The Delhi High Court has observed that the interrogatories cannot be used by the plaintiff in a suit for substituting its burden of proving things by adducing relevant evidence, adding that its objective is to narrow the controversy and facilitate framing of issues regarding the disputed facts.
Justice Neena Bansal Krishna further added that Order 11 Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is for expediting trial of the suit, thereby saving judicial time and costs of litigation.
"The interrogatories must be used liberally by the parties. One of the great object of the interrogatories when properly administered is to save evidence i.e., to diminish the burden of proof which was otherwise on the plaintiff. The object is not merely to discover the facts but also to save the expense of proving a part on the case," the court said.
Order XI Rule 1 of the Code states that the plaintiff or defendant in a suit may, by leave of the Court, deliver interrogatories in writing for examination of opposite parties or any of the parties.
The provision also states that no party shall deliver more than one set of interrogatories to the same party without an order for the same.
The Court observed that interrogatories are not limited to giving plaintiff the knowledge of something which is not already known, but includes getting admission of anything which he has to prove on any issue raised between him and the defendant.
"Order 11 gives a party a right to interrogate with a view to obtain an admission from his opponent of everything which is material and relevant to the issue raised in the pleadings," the court added.
The court was dealing with an application filed under Order XI Rules 1 and 5 read with Section 151 of the Code by Micromax Media Private Limited seeking directions to make Hewlett Packard India Sales Private Limited officials to answer the interrogatories in the suit.
The application stated that the defendants in their Written Statement-cum-Counter Claim had admitted the entitlement of the plaintiff company to the MVC rebates and bonus for the period between December 2008 till June 2009.
Hewlett however allegedly set off and raised a counter-claim of Rs. 5,69,00,000 against Micromax claiming that it had received excess payments from November 2007 to April 2009 which was discovered during the audit. No document was placed by the defendant company on the basis of which it was claiming excess payment, the court was told.
The counsel appearing for the defendant company sought dismissal of the application by taking a preliminary objection that the company had nowhere admitted to the entitlements to the alleged MVC rebates.
It was also argued that the interrogatories sought to be administered to the defendants were nothing but a fishing expedition tantamounting to embarking on a roving enquiry.
Dismissing the application filed by Micromax, the Court noted that while the plaintiff company had explained in detail its claim and entitlement, the defendants in their Written Statement not only denied the said rebates but also filed a Counter-Claim.
"…. it is evident that there was multiple-tier process for enquiring into the MVC rebates due to plaintiff, which according to the plaintiff had been stringently followed and there are no excess payment made. It is for the plaintiff to prove its case in regard to its entitlements and the interrogatories sought by the plaintiff do not meet the criteria of interrogatories and cannot be permitted," the court said.
The court also observed that the documents sought from the defendants, relating to their Counter-Claim, did not shorten the controversy or narrow the scope of evidence that the plaintiff would have to necessarily prove in support of its claim.
Title: MICROMAX MEDIA PVT LTD v. M/S HEWLETT PACKARD INDIA SALES PVT LTD & ORS.