Pleadings: Meaning, Object, General Rules and Amendment of Pleadings

This article is written by Asamanja Chattopadhyay pursuing B.A L.L.B course from Shyambazar Law College affiliated to the University of Calcutta.

INTRODUCTION

Pleadings are the foundation stone on which the case of a party stands. The case of a party must be set out in the pleadings. Order VI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with pleading in general. Rules 3 to 13 require the parties to supply necessary particular details in the pleading. Rule 14 and Rule 15 provide for the verification and signature of pleadings. The Court has been given the power to strike out unnecessary pleadings have been made in Rule 16. Rule 17 and Rule 18 contains provisions relating to the amendment of pleadings.

Meaning of Pleading

The term “Plead” generally means to request or ask for something in an emotional or humble manner. This request can be made either orally or in written format or in any other form to signify the request being made by one before another person or entity which is in a position to entertain and grant or reject such request. The content of such request, in general, is known as pleading.

According to Mogha[1], “Pleadings are statements in writing drawn up and filed by each party to a case, stating what his contentions will be at the trial and giving all such details as his opponent needs to know in order to prepare his case in answer”.

Rule 1 of Order VI defines pleading; it clearly states pleading is to mean either a plaint or a written statement. A plaintiff’s pleading is his plaint, a statement of claim in which the plaintiff sets out his cause of action with all the necessary details and particulars. The defendant’s pleading is his written statement, it is a defence in which the defendant deals with every allegation brought by the plaintiff in the plaint and also adds any other information which might help the defendant in the case.

Pleading is the backbone of a suit on which the fate of the suit rests. This stance has also been affirmed by the Supreme Court in Devki Nandan v. Murlidhar[2], here the apex court held that a finding of the court, that is any point of determination established by the court is null and void if it is based on materials and facts not mentioned in the pleading.

Object

Lord Jessel in the landmark case of Throp v. Holdsworth[3]  explained the objects and purposes of a pleading in a judicial proceeding. He stated that the objective of pleadings is to narrow down the larger issues into specific issues, also refraining from enlargement of issues. Pleadings help both the parties know the facts and circumstances of the case brought by the adverse party and hence save time and expense.

Thus on analyzing Lord Jessel’s explanation the objects of a pleading can be enlisted as follows:

  • To bring parties to specific issues
  • To prevent surprise and miscarriage of Justice
  • To avoid unnecessary expense and trouble
  • To save public time
  • To eradicate any irrelevance in the suit
  • To assist court in reaching a proper and fruitful conclusion

Rules of Pleading

The rules of pleading maybe divided into two parts for better understanding:

  • Fundamental or Basic Rules
  • Particular or Other Rules

Fundamental or Basic Rules: Sub Rule (I) of Rule 2 of the code lays down the fundamental rules of pleading. It states, “Every pleading shall contain, and contain only a statement in a concise form of the material facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defence as the case may be, but not the evidence by which they are to be proved”

When the above provision is analyzed, we get the following general principles:

  • Pleadings should state facts and not law
  • The facts stated should be material facts.
  • Pleadings should not state the evidence
  • The facts should be stated in a concise form

The principles shall be discussed in detail:

  1. Pleadings should state Facts and not Law: The first fundamental principle of pleadings is that they should only state facts and not the law. In the case of Kedar Lal v. Hari Lal[4] the court held that it is the duty of the parties to state only the facts on which they rely upon for their claims. The court further said that it is the duty of the court to apply the law to the facts pleaded. The court in Gouri Dutt Ganesh Lall Firm v. Madho Prasad[5] summarised the law of pleading in just four words, “Plead facts not Law”

Therefore a custom or usage is a question of fact which must be specifically pleaded, also intention is a question of fact and it must be pleaded. Similarly waiver or negligence is a plea of fact which must be mentioned in the pleading. However a plea about maintainability of a suit raises a question of law and thus need not be pleaded[6].

In Ram Prasad v. State of Madhya Pradesh[7] it was held that a mixed question of law and fact however should be specifically pleaded. Again in Union of India v. Sita Ram Jaiswal[8] the court held that a point of law which is required to be supported by facts should be pleaded with necessary facts.

  • The Facts stated should be Material Facts: The second principle of pleadings is that they should contain a statement of material facts only. However the term “material facts” has not been defined in the code. The Supreme Court in Udhav Singh v. Madhav Rao Scindia[9] has defined material facts as, all the primary fact which needs to be proven at the trial by a party to establish the existence of a cause of action or his defence are material facts.

It has been observed by the courts that what type of facts or information would amount to material fact is a subjective issue and depends on the circumstances of a case and thus differs from case to case.

  • The Pleadings should state facts and not evidence: The third fundamental rule of pleadings says that in pleadings, evidence of facts distinguished from the facts itself need not be pleaded. In other words, the pleadings should contain a statement of material fact on which a party relies but not the evidence by which such facts are to be proved.

Facts are of two types:

  • Facta Probanda: The facts required to be proven (material facts)
  • Facta Probantia: The facts by means of which they are to be proved (particulars or evidence)

The pleadings should only contain the Facta Probanda or the material facts of the case. The material facts on which the plaintiff relies for his claim or the defendant relies on for his defence is called the Facta Probanda. The Facta Probanda must be mentioned in the plaint or written statement. However the evidence by means of which the material facts are to be proved which is known as Facta Probantia need not be stated in pleadings. They are not the fact in issue but only are the relevant facts which required to be proved at the trial in order to establish the fact of the issue.

  • The Pleading should be Concise: The fourth and the last fundamental rule of pleadings states that pleadings should be drafted with sufficient brevity and they should also be precise. In Virendra Kashinath v. Vinayak N. Joshi[10], the court observed that pleadings should be brief and concise, also niggling should be avoided. However that does not amount to the fact that essential facts need to be omitted or missed in an attempt to get brevity in pleadings.

Every pleading should be divided into paragraphs and sub paragraphs. Each allegation should be contained in separate paragraph. Dates, totals and numbers should be mentioned in figures as well as in words.

Other Rules of Pleadings

Rules 4-18 of Order 6 of the Code contain the other rules of pleadings over the ones discussed above.

The rules may be summarized as: 

  • Wherever misrepresentations, fraud, breach of trust, willful default or undue influence are pleaded in the pleadings, particulars with dates and items should be stated. (Rule 4 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • The performance of a condition precedent need not be pleaded since it is implied in the pleadings. Non-performance of a condition precedent, however, must be specifically and expressly pleaded. (Rule 6 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • Generally departure from pleading is not permissible and except by way of amendment, no party can raise any ground of claim or contain any allegation of fact inconsistent with his previous pleadings (Rule 7 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • A bare denial of a contract by the opposite party will be construed only as a denial of factum of a contract and not the legality, validity or enforceability of such contract.  (Rule 8 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • Documents need not be set out at length in the pleadings unless the words therein are material. (Rule 9 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • Wherever malice, fraudulent intention, knowledge or other condition of the mind of a person is material, it may be alleged in the pleading only as a fact without setting out the circumstances from which it is to be inferred (Rule 10 of Order VI of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908). Such circumstances really constitute evidence in proof of material facts
  • Whenever giving of notice to any person is necessary or a condition precedent, pleadings should only state regarding giving of such notice, without setting out the form or precise term of such notice or the circumstances from which it is to be inferred, unless they are material. (Rule 11 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • Implied contracts or relations between persons may be alleged as a fact, and the series of letters, conversations and the circumstances from which they are to be inferred should be pleaded generally. (Rule 12 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  •  Facts which the law presumes in favour of a party or as to which the burden of proof lies upon the other side need not be pleaded. (Rule 13 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  •  Every pleading should be signed by the party or one of the parties or by his pleader. (Rule 14 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • A party to the suit should supply his address. He should also supply address of the opposite party. (Rule 14-A of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  •  Every pleading should be verified on affidavit by the party or by one of the parties or by a person acquainted with the facts of the case. (Rule 15 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • A Court may order striking out a pleading if it is unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous, and vexatious or tends to prejudice, embarrass or delay fair trial of the suit. (Rule 16 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • A Court may allow amendment of pleadings. (Rule 17 of Order VI of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  • Forms in Appendix A of the Code should be used wherever they are applicable. Where they are not applicable, forms of like nature should be used. (Rule 3 of Order VI  of Civil Procedure Code, 1908)
  •  Every pleading should be divided into paragraphs, numbered consecutively. Each allegation or averment should be stated in a separate paragraph. (Rule 2(2) of Order VI of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908)
  •  Dates, totals and numbers should be written in figures as well as in words (Rule 2(3) of Order VI of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908)

Amendment of Pleadings

Amendment is the formal revision or addition or alteration or modification of the pleadings. Many a times the party may find it necessary to amend his pleadings before or during the trial of the case. Rule 17 of Order VI provides that the court may at any stage allow either party to alter or amend his pleadings in such manner or terms as maybe just and all such amendments shall be made as necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties. Proviso to Rule 17 of Order VI as inserted by Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 2002 restricts and curtails power of the court to allow amendment in pleadings by enacting that no application for amendment should be made after the trial has commenced, unless the court comes to the conclusion that in spite of due diligence the party could not have raised before the commencement of trial.

Object of Amendment to Pleadings

The object of the rule of pleadings is that the court should try the merits of the cases that come before them and should consequently allow all amendments that maybe necessary for determining the real question in controversy provided it does not cause injustice or prejudice to the other party. The amendment is necessary for determining the real questions in controversy between the parties. Amendment in pleading helps the parties correct their mistakes in the pleadings. In the case of Cropper v. Smith[11], the court stated that the object behind amendment of pleadings is to protect the rights of the parties and not to punish them for the mistake made by them in the pleadings

Circumstances under which Amendment of Pleadings can be granted

In the case of Kishan Das v. Vithoba  Bachelor [12] the court stated that there are two certain conditions to be satisfied before granting leave for amendment of pleadings :

  • The grant of leave should not lead to injustice to another party.
  • The Amendment of pleading is necessary for determining the real question of controversy between parties.

Further in the case of Rajkumar Gurwara Thr. L.Rs v S.K. Sarawagi and Co. Pvt. Ltd. And Anr[13], the honourable supreme stated conditions when amendments of pleadings can be allowed they are:

  • When nature of the case will change by allowing application for amendment of appeal
  • When a new cause of action arises by allowing application of an amendment
  • When Amendments of pleadings defeats the law of limitation

Other points on which amendment of pleadings is granted:

  • When the application of amendment is filed to avoid multiplicity of suits
  • When parties in the plaint or written statements wrongfully described
  • When plaintiff omits to add some properties to the plaint

When if an amendment to pleading refused?

Pleading to an amendment can be refused by the court on several grounds. The grounds on which an amendment to a pleading could be refused are stated below:           

  • An application of amendment of pleadings maybe rejected by the court when the proposed amendment is not necessary for determining the real question of controversy between the parties
  • An application of amendment of pleadings is rejected when it leads to the introduction of a new case or changes the fundamental character of the case. In the case of Modi Spg. Mills v. Ladha Ram & Sons[14] the Supreme Court held that “the defendant cannot be allowed to change completely the case made in certain paragraphs of the written statement and substitute an entirely different and new case”
  • An application to amendment of pleading maybe refused by the court when the proposed alteration or modification is unjust.
  • The court may refuse the amendment to the pleading if the application for the amendment violates the legal right or cause injustice to the other party
  • An application for amendment of pleading maybe refused when it leads to needless complications in the case.
  • The Court may refuse the application to amendment if there has been an excessive delay in filing the suit.
  • The court shall not grant any application for amendment of pleadings if it has been made with malafide intentions.
  • The court may also refuse the application to amendment of a pleading if even after several opportunities to the parties to apply for amendment they failed to do so.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, pleadings are the backbone of a trial. It is the foundation stone on which the case of a party stands. The proper formulating of pleading determines the future of the case. Pleading from the side of the plaintiff is the Plaint and the reply to the allegations made in the plaint is known as Written Statement.  The plaint may also be amended subject to the conditions and requisites as stated above.


[1] Mogha’s Law of Pleadings (1983) at p. I

[2] Devki Nandan v. Murlidhar, AIR 1957 SC 133

[3] Throp v. Holdsworth (1876) LR 3 Ch D 637

[4] Kedar Lal v.  Hari Lal  AIR 1952 SC 47

[5] AIR 1943 PC 147: IC 192

[6] State of Rajasthan v. Rao Raja Kalyan Singh

[7] (1969)3 SCC 24: AIR 1970 SC 1818

[8] (1976)4 SCC 505: AIR 1977 SC 329

[9] (1977)1 SCC 511: AIR 1976 SC 744

[10] (1999)1 SCC 47

[11](1884) LR 26 Ch D 700

[12] 4 Ind Cas 726

[13] (2008) 14 SCC 364

[14] AIR 2002 SC 1003 (1010): (2002)2 SCC 445

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