Any court case that involves disputes between individuals over money or any other injury to personal rights are known as civil cases. For a Civil Suit, there are two criterions- the cause of action and the claim for damages/compensation. The Civil Suit must also fulfil all the conditions laid down in Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
In India, a civil case in initiated when an individual (also known as the plaintiff) claims to have suffered due to the action of another individual (also known as the defendant) thereafter filing a complaint. Majority of the suits follow the principles laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Presentation of the Plaint (Order 7 of CPC 1908)
Presentation of the plaint in a court is the initial step of the pleadings in a case. Every suit commences when the plaintiff files a plaint to the court. The entire judicial system under the civil law is set in motion by filing the plaint. The Plaint should consist of the following contents:
Name of the court where the suit is being brought
Name and place of residence of the plaintiff
Name and place of residence of the defendant
Whether the plaintiff or the defendant is a minor or of unsound mind
Facts constituting the cause of action and the time it arose
Facts showing the court has jurisdiction
The damages in case of money suits
Proof of the defendant’s liability
List of the documents submitted with the plaint
Issue and Service of Summons on defendant (Order 5)
The second stage is the issue and service of summons on the defendant. Once the suit is registered, summons is sent by the court to call the person on a specific date whose name is written in the plaint. Through this, the defendant is notified that a civil proceeding has commenced against him and he is required to present his defence in the court. The summons is signed by the judge and sealed with the seal of court. The court may also require the plaintiff to be present during the appearance of the defendant as well. The court might require the party to appear in person if:
Appearance of the parties
After the summons is served to the defendant, the next stage is commenced with the appearance of the parties before the court on a specific date mentioned. The defendant is required to appear in front of the court, either personally or by a representative. If the defendant fails to appear on the specified date, the court may proceed ex parte. If the plaintiff is absent on the date, then the court may dismiss the suit. Where both the parties are not present, the court dismisses the suit. If the summons was for the final disposition, then the defendant is required to present evidences or documents in order to support his case.
Ex-party Decree (Order 9)
Whenever a defendant fails to appear in front of the court on the specified date, the court may proceed ex-parte. A decree against the defendant in his absence can be passed under the following circumstances:
Where any party from whom a written statement is required fails to present it within the mentioned time by the court.
Where the defendant has not filed a pleading, the court delivers the judgement based on the facts that are mentioned in the plaint. (Exception: person with any disability)
Where the plaintiff is present and the defendant is not. The court might pass an order that the suit will be heard ex-parte.
Filing of the written statement by the defendant
The defendant is required to file a written statement of his defence within thirty to ninety days, as allowed by the court. A written statement is a reply statement of the defendant denying all the allegations that are made against him by the plaintiff in the plaint. The defendant can also make counter claims in the written statement. In case the defendant fails to file a written statement, the court may take decisions according to the plaint. The provision of written statement is mentioned in Order 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure,1908. The following should be the contents of the Written Statement:
In the case where the defendant is relying on any document as his defence or counter-claims, then the same documents should be mentioned in the list which is attached along with the written statement.
The written statement should point out all the allegations that the defendant is denying.
It is important to note that if any document, that the defendant is relying upon, is not mentioned in the written statement, the same will not be accepted as an evidence.
Production of documents by the parties
After the written statement is filed by the defendant, the next stage of the suit is the production of documents. Both the plaintiff and defendant are required to file the documents that are in their possession. However, if the document that the party is relying upon, is not in their possession then they can apply to the court for the issue of summons to the person in whose possession the document is.
Examination of parties
This is an important stage after appearance. During the first hearing of the suit the court will ask each party whether they agree to or denies the allegations that are made in the plaint and the written statement. The questions can be asked orally by the judge. Such agreements or denials are recorded by the judge in writing. The provisions of this stage are mentioned in Order 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Framing of issues by the court
The stage following the examination of parties is the framing of issues. This step is exclusively dealt by the judge. Issues arise when a party denies the allegations of the other party. Each allegation becomes an issue and judgment is delivered individually on the issues. If the defendant does not make any defence during the first hearing, then no issues are formed and judgment is delivered. Order 14 of CPC mentions the provisions regarding the framing of issues.
Summoning and Attendance of the witnesses
After the issues are framed, the parties shall present the list of witnesses, to the court, whom they propose to call either to provide evidence or to produce documents. This list should be presented on the date appointed by the court and not later than fifteen days. The provisions of the same is mentioned in Order 16 of the CPC.
Hearing of Suits and Examination of Witnesses
On the date fixed for hearing of the suit, the party having the right to begin should start with stating his case and producing the evidences to support the issue that he is bound to prove. The other party will then continue by stating his cases and produce evidences. The plaintiff is required to submit the evidence that were mentioned earlier. The advocate on the defendant’s side will then cross-examine the plaintiff and any witness that the plaintiff presents. The same will be the process un the case of the defendant I which the advocate on the plaintiff’s side will cross-examine him and any witness presented by him.
After examination of the witness is complete, the suit is kept for argument. In this stage, both the parties present a summary of the case and evidence in support of the issues in front of the judge in the final session.
Judgement is the statement that is passed by the judge on the ground of which a decree is passed. After hearing both sides of the case, the court shall announce the judgement either immediately or within one month of the completion of the arguments.
Preparation of Decree
After the judgement is delivered, the next step is the preparation of the decree by the concerned clerk. The decree shall agree with the judgement and should contain the number of the suit, names and descriptions of the parties, their addresses, the claims and the reliefs that have been granted. Order 20 Rule 6,6A talks about the provisions for the preparation of Decree.
Execution of Decree
Through execution, a decree-holder compels the judgment-debtor to carry out the mandate of the decree or order as the case may be. An execution is considered to be complete when the creditor gets the money or other claims awarded to him by judgement, decree or order.
Unlike the criminal cases which aims at serving punishments, a civil suit pursues compensation. It should also be kept in mind that prior to the final arguments, the parties have a chance to make changes to their pleading. In such cases, prior permission of the court is necessary. However, if the above-mentioned procedure is not followed then the registry has the right to dismiss the suit.