This article is written by Vidhish Muthanna C.A of Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
The author has provided a clear introduction to the concept of an “Institution of suit” in the Indian legal system, which refers to the initiation of civil legal action under the Code of Civil Procedure. The article further explains that a suit involves a formal legal proceeding in a civil court to seek a remedy for a civil wrong or dispute. The author has also emphasized the essentials for a suit, including the requirement for opposing parties, a subject matter, a cause of action, and the relief claimed to make a plaint legally valid. The process of instituting a suit under the CPC has also been discussed, covering the aspects of filing a plaint, registering the suit, determining the place of suing, provisions for amendment of pleadings, and return and rejection of plaints. These procedures ensure the proper initiation and administration of a civil lawsuit under the CPC 1908.
In the context of the Indian legal system, the term “Suit” though not defined anywhere, refers to a civil legal action initiated under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC). The Black Law Dictionary defines a suit as a proceeding initiated by one party against another in a court of law. The CPC is a comprehensive legislation governing the procedure for resolving civil disputes in India. A suit under the CPC involves a formal legal proceeding in a civil court to seek a remedy or relief for a civil wrong or dispute. It’s important to note that the specific procedures and requirements for filing and conducting a suit may vary depending on the nature of the dispute, the court involved, and other factors.
The institution of a suit refers to the formal process of initiating a legal action or lawsuit in a court of law. When a person or entity decides to pursue a legal claim against another party, they file a document known as a complaint, petition, or lawsuit, depending on the jurisdiction and type of case. One can institute a suit in a court of law by initiating a plaint, which is a statement that is reduced to writing on the cause of action in which relief is claimed. The provisions regarding the institution of a suit are available under Section 26 and Orders I, II, IV, VI, and VII of the Civil Procedure Code.
ESSENTIALS FOR SUIT
Suits may be instituted in accordance with Section 26 and Order IV of the Civil Procedure Code. Every lawsuit must be started by presenting a duplicate plaint to the court or the official designated in this regard. An affidavit must also be given to substantiate the facts presented to the court. This part should be read with Orders IV, VI, and VII of the first schedule. Section 26 of the CPC and Rule 1 of Order IV must be read together to extend the legislation specified in that section.
According to this regulation, a lawsuit can only be considered properly launched if it is submitted as a plaint and is submitted to the court or an appropriate official designated in this regard. Additionally, such a plaint must adhere to the Order VI & VII regulations.
There are namely 4 essentials that have been laid out in the case of Krishnappa v Shivappa, wherein the court held that, for a suit to exist, there is a need for the following 4 essentials to be present which are as follows:
- Opposing Parties (Order I)
For a suit to be valid, there must be two separate parties, i.e., a plaintiff and a defendant. Any number of plaintiffs and defendants can exist in a suit, and there is no bar to the maximum number of parties to a suit. Under CPC, there is recognition of two types of parties, namely a necessary party and a property party. Necessary parties are those whose presence is vital and without such parties, the suit cannot be proceeded, and the court can pass no effective order. While in the case of a proper party, an order can be passed even in the absence of the party, but their presence is necessary for the final order and decision to be passed.
- Subject Matter
The subject matter refers to the different set of facts that a plaintiff has to prove in order for him to claim the relief sought by him. Under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) in India, the term “subject matter” refers to the nature or type of dispute or claim that can be brought before a civil court. The CPC provides guidelines regarding the jurisdiction of various courts based on the subject matter of the dispute. The subject matter determines which court can hear and adjudicate the case. The CPC recognizes different subject matters for civil suits, including Money, Property, Matrimonial, and family, Suits for Tort, Suits for Specific performance, Injunction, Testamentary and succession, and suits for appeals and revisions. These are just a few examples of the subject matters covered under the CPC. The specific subject matter and the corresponding court that has jurisdiction over a particular dispute may vary depending on the nature and value of the claim, the geographic location, and the relevant laws and regulations.
- Cause of Action (Order II, Rule 3,6, &7)
For the plaintiff to claim his relief, he has to prove in the court all facts and circumstances stated in the plaint to be true and serves as a foundation for the suit to stand valid. It should consist of all facts wherein the rights of the plaintiff are infringed against which he seeks redressal which becomes the antecedent for filing any suit.
Order II, Rules 3, 6, and 7 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) in India relate to the concept of “cause of action” in civil suits. These rules establish guidelines regarding the joinder and splitting of causes of action in a single suit.
The joining of causes of action is covered under Order II, Rule 3. According to this, a plaintiff may combine all claims that result from a single act, transaction, or series of acts or transactions into a single lawsuit as long as those claims are related to the same issue of law or fact. In other words, a plaintiff may combine all of their legal claims against a defendant that are connected by a common set of facts or circumstances into a single lawsuit.
The penalties for failing to bring a lawsuit as part of a claim or cause of action are covered under Order II, Rule 6. It stipulates that a plaintiff cannot file a second lawsuit for any aspect of their claim or cause of action that they purposefully or unintentionally left out of a lawsuit. This rule discourages the division of causes of action and advances the final settlement of disputes by forcing the plaintiff to bring their complete claim before the court.
An exception to Rule 6 is provided by Order II, Rule 7, which enables the plaintiff to file a new lawsuit for a portion of the claim or cause of action that was not included in the initial lawsuit. However, the missing component of the claim must contain a separate cause of action that the plaintiff needed access to and knowledge of when the original lawsuit was filed for this exemption to be applicable.
Therefore, as a result of the same act, transaction, or series of acts or transactions, Order II, Rule 3 permits the joining of causes of action in a single lawsuit. Order II, Rule 6 forbids the plaintiff from launching a separate lawsuit for a claim or cause of action that was left out of the initial lawsuit. An exception to Rule 6 is provided by Order II, Rule 7, which enables the plaintiff to file a second lawsuit for a separate cause of action that was not recognized or accessible at the time the first lawsuit was filed.
- Relief Claimed
Relief is a legal remedy for the injustice that the plaintiff has suffered. A court will only grant a remedy if the parties to the litigation explicitly demand it. There are two types of reliefs granted by the Indian courts, namely: Specific and Alternative reliefs.
INSTITUTION OF A SUIT UNDER CPC, 1908
A lawsuit goes through several phases, including serving of summons, written declarations, the first hearing & issue-setting, the presentation of evidence and the final hearing, arguments, judgment, and the creation and execution of decrees. The institution of a suit consists of the following procedures to be followed in accordance with the laws.
- Filing of a Plaint
Significantly, CPC 1908 does not define the term “plaint.” The dictionary defines “plaint” as a written statement of grievance submitted to a court of law seeking redress of the offense. Order VII comprises several regulations and deals with the format for a written plaint.
According to Rule 1, a plaint should contain the following details:
- Name of the Court where the suit is brought to,
- Name, residence and description of the plaintiff,
- Name, residence and description of the defendant (so far as to what can be ascertained),
- If the plaintiff or defendant is a Minor or of unsound mind, then the statements to that effect should be provided along with the plaint
- Facts and circumstances constituting the cause of action for the suit to arose,
- Facts showing the jurisdiction of the court
- Reliefs claimed/sought by the plaintiff
- Claims set off or relinquished by the plaintiff should be made available to the court
According to Order VI Rule I of the CPC, 1908, pleadings are “a plaint or a written declaration.” The filing of a plaint is the initial stage of a lawsuit. After engaging in legal representation, the plaintiff files a document known as a plaint containing numerous facts and circumstances about their complaint. The complaint may be made orally or through a designated pleader. It has to be delivered in duplicate. Here, one must adhere to the general standards of pleading, which call for pleading relevant facts rather than those with evidential value. The date when lawsuits were instituted was when the plaint was brought before the office. The parties must sign each pleading [Order VI Rule 14], and an affidavit must accompany the plaint [Order VI Rule 15]. Orders VI & VII must be followed since they will not be considered to have been lawfully implemented if the regulations outlined in them are not followed.
According to P.C Mogha, Pleading has been defined as written declarations prepared and submitted by each party to express their claims at trial and provide any other information the other party needs to prepare their defence. It generally entails ways to focus the disagreement on a single subject and cut down on costs and delays, particularly regarding testimony from both sides.
The Supreme Court of India has also laid down the basic purpose of a pleading to be as follows:
- To give exact intimation of case to other.
- To enable the court for determination of what is the real issue between the parties.
- It is to prevent deviation from the real cause of litigation
- Registration of Suit
According to Rule 2 of Order 4, Court must persuade details of each lawsuit to be recorded in a book called Register of civil suits. Each year, these entries will be numbered in the order that the complaints are admitted, but only after the payment of the court fee has been made correctly in the court having pecuniary jurisdiction.
It is important to note that, the rule of Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata should not apply to the suit being instituted. Res Sub Judice refers to the pending matter before a competent court for disposal, and Res Judicata refers to matters already decided by a court that involve the same parties and subject matter of dispute. This is done to eliminate the chances of a multiplicity of suits and to have a unified justice system for all.
- Place of Suing
The venue of a lawsuit is crucial since it directly affects the court’s ability to provide a ruling. Choosing a court relies on the information in the complaint that is being filed. It alludes to the issue of jurisdiction.
- Pecuniary Jurisdiction
Pecuniary jurisdiction under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) of 1908 refers to the monetary limits within which a particular court has the authority to hear and decide civil cases. Each court is assigned a specific pecuniary jurisdiction based on the value or amount of the claim involved in the suit. It determines the appropriate court for filing a case, ensuring that lower courts handle matters of lower financial significance, while higher courts adjudicate higher-value cases. The pecuniary jurisdiction of a court is crucial in determining the forum for a civil suit, ensuring efficient resolution of disputes and access to justice at the appropriate level.
In the case of Tara Devi v Shree Rhakur Radhakrishna Maharaj, the court held that putting a value on relief by ignoring an objective valuation criterion may be blatantly irrational and unfair, and the court may be justified in getting involved. Each court’s financial jurisdiction varies depending on one state to another.
- Territorial Jurisdiction
Territorial jurisdiction under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) of 1908 refers to the geographical boundaries within which a court has the authority to entertain and adjudicate civil cases. The principle of territorial jurisdiction ensures that a suit is filed in a court that has a legitimate connection to the dispute or the parties involved. Territorial jurisdiction is determined based on factors such as the location of the defendant, the place where the cause of action arises, or where the property in dispute is situated. Generally, a court within whose local limits the defendant resides or carries on business, or where the cause of action wholly or partially arises, has territorial jurisdiction over the matter. There are namely 4 types of territorial jurisdictions available under the provisions of Civil Procedure Code 1908.
These are as follows:
- Suits with respect to Immovable Property
- Suits with respect to Movable Property
- Suits with respect to compensations for losses suffered
- Other suits
In the case of Hakam Singh v Gammon India Ltd, it dealt with the dispute where two or more courts have jurisdiction to entertain the suit. The court upon hearing the case came to the conclusion that the Bombay court would have sole authority to try the matter.
- Amendment of Pleadings
Under Rule 17, Order VI of Civil Procedure Code 1908, the court may, during the proceeding or at any time, may allow the parties involved in the suit to alter, amend or bring changes in its pleadings in a manner that is just and proper and in the interest of serving justice. Such amendments can only be made if the court finds it necessary to determine the question in controversy. In the case of Rameshkumar Agarwal v Rajmala Exports Pvt Ltd, the Supreme Court of India held that Courts cannot refuse to request made for amendments that are bona fide, necessary, and honest. It also held that the objective behind this is to allow both parties involved in a suit to be able to amend their pleadings, thus avoiding the plethora of lawsuits.
- Return of Plaint
Order VII Rule 10 Sub-Rule 1 states that the plaint may be returned at any point throughout the litigation. If the court determines at any point that it lacks jurisdiction, it must send the complaint back to the appropriate court where it should have been filed. This complaint may be returned as long as the lack of jurisdiction is mentioned in the complaint. Nevertheless, if the court examines the plaint, parties and the evidences presented and comes to a conclusion, then the suit may be dismissed. This power can only be exercised by an appellate or Revisional Court.
While returning a plaint, the judge has to perform certain duties which is namely to provide endorsement over the request made, following which it has to provide a brief statement of reasoning as to why the court has decided to return the plaint.
- Rejection of Plaint
A plaint can be rejected on many grounds by a court of law. But it cannot be rejected only in part. It is also important to note that there need not be any application made for the rejection of a suit as the court may take Suo motu actions. In the case of Ram Prakash v Rajeev Kumar Gupta, the court can reject a plaint at any time during or before a judgement is produced by the court. The court also put forth a expansion to the term “at any stage of a suit” to include
- Before the registration of the plaint
- After the issuing of summons to the defendants
- Any time before the trial is concluded.
The institution of a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908 involves the formal initiation of a civil legal action. The process requires adherence to the provisions and procedures outlined in the CPC. The key aspects of instituting a suit include identifying the appropriate court based on the subject matter, determining the jurisdiction and venue, and complying with the rules regarding the cause of action, reliefs claimed, pecuniary jurisdiction, and territorial jurisdiction. The plaintiff files a written statement called a plaint, stating the facts, grounds, and relief sought. The defendant is served with summons and has the opportunity to file a written statement in response. The suit progresses through various stages, including pleadings, discovery, evidence, and trial, ultimately leading to a judgment pronounced by the competent court. The CPC provides a framework to ensure fair and efficient resolution of civil disputes, allowing parties to seek remedies, enforce rights, and obtain justice through a legally recognized process. It is important to consult with legal professionals for specific guidance and to navigate the intricacies of the CPC effectively.
- Hakam Singh v Gammon India Ltd., 1971 SCR (3) 314
- Hansraj Gupta v Official Liquidators of Dehradun- Mussoorie Electric Tramways Co. Ltd., AIR 1933 PC 6
- Krishnappa v Shivappa ILR., (1907) 31 Bom 393
- Life Insurance Corporation of India v Sanjeev Builders Pvt. Ltd & Anr.,
- Pandurang Ramchandra v Shantibhai Ramchandra., AIR 1989 SC 2240
- Rameshkumar Agarwal v Rajmala Exports Pvt Ltd., AIR 1982 SC 24
- Ram Prakash v Rajeev Kumar Gupta., Appeal (civil) 4626 of 2007
- Tara Devi v Shree Rhakur Radhakrishna Maharaj., AIR (1987) SC 2085
- C.K Takwani, Civil Procedure with Limitation Act 1963, 163 (EBC 8th ed., 2020)
- Sir Dinshaw Fardunji Mulla, ‘The Key to Indian Practise (A summary of The Code of Civil Procedure)’, (LexisNexis, 11th ed., 2015)
- S.N Dhingra & G C Mogha, ‘Law of Pleadings in India with Precedents’, (Eastern Law House, 18th ed., 2022)
- Aniket Mishra, “CPC- Suit: Meaning| Essentials| Institution of a Suit, North East Law Journal, retrieved from: https://www.northeastlawjournal.com/post/cpc-suit-meaning-essentials-institution-of-a-suit
- Lexpeeps, “Institution of a Suit under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908: The First Stage of a Civil Proceeding” retrieved from: https://lexpeeps.in/institution-of-a-suit-under-the-civil-procedure-code-1908-the-first-stage-of-a-civil-proceeding/
- Smt. R. Shanthi Sree, Res Sub Judice & Res Judicata, pp-1-12 retrieved from: https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/3rdworkshoppdmcourt.pdf
 Pandurang Ramchandra v Shantibhai Ramchandra., AIR 1989 SC 2240
 Hansraj Gupta v Official Liquidators of Dehradun- Mussoorie Electric Tramways Co. Ltd., AIR 1933 PC 6
 C.K Takwani, Civil Procedure with Limitation Act 1963, 163 (EBC 8th ed., 2020)
 Krishnappa v Shivappa ILR., (1907) 31 Bom 393
 Ibid, at 165.
 Aniket Mishra, “CPC- Suit: Meaning| Essentials| Institution of a Suit, North East Law Journal, retrieved from: https://www.northeastlawjournal.com/post/cpc-suit-meaning-essentials-institution-of-a-suit
 Lexpeeps, “Institution of a Suit under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908: The First Stage of a Civil Proceeding” retrieved from: https://lexpeeps.in/institution-of-a-suit-under-the-civil-procedure-code-1908-the-first-stage-of-a-civil-proceeding/
 Sir Dinshaw Fardunji Mulla, ‘The Key to Indian Practise (A summary of The Code of Civil Procedure)’, (LexisNexis, 11th ed., 2015)
 S.N Dhingra & G C Mogha, ‘Law of Pleadings in India with Precedents’, (Eastern Law House, 18th ed., 2022)
 Smt. R. Shanthi Sree, Res Sub Judice & Res Judicata, pp-1-12 retrieved from: https://districts.ecourts.gov.in/sites/default/files/3rdworkshoppdmcourt.pdf
 Tara Devi v Shree Rhakur Radhakrishna Maharaj., AIR (1987) SC 2085
 Hakam Singh v Gammon India Ltd., 1971 SCR (3) 314
 Life Insurance Corporation of India v Sanjeev Builders Pvt. Ltd & Anr.,
 Rameshkumar Agarwal v Rajmala Exports Pvt Ltd., AIR 1982 SC 24
 Ram Prakash v Rajeev Kumar Gupta., Appeal (civil) 4626 of 2007