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Framing Of Issues

"Issues are the backbone of a suit."

Introduction
The term "issue" in a civil case means a disputed question relating to rival contentions in a suit. It is the focal point of disagreement, argument or decision. It is the point on which a case itself is decided in favour of one side or the other, by the court.

Framing of issues is probably the most important part of the trail of a civil suit. For a correct and accurate decision in the shortest possible time in a case, it is necessary to frame the correct and accurate issues. Inaccurate and incorrect issues may kill the valuable time of the court.

In Siddhi Chunilal vs. Suresh Gopkishan, (1) it was observed that if correct and accurate issues were not framed, it leads to gross injustice, delay and waste of the court's valuable time in deciding the matter.

If defendant makes no defense, framing and recording issue by the Court does not arise, in such a case, a Court need not frame and record issue in as much as the defendant makes no defense at the first hearing of the suit.

For example, a plaintiff says the defendant borrowed Rs 10 lakh from him. The defendant denies it. It is an affirmation by one party and denial by the other. Then there arises a distinct dispute and that dispute is termed an "issue". The court can then frame issues based on the facts of the case and proceed with it.

Definition of issues
According to the dictionary meaning, "issue" means a point in question; an important subject of debate, disagreement, discussion, argument or litigation. (2) Issues mean a single material point of fact or law in litigation that is affirmed by one party and denied by the other party to the suit and that subject of the final determination of the proceedings.

In Howell v. Dering, (3) the court held that, an issue is that which, if decided in favour of plantiff, will in it give a right to relief; and if decided in favour of the defendant, will in itself be a defence.

Issues arise when a material proposition of fact or law is affirmed by one party and denied by the other party to the suit. (4)

What are the material propositions?
According to Rule 1 (2), material propositions are those propositions of fact or law which a plaintiff must allege in order to show a right to sue or a defendant must allege in order to constitute his defense. Each material proposition affirmed by one party and denied by the other shall form the subject - matter of a distinct issue. (5)(6)

Kinds of issues:
As per the Order 14 Rule 1(4) of the C.P.C. issues are of two kinds:
  1. Issues of fact
  2. Issues of Law.

Issues, however, may be mixed issues of fact and law. (7)

Rule 2(1) OF Order 14 provides that where issues both of law and fact arise in the same suit, notwithstanding that a case may be disposed of on a preliminary issue, the court should pronounce judgment on all issues. But if the court is of the opinion that the case or any part thereof may be disposed of on an issue of law only, it may try that issue first, if that issue relates to:
  1. The jurisdiction of the court; or
  2. A bar to the suit created by any law for the time being in force,
For that purpose, the court may, if it thinks fit, postpone the settlement of the other issues until the issues of law have been decided. (8)

Object of framing of issues
The main object of framing issues is to ascertain the real dispute between the parties by narrowing down the area of conflict and determine where the parties differ. (9)

An obligation is cast on the court to read the plaint and the written statement and then determine with the assistance of the learned counsel for the parties, material propositions of fact or of law on which the parties are variance. The issue shall be formed on which the decision of the case shall depend.

The evidence shall be confined to the issues. The object of an issue is to tie down the evidence and arguments and decision to a particular question so that there may be no doubt on what the dispute is. The judgment then proceeding issue-wise would be able to tell precisely how the dispute was decided. (10)

In MB Sanghvi v Secretary, Madras Chillies Merchant, (11) Supreme Court held that, the Court should not determine an issue which does not arise on the pleadings and should not decide a suit on a matter on which no issue has been raised. No issue need be framed on a point of law which is perfectly clear. (12)

In Akha Ram v LR of Ram Sahai, (13) the court held that where broader issue framed having mixed facts, some facts relating to plaintiff and some facts relating to defendant, the trial Court allowing plaintiff to lead evidence of defendant was not improper.

When issues are framed?
According to rule 1, issues are framed and recorded by the court at the first hearing after reading the plaint, written statement, examining and hearing of parties and their pleaders.

Where the Court finds that the issues cannot be correctly framed without the examination of some person not before the Court or without the inspection of some document not produced in the suit, it may adjourn the framing of the issues to a future day (maximum of 7 days).

Court's power and Duty as to issues:
The duty to frame proper issues rests primarily on the Court. (14) The judge must apply his mind with due care, caution and diligence and understand the facts of the case before framing issues. The pleaders appearing for both the parties also should assist the court in framing issues. (15) If proper issues are not framed, the parties may move the court to get the proper issues framed.

Issues must be specific and clear and not vague or evasive. The court may examine the witnesses or inspect documents before framing issues, to amend the issues, to frame additional issues or to strike out issues that may appear to it to be wrongly framed. (16)(17) Where the parties to a suit agree as to the question of fact or law to be decided between them, they may, by agreement state the same in the form of an issue. If the court is satisfied that the agreement is executed in good faith, it may pronounce the judgment on such issue according to the terms of the agreement. (18)

Materials are required for framing of issues:
The issues may be framed by the Court from all or any of the following materials:
  1. Allegations made on oath by the parties, or by any persons present on their behalf, or made by the pleaders of such parties;
  2. Allegations made in the pleadings or in answers to interrogatories delivered in the suit;
  3. The contents of the documents produced by either party. (19)

Amendment of issues framed
Order 14 Rule 5, C.P.C. empowers the court to amend issues framed or frame additional issues at any stage of proceedings. Issues can be amended at any stage of the trail. They can also be amended by appellate or revisional court. (20)

In Nagubai Ammal v. B. Shama Rao, (21) Supreme Court observed that, a trail does not get vitiated on wrong, improper or defective issues.

Omission to frame issues
Even though it is the duty of the court to frame proper issues, mere omission to frame an issue is not necessarily fatal to the suit. Omission to frame an issue is an irregularity which may be or may not be a material one. If such an omission affects the disposal of the suit on merits, the case must be remanded to the trial court for a fresh trial.

Where the parties went to trail with full knowledge that a particular point was at issue, they have not been prejudiced and substantial justice has been done, absence of an issue is not fatal to the case so as to vitiate the proceedings. (22)

Conclusion
Issues are very important not only for the parties but also for the Court. Thus framing of issues is a very important stage of a civil trial. Parties are required to prove or disprove the issues framed by the court, not the pleading. On the other side, court is also bound to give decision on each framed issue. Therefore, the Court is not to decide those matters on which no issues have been framed.

If issues are properly framed, the controversy in the case can be clearly focused and documents can be properly appreciated in that light. The relevant evidence can also be carefully examined. Careful framing of issues also helps in proper examination and cross examination of witnesses and final arguments in the case. (23)

Foot-Notes:
  1. (2009 (6) BCR 857)
  2. Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2002) at p. 751, Chamber's 21st Century Dictionary (1997) at p. 722.
  3. (1915) I KB 54 (62)
  4. R. 1(1)
  5. R. 1(3)
  6. Sajan Sethi v. Rajan Sethi (2020) 4 SCC 589
  7. Sree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. V. CIT, AIR 1957 SC 49; Mathura Prasad Bajoo Jaiswal v. Dossibai N.B. Jeejeebhoy, (1970) 1 SCC 613
  8. Or. 14 R. 2(2)
  9. J. K. Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. V. Mazdoor Union, AIR 1956 SC 231 (235)
  10. K. Takwani, Civil Procedure with Limitation Act, 1963 and Chapter on Commercial Courts, EBC Publication, 9th Edn, (2021) p. 305
  11. AIR 1969 SC 530
  12. GC Behara v A Behara, AIR 1972 Ori 38
  13. AIR 2009 Raj 138
  14. R. 1(5)
  15. Ramrameshwari Devi. Nirmala Devi, (2011) 8 SCC 249
  16. Rr. 4 & 5
  17. Hiralal v. Badkulal AIR 1953 SC 225
  18. Rr. 6 & 7
  19. Rr. 1(5) & 3.
  20. Or. 14 R. 5
  21. AIR 1956 SC 593
  22. Swamy Atmananda v. Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, (2005) 10 SCC 51 at p. 64
  23. A Shanmugam v Ariya Kshatriay Rajakula Vamsathu Madalaya Nandhavana Paripalani Sangam, AIR 2012 SC 2010
Cases Laws Referred:
  1. A Shanmugam v Ariya Kshatriay Rajakula Vamsathu Madalaya Nandhavana Paripalani Sangam, AIR 2012 SC 2010
  2. Akha Ram v. LR of Ram Sahai, AIR 2009 Raj 138
  3. MB Sanghvi v. Secretary, Madras Chillies Merchant, AIR 1969 SC 530
  4. G. C Behara v. A. Behara, AIR 1972 Ori 38
  5. Hiralal v. Badkulal AIR 1953 SC 225
  6. Howell v. Dering, (1915) I KB 54 (62)
  7. J. K. Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. V. Mazdoor Union, AIR 1956 SC 231 (235)
  8. Mathura Prasad Bajoo Jaiswal v. Dossibai N.B. Jeejeebhoy, (1970) 1 SCC 613
  9. Nagubai Ammal v. B. Shama Rao AIR 1956 SC 593
  10. Ramrameshwari Devi. Nirmala Devi, (2011) 8 SCC 249
  11. Sajan Sethi v. Rajan Sethi, (2020) 4 SCC 589
  12. Siddhi Chunilal v. Suresh Gopkishan, (2009 (6) BCR 857)
  13. Sree Meenakshi Mills Ltd. v. CIT, AIR 1957 SC 49
  14. Swamy Atmananda v. Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, (2005) 10 SCC 51
Bibliography:
  1. Government of India, The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
  2. Takwani, C K, Civil Procedure with Limitation Act, 1963. Lucknow, Eastern Book Co, 9th Edn., (2021) pp. 305 - 309
  3. MP Jain: The Code of Civil Procedure including Limitation Act, 1963, 5th Edn.
  4. Singh, S N, The Code of Civil Procedure including Pleadings. Calcutta, Central Law Agency, 2011
  5. Priyabrata Ghosh, Civil Justice System : Its Delays and Solutions, 9 Journal of the Indian Law Institute (2020).
  6. K Rajashekaran, Framing of Issues in a Civil Suit, available at: https://lawwatch.in/framing-of-issues-in-a-civil-suit/ (last visited on Dec, 08, 2022)
  7. Framing Issues, available at: http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1180/Framing-of-Issues.html (last visited on Dec, 09, 2022)
  8. Naresh Kumar, Framing of issues, available at: https://www.lawnotes4u.in/framing-of-issues-or-14-cpc/ (last visited on Dec, 09, 2022

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