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This article is written by Siddharth Raj Choudhary who is pursuing a Certificate Course in Introduction to Legal Drafting from LawSikho.

Introduction

A plaint is a legal document which is filed for the purposes of initiation of the suit. Every suit is instituted after the presentation of the plaint in the manner prescribed. It is the first step towards initiating the suit. A plaint includes all the issues raised by the plaintiff along with the cause of action arising out of the suit. The proper procedure for filing a civil suit is provided under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Order VII of the Civil Procedure Code deals with the plaint. A plaint includes only the material facts in a very short and precise way. Rule 1 – 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure Code deals with the particulars of the plaint and Rule 9 deals with the admission of plaint. Rule 10 and 10B of the code deals with the return of plaint and the appearance of the parties. Rules 11 – 13 provides for the rejection of the plaint along with the circumstances in which it can be rejected.

The particulars of a plaint is provided under Order VII Rule 1-

  • The name of the court where the suit is to be initiated.
  • The name, description and place of residence of the plaintiff
  • The name, description and place of residence of the defendant
  • A statement to the effect of either the plaintiff or defendant being a minor or a person of unsound mind
  • Facts constituting the cause of action
  • Facts showing that the court has the jurisdiction
  • The relief claimed by the plaintiff
  • A statement of the value of the subject matter of the suit

The particulars of any plaint include the Heading and title, the main body of the plaint and the relief being claimed by the plaintiff. The heading always includes the name of the court and also the name of both the parties i.e. the Plaintiff and the Defendants along with their place of residence. The title of the suit includes the proper reasoning specified by the plaintiff along with the jurisdiction for the suit. The body of the plaint includes all the concerns of the plaintiff in an elaborate manner.

The body of the plaint consists of two parts i.e. the formal part and the substantial portion. The formal part includes statements related to the cause of action, facts specifying that the particular court has the pecuniary or territorial jurisdiction along with the value of the subject matter of the suit. In the substantial portion it should be shown that the defendant is interested in the subject matter for the purposes of calling him /her before the court. Lastly, whatever relief is being claimed by the plaintiff has to be specifically stated in clear words. The relief might include anything from damages to specific performance and even injunctions.

Can inadvertent mistakes in plaint be corrected?

It is a very well settled fact that any inadvertent mistake caused in the plaint due to the negligence of the counsel cannot be refused to be corrected when such mistake is apparent from a simple and a plain reading of the plaint. The bench of Justice DY Chadrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta in an appeal filed against the order of the High Court in the case of Varun Pahwa vs. Renu Chaudhary (Civil Appeal No. 2431 OF 2019) mentioned that any such mistake cannot be used as a weapon to defeat the substantive rights of the parties. The court therefore, always allows for making amendments to the plaints caused due to some mistake or negligence or infraction of the procedural rules.

In the case of Uday Shankar Triyar v. Ram Kalewar Prasad Singh and Ors (2006) 1 SCC 75 it was held that any procedural defects or irregularities in the plaint that can be corrected by way of amendment should be allowed as otherwise it defeats the substantive rights of the people and causes injustice. It was even stated that any procedural lapse should never be made the ground for denying justice

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Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction for the matters with respect to the plaint can be classified into three categories i.e. Subject Matter jurisdiction, Territorial jurisdiction and Pecuniary jurisdiction.

Subject Matter jurisdiction

Certain courts are prohibited from trying certain suits based on the class of the suit or its subject matter. For example money suits can be tried by the small causes courts but it has no jurisdiction for trying suits related to specific performance or injunctions as it is outside the scope of its subject matter.

Territorial Jurisdiction

All the courts in this country have their territorial limits determined by the state government and they do not have any power or authority to try matters which are beyond its territorial limits. For example, the High Courts have jurisdiction over matters within their state and the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction throughout the country.

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

The civil courts in this country have a pecuniary limit or a monetary limit that has been determined and they do not have the power and authority to try matters which are beyond the monetary limits prescribed for each court. For example, a small causes court has a limited pecuniary jurisdiction whereas the High courts and the Supreme Courts have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction.

Filing Procedure for a plaint

Time Period

The period of limitations for filing a civil suit is prescribed under the Limitation Act, 1963. The time period for filing a civil suit is three years from the date on which the cause of action arose.

In certain circumstances the period of limitation can be extended beyond the three year limit, like in the case of acknowledgement of liability in writing or if the person suffers from a legal disability. However, there are certain exceptions in which the time period of limitation is more than three years, for example, a suit for recovery of possession of immovable property is twelve years.

Vakalatnama

It is a document in a written form under which the person who is filing the suit authorises the advocate / counsel to represent him before the court of law. If the person decides to represent himself in a suit, then no vakalatnama will be required. A vakalatnama includes the following term-

  • The counsel cannot be held responsible for any decision
  • It is the responsibility of the client to bear the cost of the proceedings
  • It is the right of the counsel to retain all the documents until the entire fee amount has been paid.
  • The client has the right to disengage the current counsel at any stage of the proceedings

Court Fees

Appropriate court fees have to be paid along with the process fees for filing a plaint. The amount of court fees to be paid depends on the different types of documents. It is generally a nominal percentage of the total value of the suit or the amount claimed by the plaintiff. The requisite amount of the court fees to be paid along with the stamp duty varies in every different suit and the same is prescribed under the Court Fees Stamp Act.

Valuation

The Suit Valuation Act 1887 and the Court Fees Act 1870 prescribe the mode of valuation of a suit for the purpose of determining the jurisdiction of Courts and determining the amount of court-fees to be paid in a suit. The valuation for purposes of jurisdiction has to be made under the Suits Valuation Act.

Filing Other Documents

Once the plaint and the written statement are completed and the parties have filed their respective submissions, they are given the opportunity to present and produce certain files that they think are important and substantial with respect to their claims. It is important to file these documents and get it admitted on record as otherwise reliance on these documents cannot be placed as these documents are not a part of the record.

Conduct of the Proceedings

Once the court is satisfied and comes to the conclusion that there are merits in the case, then it issues a notice to the opposite party asking them to submit their reply in form of arguments and thus, fix a date for hearing the matter. Once the notice is issued then the plaintiff is required to pay the requisite court fees, stamp duty etc. along with two copies of the plaint for the defendant to be sent by the mode of courier and ordinary post respectively.

Other Steps

The respondent is required to present himself at the once the notice has been issued on the date specified on the notice. The respondent is also required to record his written statement within 30 days from the date of administration of the notice. In this written statement the defendant is required to deny any or all the allegations which he thinks are made falsely by the plaintiff. It is also required to contain the verification from the defendant stating that the contents are correct and true.

Conclusion

Filing a plaint is the first step towards instituting a suit. The idea of drafting and filing a plaint in the legal field was brought in with the purpose of setting up a system which can be used for effective communication of the conflicts between the parties to the courts. This was done in order to ensure that effective and well informed decisions can be delivered by the courts. Therefore, due diligence should be maintained in order to ensure that all the protocols are followed properly.

References

  1. Civil Procedure Code,1908
  2. Suit Valuation Act, 1887
  3. Court Fees Act, 1870
  4. Limitation Act, 1963
  5. Varun Pahwa vs. Renu Chaudhary (Civil Appeal No. 2431 OF 2019) 
  6. Uday Shankar Triyar v. Ram Kalewar Prasad Singh and Ors (2006) 1 SCC 75

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