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Fundamental Rules of Pleading

Introduction

When a dispute arises between two people, be it about anything, it is preferable to resolve the dispute without having to approach the law for the same. Reason being, the courts work in a systematic way; in fact, the entire legal system, from the lawyers to the judges, work in a setup. The judicial process is a detailed one, with several formalities and requirements that a person should be willing to fulfill before he/she thinks of going to a court of law, pleading is one of such formalities. In this article, we will go through the fundamental rules of pleading in details.

In disputes of a criminal nature, the police do all the research and investigation, and present the FIR, or First Information Report, to the court, on the basis of which the case proceeds. In a dispute of a civil nature, however, the advocates on either side have to prepare their sides of arguments according to the facts of the case, and present it in front of the court, upon which the case proceeds. It is not that criminal cases do not involve arguments and pleadings; they do, but initially, the paperwork is often done by the police, the advocate only takes it further to establish evidence and prove his/her client’s innocence or injury. In civil cases, the pleadings are much more detailed and all the work is done by the advocates themselves. This work is what is referred to as pleading, in the most general sense. Pleadings are basically arguments and evidence that the advocates in a civil case present before a court, and are prepared beforehand so that the advocates do not leave any important point out before their presentation.

Pleadings

The backbone of every suit of civil nature is what is called as pleadings. The meaning of the term ‘plead’ is to ‘state and argue a case’. Pleadings are the respective contentions of the parties to a dispute which are reduced into writing so that they can be clear, concise, and unambiguous. What the parties are fighting upon is mentioned in the pleading of each party, and each party lays down their claim, or the abstinence from such claim with legitimate reasons as well as proof. It is the main paperwork that is required by advocates while arguing their cases.

In a civil suit, there are two parties – the one who institutes the plaint/complaint, i.e. the plaintiff, and the other, who gives a reply to the plaint in the form of a written statement, i.e. the defendant. The plaint contains the cause of action, or the issue(s) in controversy. The written statement contains the defences and denials in the form of a reply. All the legal documents, such as petitions, motions, rejoinders, declarations, memorandums, etc. are included in pleadings.

In India, the adversarial legal system is followed, which means that there are two parties to a suit. One of them stakes a claim, and the other disputes that claim. The case will proceed only when the pleadings from both parties are submitted, along with relevant documents.

History of Pleading

The procedural laws of today have been shaped by the laws and practices from ancient times. The pleadings mentioned in our procedural laws existed much earlier in civilised societies, but not in the present form. They can be substantially traced from England during the time of Edward II. In Indian societies, before the advent of British, pleadings were conducted orally in front of the kings, usually by a pandit, in case of Hindu laws, and by a maulvi, in case of Muslim laws. They were supposedly well-versed in their respective law books, and helped the kings in the administration of justice and order.

After the British introduced their laws in the colonies, the system of jury became popular, and the role of a king was reduced to simply moderate the oral arguments that went on before the jury. In earlier times, judges were strict because they did not allow the plaintiff to have more than one claim and the defendant to have more than one defence. It was only during the reign of Queen Victoria, that the parties were allowed to raise more than one issue, whether of fact or of law.

As time passed by, the arguments began to be reduced into writing, and were recorded by an officer of the court on a parchment roll. As more and more cases came before the courts, the suits began to be recorded regularly, and once dismissed, they were preserved as a judicial record. Initially, the arguments were entered by the parties themselves, but that proved to be misleading and defective. During the time of Edward IV, the rolls were preserved through print machinery on paper, instead of parchment rolls. The Judicature Act of 1873 brought many reforms in terms of pleading in England, and similar laws were put to practice in India. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is the current procedural law that governs pleadings in civil suits in India.

Objective of Pleadings

Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code deals with pleadings. Rule 1 states that pleading may be either in the form of a plaint or a written statement. The primary process of a suit is the institution of plaint by the plaintiff and the response by the defendant, which is the written statement. The main objectives of pleading, as explained in Ganesh Trading Co. v. Moji Ram[1], are:

  • To inform the other side of a suit against them, so that they are not taken by surprise
  • To allow the court to determine the relevant issues between the parties
  • To reduce expenses and delay in the process of suits

The overall objective of pleading is to narrow down the issues of the parties[2] upon which adjudication would take place, instead of raising irrelevant contentions and wasting the time of the courts. As much as the pleadings would help the parties, their main function is to assist the courts in defining the issues at hand, beyond which, without the permission of the court, issues cannot be raised.[3]

Fundamental Rules of Pleading

The Code of Civil Procedure was amended in 1976, by a select committee of eminent lawyers, who possessed the necessary knowledge of the legal process in India, and subsequently, redrafted Orders 6, 7 and 8 of the Code. These Orders are the most important in the context of pleading and drafting. Appendix A to the Code also contains certain forms of pleading that come in handy during cases.

Order 6 of the Code lays down the four fundamental rules of pleading. They are:

  1. Every pleading must state material facts on which the party relies (facta probanda). Unnecessary facts must not be stated. The facts so pleaded will be validated through laws by the court.
  2. Pleading must state facts and not law. A question of law need not be pleaded, but a question of fact should be pleaded. In case the question is one where facts and laws are mixed, that question needs to be specifically pleaded[4].
  3. The pleading must not contain any evidence of the facts presented. Once the issues (facta probantia) are settled, only then will the facts be authenticated through evidence. Also, only material facts should be stated. Material facts are those which must be proved by a party to a trial to establish the cause of action or defence[5].
  4. All material facts need to be stated concisely. To be concise is to mean that the facts presented must be to the point and not vague or implied. Every fact should be stated separately, and the pleading must be in paragraphs, with numbers. Dates, figures and amounts should be mentioned in digits as well as in words.

Foreign laws are not taken notice of by Indian courts. Therefore, they should be stated as facts and not laws. Also, any condition precedent the performance of which is to be contested also needs to be specified in the pleading[6]. Customs and usages in trade and business need to be pleaded as facts, and such customs that have been recognised by courts time and again automatically acquire the force of law and need not be pleaded repeatedly. Facts of negligence, rights and liabilities, wrongful and unlawful acts need to be pleaded specifically as well.

As far as the stating of material facts is concerned, there are two points in this regard. Firstly, where the matter of a document is material to the suit, only the effect of the document can be stated unless any part of the document or some specific words are not to be taken into account.[7] Secondly, matters of inducement, which are primarily the preliminary points in a plaint, mentioning the background of the parties and how they are related, can be stated in the pleading, even though they are not material facts. This is allowed both in England and in India.

In contractual matters, the mere denial of a contract is not sufficient, denial of the facts of a contract and inadequacy in law needs to be mentioned specifically.[8]

General Points

The names and places must be mentioned with correct spellings and the spellings must be the same throughout the pleading. The use of pronouns should be avoided so that confusion is not created. The plaintiff and the defendant must be mentioned by the word ‘plaintiff’ and ‘defendant’ in the pleading. If the parties on either side are more than one, then the names of the parties along with their side (plaintiff/defendant) can be used. All facts must be presented boldly and personal language must be avoided at all costs, because it alters the case. Ifs and buts should be avoided, as well as complex sentences. Facts should not be unnecessarily repeated. Notices, if not directly material, shall be stated as facts[9]. Implied contracts and relations shall be referred to as facts, and such relations, whether established through letters, emails, etc. can be referred generally, without details[10].

Pleadings should always be signed by the party and their advocate[11], and verification must also be done[12]. In case the dispute is with a company, the secretary or any principal officer of the company is responsible for signatures and verification.

The law permits a person to rely on more than one right and similarly, the defendant can also take up more than one defence. Pleadings can be amended, but only according to Order 6 Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

FAQs on Fundamental Rules of Pleading

What are the fundamental rules of pleading as mentioned in the Civil Procedure Code?

Order 6 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, states the fundamental rules of pleading, which are:
1. Pleading must state facts and only facts, not law.
2. Pleading must state material facts only.
3. Pleading must only state the facts and not the evidence required to prove those facts.
4. Pleading must state facts in a concise but certain manner.

What is the significance of pleadings in the legal system?

Pleadings form the primary step in any suit. They lay down the contentions on which the parties seek resolution, as well as the relevant documents and evidence that the court will look into while determining the case. Without pleadings, the whole process of deciding a suit would be haphazard because there would be no written statements on any part and no documents to furnish proof of the same.

What are material facts?

Material facts are those which form the main part of the dispute, i.e. the facts on which the dispute arose. These facts need to be mentioned in the pleadings because they give the basis of the plaint and written statement of the plaintiff and defendant, respectively.

[1] AIR 1978 SC 484.

[2] Thorp v. Holdsworth, (1876) LR 3 Ch D 637.

[3] Pinson v. Lloyds Bank Ltd., (1941) 2 K.B. 72.

[4] Ram Prasad v. State of M. P., AIR 1970 SC 1818.

[5] Udhav Singh v. Madhav Rao Scindia, AIR 1976 SC 744; Virendra Nath v. Satpal Singh, AIR 2007 SC 581.

[6] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act 5 of 1908), O 6 R 6.

[7] Id., O 6 R 9.

[8] Id., O 6 R 8.

[9] Supra note 6, O 6 R 11.

[10] Id., O 6 R 12.

[11] Id., 6, O 6 R 14.

[12] Id., O 6 R 15.

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Zara Suhail Ahmed

Zahra is a student at Aligarh Muslim University, pursuing a 5-year B.A. LLB course. Currently in her 4th year, Zahra opted for Law after completing most part of her schooling from Cambridge School, New Delhi. Zahra has interned under a few lawyers and firms, participated in various moot courts and similar events, and is proficient in research and written content. A strong believer that education is the greatest virtue, Zahra seeks to learn from every platform and individual, whether working alone or as a team. Although Zahra is keenly interested to pursue ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution) as a career, she has kept her options open and is interested in examining the different career prospects that her profession has to offer. Zahra has diversified interests apart from her professional life as well. Not only a successful lawyer, but she also aspires to become a productive human being.

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