Disposal of Civil Cases: Perestroika
According to recent reports over three million cases are pending in India's 21 high courts, and an astounding 26.3 million cases are pending in subordinate courts across the country. In subordinate courts, Uttar Pradesh again topped the number of pending cases (4.6 million), followed by Maharashtra (4.1 million), Gujarat (3.9 million), West Bengal (1.9 million), Bihar (1.2 million), Karnataka (1.06 million), Rajasthan (1.05 million), Orissa (1 million), Andhra Pradesh (900,000) . How long can a civil case be pending in court ? The answer appears to, in the mind of a common citizen, be that once a case is filed in court it may remain pending for as long as the case is being actively prosecuted by the parties without regard to any statute of limitations. Statutes of limitation require only that lawsuits be filed within a certain period of time after the occurrence of the incident that gave rise to the cause of action. Once the case is filed, however, it may remain pending until properly disposed of. However, If a case is particularly complex and if the particular court system is crowded with other cases, a lawsuit maybe pending in court years after the termination of the limitations period.
What Steps Are To Be Taken To Reduce Pendency of Civil Cases?
In my considered view, strict application of the following provisions may help to reduce pendency of civil cases and can dispose of those cases speedily.
Order VIII, Rule 1: Filing Written Statement.
The defendant shall present his written statement within thirty days from the date of service of summons on him. However, in view of the proviso, he shall be allowed not later than 90 by the Court after recording reasons.
Order VIII, Rule 10: Procedure when party fails to present written statement called for by Court.
'' Where any party from whom a written statement is required under rule 1 or rule 9 fails to present the same within the time permitted or fixed by the Court, as the case may be, the Court shall pronounce judgment against him, or make such order relating to the suit as it thinks fit and on the pronouncement of such judgment a decree shall be drawn up."
In view of this provision, in case of a party fails to file written statement within time permitted or fixed by the Court, the Court can pronounce Judgment against him.
Order VII, Rule 14(2): Where any such documents is not in possession or power of the plaintiff, he shall, wherever possible, state in whose possession or power it is.
To know more as to production of documents, It is suggested to go through the landmark ruling i.e '' Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu vs Union of India'', AIR 2005 SC 3363= 2005(5) Supreme 236=(2005) 6 SCC 344
Order VII, Rule 18: This Provision was omitted by C.P.C (Amendment )Act,22 of 2002 (w.e.f. 01-07-2002). Order VIII, Rules 8 A,9,10 :These Provisions were omitted by C.P.C (Amendment )Act,22 of 2002 (w.e.f. 01-07-2002).
Order XV, Rule 1: Court is competent to pronounce judgment at once:- Under this provision, ''Where at the first hearing of a suit it appears that the partied are not at issue on any question of law or fact, the court may at once pronounce judgment.'' In Desi Kedari vs Huzurabad Co-Operative Markting Society Ltd, 1994 (2) ALT 539 (DB), it was held that Court is competent to pronounce judgment at once under Order 15 Rule 1 at the first hearing of the suit when there is no issue to be framed on any question of law or fact. Procedure under Order 20 need not be followed in such a case.
Order XVI, Rule 1: Under this provision, not later than fifteen (15) days after the issues are settled, the parties shall present in Court a list of witnesses whom they propose to call either to give evidence or to produce documents and obtain summonses to such person for their attendance in Court.
The Objects And Reasons:
The objects and reasons of sub section (i) of Rule 1 of Order XVI is that at any time after the suit is instituted, the parties may obtain, on application to the Court, or to such other officer as may be appointed by the Court, summons to persons whose attendance is required after to give evidence or to produce documents. There is some doubt as to whether, in view of the use of the words '' may obtain'', the Court under an obligation to issue the summons irrespective of any other considerations. The rule is being substituted to provide that the application for the issue of summons should indicate the purpose foe which the summons is being obtained. The substituted rule is also lays down the procedure for the filing of a list of witnesses by the parties and provides that a person not mentioned in the list shall not be produced as a witness without the permission of the Court.
Order XVI, Rule 1A:
A subject to the provisions of sub-rule (3) of rule 1, and party to the suit may, without applying for summons under rule 1, bring any witness to give evidence or to produce documents. To under standing the scope of this rule, it is essential to go through the Hon'ble Supreme Court decision reported in AIR 1983 SC 925.
Order XIII, Rules 1 and 2: The original Rules 1 and 2 subs by Act 46 of 1999 (w.e.f. 01-07-2002). the substituted Rules 1 and 2 read as:
(1) The parties or their pleader shall produce, on or before the settlement of issues, all the documentary evidence of in original where the copies thereof have been filed along with plaint or written statement.
(2) The Court shall receive the documents so produced
Provided that they are accompanied by an accurate list thereof prepared in such form as the High Court directs.
(3) Nothing in sub-rule (1) shall apply to documents,-
(a) produced for the cross-examination of the witnesses of the other party, or
(b) handed over to a witness merely to refresh his memory.
Order X, Rule 2: it provides oral examination of the parties to the suit with a view to elucidate the matters in controversy in th suit. Court is also empowered under Or XIV, Rule 4 to summon and examine a person not before the Court or to summon a document not filed n the suit, if the examination of witness or inspection of document is essential for correctly framing the issues.
Objects And Reasons:
Rule 2 of Or X provides for the oreal examination of any party appearing in person or present in Court or any other person able to answer any material quetions. Rule 2 is being substituted to make it obligatory on the part of the Court to examine the party appearing in person or present in Court for elucidating the matters in Controversy.
Order X, Rule 1: Ascertainment whether allegations in pleadings are admitted or denied-
At the first hearing of the suit the Court shall ascertain from each party or his pleader whether he admits or denies such allegations of fact as are made in the plaint or written statement (if any) of the opposite party, and as are not expressly or by necessary implication admitted or denied by the party against whom they are made. The Court shall record such admissions and denials.
In view of this provision, if there is specific denial of allegation in plaint, court can proceed under this provision and pronounce judgment under Or 15 ,Rule 1 of C.P.C even without framing any issue. In Desi Kedari vs Huzurabad Co-Operative Markting Society Ltd, 1994 (2) ALT 539 (DB), it was held that '' where there is no denial of allegations in plaint, Court can proceed under Order 10, Rule 1 on the admission of facts without framing any issue and pronounce judgment at once under Order 15, Rule 1.
Order XI, Rule14: It shall be lawful for the Court, at any time during the pendency of any suit, to order the production by any party thereto, upon oath of such of the documents in his possession or power, relating to any matter in question in such suit, as the Court shall think right; and the Court may deal with such documents, when produced, in such manner as shall appear just.
This provisions specifically empowers the Court at any time during the pendencey of the suit to order the production by any party thereto, upon oath of such of the documents in his possession or power, relating to any matter in question in such suit. To know more, about this provision, it is suggested to go through the following rulings: 1). The vysya Bank Ltd. Vs B.Settharamaih, 1993 ALT Supp. (1) 333; 2). Rajesh Batia vs G.Parimala, 2006(3) ALT 129.
ORDER XI, Rule 21;
(1) Where any party fails to comply with any order to answer interrogatories, or for discovery or inspection of documents, he shall, if a plaintiff, be liable to have his suit dismissed for want of prosecution, and, if a defendant, to have his defence, if any struck out, and to be placed in the same position as if he had not defended, and the party interrogating or seeking discovery or inspection may apply to the Court for an order to that effect and 2[an order may be made on such application accordingly, after notice to the parties and after giving them a reasonable opportunity of being heard.
(2) Where an order is made under sub-rule (1) dismissing any suit, the plaintiff shall be precluded from bringing a fresh suit on the same cause of action.
Order XII, Rules 1 and 2: As to Admission
Under Order XII, a notice to admit facts shall be issued in Form 10, Appendix-C; and the notice to admit documents shall be issued in Form-9 of Appendix-C with such variations as the circumstances may require.
The Objects And Reasons:
The committed note that as there is no time-limit laid down for filing documents in Rule2 of Order XII, it causes unnecessary delay in the disposal of suits. The committee feel that in order expedite disposal of suits, a time-limit of fifteen days for filing of documents might be fixed. Sub-clause (i) in the clause proposing amendment to Rule 2 of Order XII has been inserted accordingly.
Section 30 (c) and Order XIX:
ORDER XXXIX, Rules 3, 3A:
Settlement of disputes outside the Court.
(1) Where it appears to the court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving the observation of the parties, the court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for-
(c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat; or
ORDER XXXII-A, Rule 3: Duty of Court to make efforts for settlement
(1) In every suit or proceeding to which this Order applies, an endeavour shall be made by the Court in the first instance, where it is possible to do so consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case, to assist the parties in arriving at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of the suit.
(2) If, in any such suit or proceeding, at any stage it appears to the Court that there is a reasonable possibility of a settlement between the parties, the Court may adjourn the proceeding for such period as it thinks fit to enable attempts to be made to effect such a settlement.
(3) The power conferred by sub-rule (2) shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any other power of the Court to adjourn the proceedings.
ORDER V,Rule 3: Court may order defendant or plaintiff to appear in person
(1) Where Court sees reason to require the personal appearance of the defendant, the summons shall order him to appear in person in Court on the day therein specific
(2) Where the Court sees reason to require the personal appearance of the plaintiff on the same day, it shall make an order for such appearance.
ORDER XVII, Rule 1(1): Court may grant time and adjourn hearing
(1) The Court may, if sufficient cause is shown, at any stage of the suit grant time to the parties or to any of them, and may from time to time adjourn the hearing of the suit for reasons to be recorded in writing:
Provided that no such adjournment shall be granted more than three times to a party during hearing of the suit.
Go through the rulings '' Salem Advocate Bar Association, Tamil Nadu, AIR 2005 SC 3363; V.N.Shivaram vs B.M.Nagappa, AIR 2003 Karn 18; Niranjan Sarkar vs Swapna Dam, 1998(1) CCC 140 (Gau)= 1998(3) ALT 6.3(DN OHC).
Keeping in view the above provisions in mind, with strict application of the principles underlined in those provisions, we can undoubtedly reduce the pendency of civil cases. The desideratum should be to keep the level of disposals at least 25-30% above the cases instituted and it is for achieving this target, the judicial fraternity should march forward.
# Statement of Objects and Reasons (Bill) – Gazette of India, Ext., dt 8-4-1974, Pt.II,S.2,.p.317
# Oral examination of party, or companion of party
(1) At the first hearing of the suit, the Court-
(a) shall, with a view to elucidating matters in controversy in the suit examine orally such of the parties to the suit appearing in person or present in Court, as it deems fit; and
(b) may orally examine any person, able to answer any material question relating to the suit, by whom any party appearing in person or present in Court or his pleader is accompanied.
(2) At any subsequent hearing, the Court may orally examine any party appearing in person or present in Court, or any person, able to answer any material question relating to the suit, by whom such party or his pleader is accompanied.
(3) The Court may, if it thinks fit, put in the course of an examination under this rule questions suggested by either party.
# Statement of Objects and Reasons (Bill) – Gazette of India, Ext., dt 8-4-1974, Pt.II,S.2,.p.315
# Report of Joint Committee -- Gazette of India, Ext., dt 1-4-1976, Pt.II, S.2, p.804/13
# 35-A: Compensatory costs in respect of false or vexatious claims or defenses.
(1) If any suit or other proceedings [including an execution proceedings but [excluding an appeal or a revision]] any party objects to the claim of defence on the ground that the claim or defence or any part of it is, as against the objector, false or vexatious to the knowledge of the party by whom it has been put forward, and if thereafter, as against the objector, such claim or defence is disallowed, abandoned or withdrawn in whole or in part, the Court, [if it so thinks fit] may, after recording its reasons for holding such claim or defence to be false or vexatious, make an order for the payment the object or by the party by whom such claim or defence has been put forward, of cost by way of compensation.
(2) No Court shall make any such order for the payment of an amount exceeding [three thousand rupees] or exceeding the limits of it pecuniary jurisdiction, whichever amount is less:
Provided that where the pecuniary limits of the jurisdiction of any Court exercising the jurisdiction of a Court of Small Causes under the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 (9 of 1887) [or under a corresponding law in force in [any part of India to which the said Act does not extend]] and not being a Court constituted [under such Act or law], are less than two hundred and fifty rupees, the High Court may empower such Court to award as costs under this section any amount not exceeding two hundred and fifty rupees and not exceeding those limits by more than one hundred rupees:
Provided, further, that the High Court may limit the amount or class of Courts is empowered to award as costs under this Section.
(3) No person against whom an order has been made under this section shall, by reason thereof, be exempted from any criminal liability in respect of any claim or defence made by him.
(4) The amount of any compensation awarded under this section in respect of a false or vexatious claim or defence shall be taken into account in any subsequent suit for damages or compensation in respect of such claim or defence
# 35B. Costs for causing delay.
(1) If, on any date fixed for the hearing of a suit or for taking any step therein, a party to the suit-
(a) fails to take the step which he was required by or under this Code to take on that date, or
(b) obtains an adjournment for taking such step or for producing evidence or on any other ground,
the Court may, for reasons to be recorded, make an order requiring such party to pay to the other party such costs as would, in the opinion of the Court, be reasonably sufficient to reimburse the other party in respect of the expenses incurred by him in attending the Court on that date, and payment of such costs, on the date next following the date of such order, shall be a condition precedent to the further prosecution of-
(a) the suit by the plaintiff, where the plaintiff was ordered to pay such costs.
(b) the defence by the defendant, where the defendant was ordered to pay such costs.
Explanation.-Where separate defences have been raised by the defendants or groups of defendants, payment of such costs shall be a condition precedent to the further prosecution of the defence by such defendants or groups of defendants as have been ordered by the Court to pay such costs.
(2) The costs, ordered to be paid under sub-section (1) shall not, if paid, be included in the costs awarded in the decree passed in the suit; but, if such costs are not paid, a separate order shall be drawn up indicating the amount of such costs and the names and addresses of the persons by whom such costs are payable and the order so drawn up shall be executable against such persons.