29 May 2022 3:40 AM GMT
The presentation of a plaint, i.e. the pleading of the plaintiff in a suit; marks the institution of a civil suit. The Civil Procedure Code, 1908, provides for the remedy of rejection of plaint under Order VII Rule 11, on certain specifically states grounds. Order VII Rule 11 provides: "Court shall reject a plaint: (a) where it does not disclose a cause of action; (b) where the relief...
The presentation of a plaint, i.e. the pleading of the plaintiff in a suit; marks the institution of a civil suit. The Civil Procedure Code, 1908, provides for the remedy of rejection of plaint under Order VII Rule 11, on certain specifically states grounds. Order VII Rule 11 provides:
"Court shall reject a plaint:
(a) where it does not disclose a cause of action;
(b) where the relief claimed is undervalued, and the plaintiff, on being required by the court to correct the valuation within a time to be fixed by the court, fails to do so;
(c) where the relief claimed is properly valued, but the plaint is written upon paper insufficiently stamped, and the plaintiff, on being required by the court to supply the requisite stamp paper within a time to be fixed by the Court, fails to do so;
(d) where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law;
(e) where it is not filed in duplicate;
(f) where the plaintiff fails comply with the provision of Rule 9.
Provided that the time fixed by the court for the correction of the valuation or supplying of the requisite stamp papers shall not be extended unless the court, for reasons to be recorded, is satisfied that the plaintiff was prevented by any cause of an exceptional nature from correcting the valuation or supplying the requisite stamp papers, as the case may be within the time fixed by the court and that refusal to extend such time would cause grave injustice to the plaintiff."
Rejection of plaint weeds about frivolous, vexatious and improper plaints at the very outset, thus, saving judicial time and resources. It was observed in the case of Azhar Hussain v. Rajiv Gandhi that the entire purpose of conferment of such powers under O7 R 11 is to ensure that a litigation, which is meaningless and bound to prove abortive is not permitted to occupy the time of the courts, and exercise the mind of the respondent. Such a remedy is necessary to put an end to the sham litigation, so further judicial time is not wasted, as observed by the Supreme Court in Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in the case of Dahiben v. Arvindbhai Kalyanji Bhanusal.
Rule 11 provides for 6 grounds for rejection of plaint, as follows:
Cause of action was defined in the case of Bloom Dekor Ltd. vs. Subhash Himatlal Desai & Ors to mean "every fact, which, if traversed, it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to support his right to a judgment of the Court" The court observed in the case of Church Of Christ Charitable Trust vs M/S. Ponniamman Educational Trust that cause of action refers to a bundle of facts which it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to succeed in the suit." A plaint that doesn't disclose a cause of action has no prospect of succeeding, it is therefore, in the common interest of the parties and also judicial time, that such a plaint be rejected Supreme Court in Raj Narain Sarin (dead) through L.Rs. Vs. Lakshmi Devi r also observed that where the plaint does not disclose a clear right to sue, it is liable for rejection.
More recently, in Colonel Shrawan Kumar Jaipuriyar @ Sarwan Kumar Jaipuriyar v. Krishna Nandan Singh And Another, court had rejected the plaint on the ground that it didn't disclose a clear right to sue.
Under-valuation of the plaint would have the impact of circumvention around the law on court fees and also the rules related to pecuniary jurisdiction of the court
Herein, court is empowered to grant extra time to correct the error of under-valuation, and if the plaintiff doesn't correct even after that, then even in such a situation, by virtue of the proviso to Rule 11, court may further grant extra time in exceptional situations.
To ensure compliance with the mandate of Stamp Act, as well as to secure the revenue interests of the state, this ground provides for rejection in case plaint is insufficiently stamped.
However, as in case of under-valued plaint, court may grant extension of time here also under Rule 11(c) and the Proviso.
In a case where the relied claimed is barred by law, the plaint shall be rejected by the court. The most common example of the same is seen in cases where the plaintiff without following the mandatory requirement of 2-month prior notice under Section 80CPC [herein, a two month-prior notice is to be given to the government before instituting suit against it], is presented, the same is liable to be rejected. In 2022, the Supreme Court in the case of M/S Frost International Limited v. M/S Milan Developers And Builders (P) Limited & Anr observed that the plaint which, in essence, sought the relief of injuncting the defendant from instituting criminal prosecution against the plaintiff under Section 138, Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, is liable to be rejected on the ground that such relief is barred by law under Section 41, Specific Relief Act, 1963.
Order IV Rule 1(1) requires that a plaint should be filed in duplicate. If this requirement is not fulfilled, court has to reject the plaint.
Rule 9 provides that the plaintiff shall endorse on the plaint, or annex thereto, a list of the documents (if any) which he has produced along with it; and, if the plaint is admitted, shall present, within such time as may be fixed by the Court or extended by it from time to time, as many copies on plain paper of the plaint as there are defendants, unless the Court by reason of the length of the plaint or the number of the defendants, or for any other sufficient reason, permits him to present a like number of concise statements of the nature of the claim made, or of the relief claimed in the suit, in which case he shall present such statements. It further provides that the plaintiff shall, within the time fixed by the Court or extended by it under sub-rule (1), pay the requisite fee for the service of summons on the defendants.
In case this is not complied with, the plaint shall be rejected.
The Supreme Court in its 2020 decision of Dahiben v. Arvindbhai Kalyanji Bhanusali (Gajra)(D) Thru Lrs observed that the plaint "shall" be rejected if any of the grounds specified in clause (a) to (e) are made out. If the Court finds that the plaintiff does not disclose a cause of action, or that the suit is barred by any law, the Court has no option, but to reject the plaintiff." The provisions of Order VI Rule 11 are therefore not discretionary, but mandatory. If the plaint attracts any of the clauses under Rule 11, the court cannot of its discretion choose to note reject it.
In the case of Kamala & others v. KT Eshwara, the two judge bench of the Supreme Court observed that the conclusion as to rejection of plaint must be drawn from the averments made in the plaint. The bench observed that that would be relevant for invoking clause (d) of Order 7 Rule 11 of the Code are the averments made in the plaint. For that purpose, there cannot be any addition or subtraction. In Saleem Bhai v. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court also observed that: "It is clear that in order to consider Order 7 Rule 11, the court has to look into the averments in the plaint and the same can be exercised by the trial court at any stage of the suit. It is also clear that the averments in the written statement are immaterial and it is the duty of the Court to scrutinize the averments/pleas in the plaint. In other words, what needs to be looked into in deciding such an application are the averments in the plaint. At that stage, the pleas taken by the defendant in the written statement are wholly irrelevant and the matter is to be decided only on the plaint averments."
More recently, in the landmark decision of Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Hemant Vithal Kamat & Ors, the Supreme Court, while deciding the issue of "res judicata as a ground of rejection of plaint" observed that to reject a plaint on the ground that the suit is barred by any law, only the averments in the plaint will have to be referred to and the defense made by the defendant in the suit must not be considered while deciding the merits of the application.
Moreover, as held by the Supreme Court in its 2022 decision of Biswanath Banik v. Sulanga Bose, the Court has to consider and read the averments in the plaint as a whole. Laying reliance on the decision in Ram Prakash Gupta v. Rajiv Kumar Gupta, it observed that rejection of a plaint under Order VII Rule 11 by reading only few lines and passages of the plaint and ignoring the other relevant parts of the plaint is impermissible.
The major chunk of jurisprudence around Order VII Rule 11, revolves around Rule 11(d), which states that plaint shall be rejected if it the relief claimed is barred by law. Now in cases whether the determination of bar of law is a 'mixed question of law and fact', the rejection of plaint is not ordered by the court. The reason for the same is simple. Since a mixed question of law and fact cannot be decided on the sole basis of a plaint, and requires the court to consider evidence, rejection is not ordered in such as only averments in the plaint are to be considered to decide the question of rejection of plaint.
Two most common examples of this peculiar scenario of "mixed questions of law and fact" are bar of res judicata and the bar of limitation.
A recent example for the same can be seen in the case of Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Hemanth Vithal Kamat & Ors. where court was dealing with res Judicata as a ground for rejection of plaint. It observed in the judgment that to determine whether a suit is barred by res judicata, it is necessary that "(i) the 'previous suit' is decided, (ii) the issues in the subsequent suit were directly and substantially in issue in the former suit; (iii) the former suit was between the same parties or parties through whom they claim, litigating under the same title; and (iv) that these issues were adjudicated and finally decided by a court competent to try the subsequent suit".
The bench observed that since an adjudication of the plea of res judicata requires consideration of the pleadings, issues and decision in the 'previous suit', such a plea will be beyond the scope of Order 7 Rule 11 (d), where only the statements in the plant will have to be perused."
In the landmark case of Smt. Sita Shripad Narvekar and ors v. Auduth Timblo, it was observed in this context that "for deciding the application under Order VII Rule 11 (d) CPC, the averments in the plaint are to be examined without any additions or subtractions. Res judicata being a mixed question of law and fact, which the Court will have to examine based on evidence adduced by both the parties on merits of the claim.
Another common example of 'mixed question of law and fact' can be seen in the case of bar of limitation. The question of limitation is more often than not, a mixed question of law and fact. In this regard, the observation in the case of Rasumalla Yellaiah andothers vs. Chief Commissioner, Land and Administration, Hyderabad and others may be noted: "Question of limitation is not always a pure question of law but a mixed question of fact and law. When several factual details have to be gone into to decide said question of law, rejection of plaint at threshold itself, not proper."
However, it is no inflexible rule that rejection cannot be granted on the ground of limitation. Where the bar of limitation is clearly and indisputably ascertainable from the averments of plaint, the plaint can be rejected. Infact, in the much celebrated recent case of Dahiben v. Arvindbhai Kalyanji Bhanusali, court did reject the plaint on that ground as the bar of limitation was clearly made out from the averments in the plaint.
In a recent case, a 2-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered a split verdict on facts as to whether the plaint in the partciular case had to be rejected as time-barred. While Justice Sanjiv Khanna held that the plaint itself showed that the suit was time barred, Justice Bela Trivedi held that the limitation was a mixed question of facts and law and required trial(Saranpal Kaur Anand versus Praduman Singh Chandhok and others).
The rejection of plaint brings an end to the suit. It is pertinent to note that the rejection of plaint is a deemed decree under Section 2(2) of the Code. The effect, therefore, is that the same can be appealed under Section 96, CPC. Moreover, OVII R13 provides that rejection of the plaint on any of the grounds mentioned in rule 11 shall not of its own force preclude the plaintiff from presenting a fresh plaint in respect of the same cause of action. In other words, rejection of plaint doesn't bar a fresh suit on the same ground.
In the decision of K Akabar Ali v. Umar Khan, it was observed by the Supreme Court that the provisions of Order VII Rue 11 are not exhaustive and the Court has the inherent power to see that frivolous or vexatious litigations are not allowed to consume the time of the Court
In two cases as provided under Rule 11, court may grant extra time to the plaintiff to correct the default of his plaint, i.e in the case where:
In both these cases, the proviso provides that the court has the power to extend time to make the required corrections [as an alternative to rejecting the plaint] if not doing the same would lead to injustice.
The question of whether court can allow a party to amend the plaint under Order VI Rule 17, so that the plaintiff can escape rejection has been an important judicial question, that has also led to conflicting judgments from High Courts. For a detailed discussion on the earlier position, readers may refer this. However, last year, by the judgment of Sayyed Ayaz v. Prakash G Goyal, Supreme Court has observed that no order to amendment of plaint can be made when the plaint is otherwise liable to be rejected under Rule 11(d). It observed that court under Rule 11 cannot grant the liberty to amend the plaint while rejecting it. Court based its conclusion on the fact that the mandate of Rule 11 is "compulsory" in nature, it is not in the nature of a choice that is available to the court. In such a case, court doesn't have the option to not reject the plaint. The only option with the court is to reject it, in case the same is barred by law, or doesn't disclose a cause of action.
A plaint can either be rejected, in whole, or not at all. The observation of the Supreme Court in Madhav Prasad Aggarwal & Anr. v. Axis Bank Ltd. & Anr may be noted in this regard:
"it is not permissible to reject plaint qua any particular portion of a plaint including against some of the defendant(s) and continue the same against the others. In no uncertain terms the Court has held that if the plaint survives against certain defendant(s) and/or properties, Order 7 Rule 11(d) of CPC will have no application at all, and the suit as a whole must then proceed to trial. 12. In view of this settled legal position we may now turn to the nature of relief." Relying upon the same, the Delhi High court observed in
In the recent case of Kavita Tushir v. Pushpraj Dalal, the Delhi High court had the rejected the application of rejection of plaint stating that there cannot be any piecemeal rejection of plaint
Rejection of plaint is an effective remedy which saves innocent defendants from prolonged legal struggle; while also saving the precious judicial time. Its status as a deemed decree, and the clear legislative statement as to "no bar on fresh plaint" to be filed, on the ground that earlier plaint was rejected, also ensures enough cushions for this provision to not work prejudicially against the innocent plaintiffs.