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This article is written by Adarsh Anand Amola of 7th Trimester of IIM Rohtak, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


This article delves into the intricate world of indigent access to justice, exploring the profound legal provision known as Order 33 of the Civil Procedure Code. It unravels the eligibility criteria for individuals and juridical entities, the essence of an “indigent person,” and the detailed procedures governing application submission, admission of evidence, and hearings. Supplementary provisions such as Rule 10 and Rule 12 are examined, along with the consequences of a refusal to grant indigent status. The article underscores the legal system’s commitment to equitable access to justice, irrespective of financial means, ensuring that the pursuit of justice remains an inclusive and fair endeavor.

Keywords:  Eligibility, Application, Admission of Evidence, Supplementary Provisions, Order 33


In the realm of legal jurisprudence, there exists a provision that extends its benevolent arms to both individuals and juridical entities, allowing them to seek justice when the constraints of financial means cast a looming shadow. This provision, embedded within the intricate labyrinth of legal proceedings, is the cornerstone of equitable access to justice, transcending the divide between indigence and financial capacity.

This elaborate legal framework, Order 33 of the Civil Procedure Code[1], ushers in a new dimension of legal fairness, permitting those who fall within its parameters to pursue their claims, unburdened by the exorbitant weight of court fees. As we traverse the legal landscape, we shall embark on a comprehensive journey, deciphering the eligibility criteria for those who seek sanctuary under the umbrella of indigency. With each stroke of the legal quill, we will illuminate the path, shedding light on the meaning and essence of an indigent person.

We shall delve deep into the intricate tapestry of application, dissecting its contents and intricacies, exploring the procedure of application rejection when the prescribed norms are transgressed. As the proceedings unfold, we shall unravel the compelling narrative of admission of evidence and the procedural intricacies of hearings, elucidating the consequential course of action upon the grant of indigent status.

Yet, the legal voyage does not culminate here; it extends further into the labyrinthine corridors of supplementary provisions. With Rule 10[2], we encounter the fine balance of justice, striving to recover what would have been the standard court fees, as the state assumes its role as guardian. Rule 12[3], in its wisdom, rectifies errors and omissions pertaining to court fees, assuring that no injustice prevails due to inadvertent lapses in documentation.

As our journey nears its zenith, the shadows of possibilities and limits manifest. The refusal of an applicant’s quest for indigent status serves as a legal sentinel, guarding against potential misuse. Yet, it graciously leaves a door ajar, permitting the pursuit of justice through conventional means, should the costs of the legal odyssey remain unpaid.

This is the odyssey that navigates the intricate web of indigent access to justice, a testament to the solemn promise that the lack of financial means shall not be a barrier to the hallowed halls of justice. Join us as we decipher the labyrinthine world of indigent litigation, unveiling the essence of equitable justice within the boundaries of Order 33.[4]


This provision is open to both natural individuals and legal entities, as long as they fall within the legal framework and are not prohibited in any manner. In a significant Supreme Court case in 2011, ‘Union Bank of India vs. Khader International Construction and Ors,[5] it was established that even juristic persons can make use of the application under Order 33 of the Civil Procedure Code[6]. Order 33 is designed to assist individuals[7] who lack the financial means, apart from exempted property under Section 60[8], to pay the required court fees as mandated by law for the lawsuit they initiate. The legislative intent is not for the indigent person to deplete their sole source of livelihood or dispose of all their assets before seeking justice in a state of poverty. It’s important to note that if the applicant passes away while the specific lawsuit is pending, the same privilege won’t be extended to their legal heirs.


An indigent person is someone who lacks adequate resources, excluding property exempt from attachment during the execution of a court decree and the subject matter of the lawsuit, to cover the fees stipulated by law for filing a complaint in that particular lawsuit. This concept was elucidated in the case of Rabinder Singh VS. Maheshwar Rao[9], by the Patna High Court, which established that individuals with sufficient means should not be permitted to file as indigent persons. The Orissa High Court, in the case of Manglu Chattar vs. Maheswar Bhoi,[10] provided further clarity by noting that the tools of artisans are safeguarded from attachment.

In situations where no specific fee is prescribed, an individual is considered an indigent person if their property, apart from the assets exempt from attachment during the execution of a court decree and the subject matter of the lawsuit, does not exceed one thousand rupees in value.

In the case of A.A. Haja Muniuddin v. Indian Railways, the court emphasized that access to justice should not be denied to an individual solely because they lack the financial means to pay the required fees.[11]


In the case of Lakshmi v. Vijaya Bank, R.V. Revanna[12] initiated legal proceedings under Order 33 Rule 1 and Rule 7, asserting himself as a financially disadvantaged individual. The opposing party challenged this claim, disputing Revanna’s indigent status. Unfortunately, before Revanna could be cross-examined, he passed away, leaving behind his wife and children. Subsequently, Revanna’s wife submitted an application seeking permission for them to continue the lawsuit as his legal representatives. The trial court held that the right to bring the case as an indigent person was a personal right, and therefore, in the event of the applicant’s death, legal representatives could not take over. However, the high court approved the legal representative’s application and allowed them to proceed with the case as indigent individuals.


In India, under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), a legal representative can be designated as an indigent person in a civil case. An indigent person, often referred to as a pauper, is someone who lacks the financial means to pay court fees and meet the expenses of a lawsuit. The CPC allows such individuals to seek justice without being burdened by financial constraints. A legal representative acting on behalf of an indigent person can make an application to the court, explaining the financial hardship and requesting the court to waive the requisite court fees and costs. If the court is satisfied with the applicant’s claims, it may grant the status of an indigent person, enabling them to pursue their case without the financial burden of court fees. This provision ensures that access to the legal system is not denied to those who cannot afford it, thereby promoting equitable access to justice for all in the Indian legal framework.


Any application submitted by an indigent person must adhere to the standard filing procedures and contain the necessary information concerning the complaint in question. This entails detailing any assets, whether movable or immovable, owned by the applicants, including the estimated value of these assets, which should be attached to the application. The application must be appropriately signed and verified by the applicant and subsequently presented before the court. Alternatively, it may be presented by an authorized individual capable of addressing all relevant queries regarding the application. Once the application is correctly submitted, the court holds the authority to examine the applicant or their representative.[13] Depending on the court’s discretion, it may opt to accept or reject the application.

There are several grounds on which the application may be dismissed(REJECTION OF APPLICATION):

a. When the application does not conform to the format prescribed by rules 2 or 3.

b. If the applicant is not genuinely indigent.

c. If the individual has recently disposed of their property within two months preceding the submission of the application.

d. When no valid cause of action arises from the filed application.

e. If the applicant has entered into an agreement pertaining to the subject matter of the intended lawsuit, in which another party has obtained an interest.

f. If the application is barred by any legal provision.

g. If any other party has entered into an agreement with the applicant to fund the legal proceedings.


Once the court is content with the application and finds no grounds for rejection based on the stipulated criteria, a notice is issued to the opposing party and the government pleader at least ten days in advance. A specific date is scheduled for the submission of evidence that supports the applicant’s indigent status and for hearing any evidence presented to counter this claim.

Following the admission of the necessary documents and evidence, the court proceeds to examine witnesses provided by both parties. After considering all arguments and inquiries related to the application and evidence, the court then decides whether to permit or deny the applicant to proceed as an indigent person.

Upon the approval of the application, it is formally numbered and registered, serving as the primary complaint in the lawsuit. The case then proceeds in the same manner as any ordinary suit.[14]

In the case of Mathal Brijitha v. Thenkappan Nair[15], it was established that in proceedings related to a suit or appeal, an indigent plaintiff or appellant filing a review petition is exempt from paying court fees.

The court may revoke the permission granted to a plaintiff to sue as an indigent person, upon the application of the defendant or the government pleader, if the plaintiff engages in vexatious or improper conduct during the course of the lawsuit. Additionally, if the applicant has entered into an agreement concerning the subject matter of the lawsuit in which a third party has gained an interest, this can be grounds for withdrawing the indigent status.

Rule 9 addresses situations where a plaintiff, originally permitted to sue as an indigent person, ceases to meet the criteria of indigency after initiating the lawsuit. In such cases, the plaintiff may be required to pay the standard court fees that a non-indigent person would pay. The court holds the discretion to decide whether to discontinue the plaintiff’s indigent status. This application should be addressed and resolved before the suit reaches a conclusion. It is not considered good practice to discontinue a plaintiff’s indigent status while the suit is ongoing. The issue of pauperism is closely linked to the payment of court fees, with the state government primarily concerned with ensuring these fees are paid.


Rule 10 applies exclusively when a suit has been granted permission to be initiated in forma pauperis.[16] When the plaintiff progresses in the suit, the court calculates the amount of court fees that would have been paid by the plaintiff had they not been allowed to sue as an indigent person. This determined amount is recoverable by the State Government or any party specified in the decree to make this payment. It is also designated as a first charge on the subject-matter of the suit.

Rule 12 empowers the government to correct errors and omissions related to court fees through a simple application to the court. However, Rule 12 can only be invoked when the court has not already issued an order under Rule 10 and Rule 11.[17] When an order is issued under Rule 10, Rule 11, or Rule 11A, the court is required to promptly send a copy of the decree or order to the Collector. The Collector, in turn, has the authority to recover the specified court fees from the liable party or property as if it were an outstanding land revenue.

An order refusing an applicant the right to sue as an indigent person constitutes a bar to any subsequent application of a similar nature by the same applicant in relation to the same right to sue. Nevertheless, the applicant retains the option to initiate a suit in the usual manner concerning that right, with the provision that the plaint will be rejected if the applicant fails to pay, either at the time of initiating the suit or within a period stipulated by the court, the costs incurred by the State Government and the opposing party in their opposition to the application for leave to sue as an indigent person.


In the intricate tapestry of the legal world, Order 33 of the Civil Procedure Code stands as a beacon of hope and equity, opening the doors of justice to both individuals and legal entities who face financial constraints. It is a testament to the principle that access to justice should not be a privilege reserved for the financially endowed but a right bestowed upon all. By scrutinizing the eligibility criteria, the definition of an indigent person, application processes, and supplementary provisions, this article has unveiled the inner workings of this legal provision. It has shed light on the system’s commitment to ensuring that justice is attainable by those who may lack the means to bear the weight of court fees. The refusal to grant indigent status, while safeguarding against misuse, still leaves the path to justice open through conventional means. Order 33 is a cornerstone of equitable justice, ensuring that the halls of justice remain accessible to all, regardless of their financial status.

[1] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[2] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[3] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[4] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[5] Union Bank of India v. Khader International Construction, (2001) 5 SCC 22.

[6] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[7] M/s. Mamata Papers Pvt. Ltd. v State of Orissa and others, 2000 99

[8] The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,  No. 5, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[9] Rabinder Singh VS. Maheshwar Rao, 1997 BLJR 1568

[10] Mathai M. Paikeday v C.K. Anthony, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5493 OF 2011.

[11] A. A. HajaMuniuddin v. Indian Railways, (1992) 4 SCC 736.

[12] Lakshmi v. Vijaya Bank WRIT PETITION NO.I3089/‘.2O1JO

[13] RL Nathan v PK Ojha AIR 1976 Pat 127

[14] B.Manikyam v B Ramamurthy AIR 1975

[15] Mathal Brijitha v. Thenkappan Nair AIR 1993 Ker 79

[16] Ananga Bhusan v. GhanashyamAIR 1951

[17] Jeypore Evangical Lutheran Chrch v Samuel Santhi Kumar Chaudhry AIR

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