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Judgment - Decree in India - Court Order

Written by: Anand Srivastava - 3rd year, B.A.LL.B. (Hons.),National Law School of India University
Environmental law
Legal Service
  • The judgment forms the concluding part of the civil suit and it determines the rights and liabilities of the parties. Basically judgment is followed by a decree which is its operating part. Historically, there was the distinction between judgment and decree. Common Law adheres to the judgment while the Equity Court of Law deals with the decree. But later on Judicature Act was passed in U.K. which merged the distinction between judgment and decree. In U.S. also, distinction between judgment and decree has lost its relevance but in India, the distinction between judgment and decree has still maintain its position from the initiation of the old Code of Civil Procedure, 1859. The present Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 also recognizes this distinction.

    In this legal world, judgment given by any court followed by its decree play an important role to define the scope and limitations of any individual. Apart from the statutory rules and regulations, one also has to adhere to the decision given by the court to keep oneself away from the clutches of the court room drama.
    Daily various judgments are pronounced and decree following it took place in the courts of our country. Various civil cases are also being disposed off each working day. These judgments are important as they act as precedents for future declarations, so it is very necessary that they stick to the judicial reasoning without bringing their own discretionary power blindly. After so many judgments and backing it up with the decree also, certain issues do arises which tends to confuse us. Civil Procedure Code, 1908 has been drafted very nicely but then also certain loopholes are there providing leeway for the creeping of unnecessary elements. As no law seems to perfect for us but then also effort should be made to take them somewhere close to the shell of perfect ness.

    Decree is the operating part of the judgment and it has to be in harmony with the judgment. Section 33 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 says decree is followed by the judgment. Under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (hereinafter referred as C.P.C.) judgment and decree has been defined in the section 2 of the C.P.C. and provisions related to it are given in the Order 20 of this Act. Certain specific issues arise while dealing with this Order such as the time frame for the pronouncement of the judgment; power to amend the decree; reasons for each decision etc.

    Pronouncement of Judgment- The D’ Day
    Crystallizing judge’s intention into a formal shape in an open court leads the judgment to its final destination. Rule 1 of Order 20 deals with the pronouncement of judgment. It talks of specific time frame for the declaration of the judgment in the open court. But there was no time limit prescribed for the pronouncement of judgment prior to the amendment in 1976 which led to a persistent demand all over India for the imposition of a reasonable time frame for the declaration of judgment after the hearing of the case gets over . In this regard, observation of the Supreme Court in R.C. Sharma v. Union of India is worth noting;
    The Civil Procedure Code does not provide a time limit for the period between the hearing of arguments and the delivery of a judgment. Nevertheless, we think that an unreasonable delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of a judgment, unless explained by exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, is highly undesirable even when written arguments are submitted. It is not unlikely that some points which the litigant considers important may have escaped notice. But, what is more important is the litigants must have complete confidence in the results of litigation. This confidence tends to be shaken if there is excessive delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgments. Justice, as we have often observed, must not only be done but must manifestly appear to be done.
    Accordingly amendment was introduced providing a time limit for the declaration of the judgment. If it is not possible to pronounce the judgment at once, it should be declared within thirty days from the day of conclusion of the hearing and in case some extreme situation arises then the provision is also there to extend this declaration of pronouncement till the sixtieth day from the conclusion of hearing. Thus judge have a discretionary power for the pronouncement of judgment for these sixty days but after that declaration becomes mandatory on the part of the judge.

    But what happens if the judgment is not pronounced within sixty days also. Supreme Court has strongly deprecated the action of the High Court in the case of Anil Rai v. State of Bihar, where the judgment was pronounced after two years. Remarks of the honourable court in this case are just next to the truth and are worth noting down:

    # The Constitution did not provide anything when High Court judges do not pronounce judgments after lapse of several months presumably because the architects of the Constitution believed that no High Court judge would cause long and distressing delays. Such expectation of the makers of the Constitution remained faultless during the early period of the post Constitution years. But unfortunately, the later years have shown slackness on the part of a few judges of the superior Courts in India with the result that the records remain consigned to hibernation. Judges themselves normally forget the details of the facts and niceties of the legal points advanced. Sometimes the interval is so long that the judges forget even the fact that such a case is pending with them expecting judicial verdict.

    # This confidence tends to be shaken if there is excessive delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgments. A long delay in delivering the judgment gives rise to unnecessary speculation in the minds of parties to a case.

    # Excessive delay is not only against the provisions of law but in fact infringes the right of personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Any procedure or course of action which does not ensure a reasonable quick adjudication has been termed to be unjust.

    # Justice should not only be done but should also appear to have been done. Similarly whereas justice delayed is justice denied, justice withheld is even worst than that.

    # In a country like ours where people consider the judges only second to God, efforts be made to strengthen that belief of the common man. Delay in disposal of the cases facilitates the people to raise eye-brows, some time genuinely which, if not checked, may shake the confidence of the people in the judicial system.

    Thus declaration of judgment within reasonable time is highly inevitable. In order to raise the standard of the court in this regard certain guidelines has also been given in the Anil Rai’s case. These guidelines are given below:

    # The Chief Justices of the High Courts may issue appropriate directions to the Registry that in a case where the judgment is reserved and is pronounced later, the judgment and date of pronouncing it be separately mentioned by the Court officer concerned.

    #  The Chief Justices of the High Courts should direct the Court Officers/Readers of the various Benches in the High Courts to furnish every month the list of cases in the matters where the judgments reserved are not pronounced within the period of that month.

    # On noticing that after conclusion of the arguments the judgment is not pronounced within a period of two months, the concerned Chief Justice shall draw the attention of the Bench concerned to the pending matter.

    #  Where a judgment is not pronounced within three months, from the date of reserving it, any of the parties in the case is permitted to file an application in the High Court with prayer for early judgment. Such application, as and when filed, shall be listed before the Bench concerned within two days excluding the intervening holidays.

    #  If the judgment, for any reason, is not pronounced within a period of six months, any of the parties of the said list shall be entitled to move an application before the Chief Justice of the High Court with a prayer to withdraw the said case and to make it over to any other bench for fresh arguments. It is open to the Chief Justice to grant the said prayer or to pass any other order as he deems fit in the circumstances.

    Alteration in Judgment
    Before the pronouncement of judgment, every right is with the judge to change his mind but the dilemma arises in the situation when judgment has been declared in the open court and after that something strikes to the judge which prompts him to alter the judgment; so the question arises will the changed mind frame should be given prevalence over the old decision or old should be preserved from the new one? Rule 3 of Order 20 of C.P.C. provides that a judgment once signed cannot be amended or altered afterwards except to correct clerical or arithmetical mistakes or errors due to accidental slips or omissions as mentioned in section 152 of the C.P.C. or on review.

    According to Allahabad High Court in Sangam Lal v. Rent Control and Eviction Officer, a judgment dictated in an open court can be changed, even completely, before it is signed provided notice is given to all parties concerned and they are heard before the change is made. Reasoning given for this judgment was that they do not want to construe the rules too technically as they are indeed rules to further the ends of justice; so they should not be viewed too narrowly. This view of the Allahabad High Court was also accepted by the Delhi High Court in the case of Ram Ralaya v. The Official Receiver. But the Gujarat High Court disagreed with this view and was of the opinion that once a judgment has been pronounced or delivered in an open court, though formal corrections may be made before the judge signs it, the core of it cannot be altered or changed so as to modify the order or amend or even set it at naught . Basically judgment is the final decision of the court intimated to the parties and to the world at the large in an open court. This declaration is the intention of the mindset of the court after going through the tedious process of the wholesome hearing. This intention of the court is the final operative decision of the court which constitutes the decision.

    Regarding this, the Gujarat High Court in the case of Ishwarbhai mentions some worthwhile remarks. It says that, as soon as the judgment is delivered, that becomes the operative pronouncement of the Court. The law then provides for the manner in which it is to be authenticated and made certain. The rules regarding this differ but they do not form the essence of the matter and if there is any irregularity in carrying them out it is curable. Thus, if a judgment happens not to be signed and is inadvertently consequent on acted on and executed, the proceedings consequent on it would be valid because the judgment, if it can be shown to have been validly delivered, would stand good despite defects in the mode of this subsequent authentication.

    The court can do some formal corrections but the core of it cannot be altered or changed so as to modify the order or amend or even set at naught the same. That can be done only by the Court in appeal or in revision. Even with the consent or agreement of the parties also, a judgment cannot be altered or amended.
    The researcher is also in line with the decision of the Gujarat High Court. Allowing alteration before signing of judgment but after declaration in the open court raises doubt regarding the sanctity of the judgment.

    Reasoning for Decision
    Before starting anything, it is very necessary to lay down the ground; before judging also something, it is quite crucial to have full facts before it and then take out the relevant portions to make a concise statement of the case. Thus, a judgment should inaugurate with the facts of the case in brief. Rule 4(2) of Order 20 of C.P.C. states that apart from the judgment of Small Cause Courts, judgments of all other Courts shall contain a concise statement of the case; the points for determination; the decision thereon; and the reasons for such decision.

    Thus after laying down the facts, facts in issue should be settled by bringing out the claims which are disputed between both the parties; thus issues should be framed. Framing of issues should be done via Rule 1 of Order 14 of C.P.C.

    Now after issues are framed, points for determination come into picture and for determining those points, need for extra force is required. It is not possible to cruise through the disputed facts in the absence of any peaceful land. In order to satisfactorily reach on a judicial determination of a disputed claim where substantial questions of law or fact arise, it has to be supported by the most cogent reasons; a mere order deciding the matter in dispute without any reasoning is no judgment at all Power of reasoning is needed to back up the decision on each issue given by the court under Rule 5 of Order 20 of this Code.

    Rule 2 of Order 14 of C.P.C. provides judgment to be given on all the issues that has arisen in the given case. Rule 1 of the same Order provides for framing of issues with the object of keeping the various points arising for decision separate and distinct and to avoid the confusion later on.

    As per Rule 5 of Order 20 of C.P.C. court has to state its decision with reasons on each issue separately unless the finding upon any one or more of the issues is sufficient for the decision of the suit. But Rule 2 of Order 14 of C.P.C. requires that a court should decide on all issues even if the case can be decided by settling few issues only except where a pure question of law relating to jurisdiction or bar to suit is involved. Further with the addition of an explanation to Rule 22 of Order 41 of C.P.C. which empowers a respondent in appeal to file cross objection in respect of findings against him in a decree notwithstanding that by reason of the decision of the court on any other finding which is sufficient for the decision of the suit the decree is wholly or in part in favour of the respondent, the intention of the legislature is clear that the court will now have to decide and state its findings on all the issues even if it considers that finding for one or only few issues is sufficient for the disposal of the case. Thus in order to have a harmonious construction of all these rules, it would be judicial to amend the Rule 5 of Order 20 of C.P.C. by omission of the words unless the finding upon any one or more of the issues is sufficient for the decision of the suit at the end . Moreover, principle of res-judicata operates after the determination of the case; so in case if judgment is not given by deciding all the issues then problem can erupt in future whether the rule of res-judicata will operate or not for that particular issue.

    There is ambiguity whether recording of reasons for each issue is one of the principle of natural justice or not but it is inevitable for providing safeguard against possible injustice and arbitrariness and provides protection to the person adversely affected.

    The court must decide all the issues of fact, which arise between the parties as if the appellate Court takes a different view; the parties are saved from further harassment . Court has to refer in its judgment all the submissions made before it and have to deal with it even if the court is of the opinion that there is no substance in any of the submission; in those extreme situations the Court may just refer to the same and say that there is no substance.

    In the absence of discussion in detail of the evidence by the parties, it cannot be said that its judgment is no judgment in the eyes of law. All the court has to do is to frame proper issues and to keep in mind all the points involved in the case and has discussed all those points, though in brief; thus giving full respect to the judgment.

    Problem arises where there is absolutely no evidence on the record and the plaintiff is wholly unable to proceed with the case; in that situation an order simply dismissing the suit without a finding on every issue is not bad. It would be a sheer formality to write a judgment on each issue in these scenarios.

    Comparison Between Judgment and Decree

    Judgment is defined in section 2(9) of the C.P.C. which says judgment is the statement given by the Judge on the grounds of a decree or order. Judgment refers to what the judge writes regarding all the issues in the matter and the decision on each of the issues. Hence every judgment consists of facts, evidence, findings etc. and the conclusion of the court.

    The term decree is defined in section 2(2) of the C.P.C. which reads as follows:

    decree means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit and may be either preliminary or final. It shall be deemed to include the rejection of a plaint and the determination of any question within section 144, but shall not include-
    a) any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order, or
    b) any order of dismissal for default.

    Decree is the conclusion reached by the judge after hearing both parties on merits and expressing the same in writing. Basically decree is the subset in the set of judgment.

    The decree forms the last part of the judgment and is extracted from the entire judgment by the decree clerk who contains the basic details and the result of the case. The date of the decree is the date of judgment for the purpose of execution though it can be signed anytime later even by a successor judge though it should be given within 15 days. Even a set-off/ counter claim is in the same decree.

    Judgments by way of an amendment in 1976 must contain the exact decree and words like “decree what is prayed for” cannot be used. Thus every judgment contains the decree, amongst other things and the decree is usually the last portion of the judgment and the decree independently is without reasoning.
    There is no need of a statement in a decree though it is necessary in a judgment. Likewise, it is not necessary that there should be a formal expression of the order in the judgment, though it is desirable to do so. A judgment is a stage prior to the passing of a decree or an order, and after the pronouncement of the judgment, way for the decree has to be left wide open.

    Decree has to be in line with the judgment and it should present the correct interpretation of the judgment. But in case, scenario arises where there appears to be a conflict between the judgment and the decree, then the decree must be reasonably construed and if on such construction both of them able to remain together, then adhere to that decree. But if it gets difficult for the decree to stay together with the judgment, then it must be amended under section 151 of the C.P.C. and if there is any clerical mistakes in the decree, then section 152 of the C.P.C. will take out the decree safe from the clutch of being declared nullity.
    # Justice C.K. Thakker, Civil Procedure (5th edn., Lucknow: Eastern Book Company, 2005) at 273.
    # AIR 1976 SC 2037.
    # AIR 2001 SC 3173.
    # AIR 1966 All 221.
    # AIR 1976 Del. 172.
    # Ishwarbhai v. Vadilal, AIR 1968 Guj. 289.
    # Subramania v. Corera, AIR 1925 Madras 457.
    # Swaranlata v. Harendra, AIR 1969 SC 1167.
    # Sudipto Sarkar & VR Manohar, Sarkar’s The Law of Civil Procedure Vol. 1 (10th edn., New Delhi: Wadhwa & Company Nagpur, 2002) at 1319.
    # Supra note 1 at 275.
    # Ram Ranbijaya Prasad Singh v. Sukar Ahir, AIR 1947 Pat. 334.
    # Balkrishna Chatrabhuj Thacker v. Devabai, AIR 1985 Guj. 133.
    # Jokhan v. The Joint Director of Consolidation, Allahabad, AIR 1980 All 215.
    # Pitamber Prasad v. Sohan Lal, AIR 1957 All 107.
    # Supra note 1 at 21.

    The author can be reached at: [email protected] / Print This Article

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