary compensation or other remedies for harm caused by another party. The Indian legal system provides a comprehensive framework for resolving civil disputes through a well-defined series of stages.
If you are involved in a civil case, it is important to understand the basic stages in the process so that you can prepare yourself and your case accordingly.
HOW DOES A CIVIL CASE PROCEEDS?
Generally, a civil case proceeds through the following stages:
- Filing of Plaint
Section 26 and Order IV of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as ‘CPC’) talks about the institution of suit. It lays down that every suit shall be instituted by the presentation of plaint, which shall be in duplicate, to the Court or an officer which the Court has appointed on its behalf.
So, the first stage in a civil case is the filing of a plaint by the plaintiff. The plaint is filed by the plaintiff under Order VII of the CPC. The plaint outlines the basis for the lawsuit and generally includes the following particulars:
- The name of the Court in which the suit is instituted
- The particular Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case
- The name, description and place of residence of both plaintiff and defendant
- Statement of facts
- The fact constituting the cause of action and when it arose
- The relief sought by the plaintiff
- Consideration of Plaint
Once the plaintiff files the plaint, the Court examines whether to admit, reject, or return it. Rule 11 of Order VII of the CPC outlines the different reasons for which a plaint may be rejected. Omission to disclose the cause of action, the relief claimed is undervalued and failure to file the plaint in duplicate are some of the grounds on which the Court can reject a plaint.
- Issuance of summons
The next step in a legal proceeding usually involves serving a summons to the defendant in accordance with Section 27 and Order V Rule 1 of the CPC. A summons is a legal instrument that informs the defendant about the legal action being brought against them and obligates their appearance in court. The summons must be issued within 30 days from the institution of the suit.
- Appearance of Parties
The appearance of parties is covered under Order IX of the CPC. Once the summons has been issued, the parties are required to appear in court on the specified date, either in person or through a representative. If the defendant is present, they must submit a written statement in defense. However, if the defendant fails to appear, the lawsuit may proceed ex-parte.
- Written Statement
Order VIII Rule 1 of the CPC specifies that the written statement should be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the summons to the defendant. The written statement may be an admission, denial, or explanation of the defendant’s position on the matter. In some cases, the defendant may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff, alleging that the plaintiff is also at fault or has caused damages.
- Replication by plaintiff
The next step for plaintiff, once the Written Statement is filed by the defendant, is to file a replication. The replication is a legal document that responds to the defendant’s written statement and sets out the plaintiff’s position on the issues raised by the defendant. The purpose of the replication is to clarify and respond to any new issues or arguments raised by the defendant in their answer or counterclaim.
- Production of documents
The next stage in the lawsuit involves the submission of documents by both the plaintiff and the defendant to support their case. However, in certain exceptional circumstances, a document required by either party may be in the possession of a third party. In such cases, the party seeking the document must apply to the court for the issuance of a summons to the third party, compelling them to produce the document.
- Examination of parties by court
The examination of parties by the court is covered under Order X of the CPC. At the first hearing of the suit, the court questions each party or their legal representative to determine whether they accept or refute the factual allegations put forth in the plaint and written statement. The admissions and denials are then recorded by the Court.
- Discovery and Inspection of Documents
Order XI of the CPC pertains to the discovery and inspection of documents. This provision empowers a party to request from the other party the production of any documents that are relevant to the lawsuit. During discovery, both parties will exchange information and evidence related to the case.
- Framing of Issues
Order XIV of the CPC pertains to the framing of issues. After the parties have filed their pleadings, the court must identify and define the specific points of dispute, known as issues, that require resolution. The issues are framed based on the material facts that are presented in the pleadings. The court may amend or strike out any issues before passing a decree.
- Summoning and Attendance of witness
Order XVI of the CPC deals with the process of summoning and ensuring the attendance of witnesses in court. According to this order, witnesses must appear in court on a date specified by the court, which should not be later than fifteen days after the issues have been settled. Additionally, both parties are required to provide a list of their respective witnesses, as well as any documents that will be presented as evidence.
- Hearing of the suit and Examination of witnesses
Order XVIII of the CPC pertains to the hearing of the suit and the examination of witnesses. In the beginning, the plaintiff is given the opportunity to present their case, unless the defendant argues that the plaintiff is not entitled to any relief due to a point of law or additional facts related to the case that the defendant raises. In this situation, the defendant has the right to start the trial. The party having right to begin will present his witnesses to the court. Then, the witnesses will be examined by the advocates on either side.
- Arguments by both parties
The stage of argument in the CPC refers to the final phase of a trial where both parties provide a summary of their respective cases and present their arguments before the judge. During this stage, the parties are expected to present a concise summary of their case, highlighting key evidence and arguments.
According to Section 2(9) of CPC judgment means the statement given by the judge on the grounds of a decree or order. After the arguments have been presented by both parties, the judge will carefully consider the evidence and the law, and then make a judgment under Order XX of the CPC. The judgment shall be produced within 1 month of the completion of arguments.
- Preparation of decree
According to Section 2(2) of the CPC, decree means a formal expression of adjudication by which the court determines the rights of parties regarding the matter in controversy or dispute. Under Order XX, Rule 6A of the CPC, the court shall pass a decree within 15 days of passing the judgment. The decree will contain all the relevant particulars of the case, including the relief granted by the court to either of the parties.
- Appeal, Review and Revision
If the party to a suit is not satisfied with the judgment, then the party has the right to challenge it by way of appeal, review or revision. An appeal is a formal request made by a party to a higher court to review the decision made by the lower court. A review is a process by which a party can request the same court that passed the judgment to review its own decision. A review can only be filed on certain grounds, such as discovery of new and important matter or error apparent on the face of the record. A revision is a process by which the High Court or the Court of Session can call for and examine the record of any proceeding before a lower court for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality of any order passed.
It’s important to note that a party can file an appeal or revision within 60 to 90 days of passing the judgment. While, the review can be filed within 30 days of passing the judgment.
- Execution of decree
The last stage in any civil suit is the execution of decree which is governed under Order XXI of CPC. It refers to the process of enforcing the decree passed by the court. The person in whose favor decree has been passed is known as ‘decree-holder’ while the person against whom decree has been passed is known as ‘judgment debtor’. Once the decree has been fully executed, the court will then issue a certificate of satisfaction to the decree holder, which confirms that the decree has been fully executed.
The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 lays down the procedure for the stages through which a civil case proceeds in India. This article provides a basic outline of the process involved in a civil suit and serves as a comprehensive step-by-step guide to enhance one’s understanding of the same.
Author: Ishita Thapliyal