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Stages of Civil Trial

To gauge a better understanding of how the courts function in our country, it is imperative for us to understand the several stages that goes to develop a uniform procedure that is followed by the people going about their business in the civil courts such as District Courts and High Courts of Several States of India. This Article mainly focusses on the Code of Civil Procedure and its provisions related to several levels of the Trial.

The pleadings are covered under the Order VI of the CPC. According to Rule 1, "pleadings" generally mean a plaint or a written statement. Rule 2 of the same order states that the pleadings shall be state material facts, upon which the party pleads relief for their claim/defense and not evidence through which the parties prove their case.

According to the Order VI Rule 16, the court can strike out or reject the pleadings which may be:

  • which may be unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous, or vexatious,
  • which may tend to prejudice, embarrass, or delay the fair trail of the suit,
  • or which is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court.

The first stage is the Presentation of the Plaint which is envisaged under Order VII of the CPC, 1908. It is the most initial step of the pleadings in a case. The particulars that need to be contained in the plaint are covered under the Rule 1 of the said order.

Next stage is the Issue and Service of Summons on the defendant/respondent. The particulars of this stage are provided under the Order 5 of the Schedule 1 of the Code of the Civil Procedure. Summons basically mean order by the court to call the person on a specific date whose is basically the defendant. Under the Rule 3 of the concerned order, the Court may also order the plaintiff or the defendant to appear in person and the same must be complied with. Under Order IX of the CPC, an ex-party decree might be signed by the court against the defendant in case they fail to appear when summoned on the specified date and time.

Now, the defendant is required to file a written statement of their defense within the time specified by the court which typically ranges from 30-90 days. The provision of thee written state is covered under Order VIII of the code. A written statement is basically a "reply" statement by the defendant denying all the allegations that are made by the plaintiff in the plaint. Now, the reply of the written is called the replication by the plaintiff.

Under Order IA, it is the duty of the defendant to produce all the documents to produce documents upon which the relief is claimed or relied upon by him. The next stage is the production of documents by both the plaintiff and the defendant. It is imperative to note here that the counsel for the parties cannot give evidence, the parties themselves must provide for the evidence hence their presence in court during this stage is considered necessary.

The next part of the civil trial is called the Examination of Parties, and the provisions for the same are envisaged under Order X of the CPC. Under Rule 1A, the court may also direct the parties to seek resolution through the process of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

The stage following the examination of parties is the Framing of Issues. During this stage, basically the judge tackles the issues as raised by both the plaintiff and the defendants. There can be two types of issues such as Factual and Legal. However, there can also be a mixed question of law which will entail in it both the elements of Legal and Factual Issues. For ex, Limitation where the date of issue is the factual issue and the limitation issue which entails a legal issue.

The most important part in a civil suit are the Witnesses. Under Order 16 of the CPC, the provisions are provided where the parties shall present the list of witnessed which might be called upon to produce or provide evidence. The list of the witnesses that need to be called should be presented before the court within the time period of 15 days. In case the witness fails to comply with the summons issued by the court, the provisions of Rule 10 provide for the consequences surrounding it.

Then the specified date and time are provided by the court for the hearing of suit. Under Order XVII, several rules are provided in case of adjournments of the case. Adjournments basically mean that the court has given a period of rest or a pause during the pendency of the suit. The court then later specified the next date after consulting with both the parties.

The plaintiff is required to submit the evidence that were mentioned earlier. The advocate on the defendant's side will then cross-examine the plaintiff and any witness that the plaintiff presents. The same will be the process in the case of the defendant in which the advocate on the plaintiff's side will cross-examine him and any witness presented by him.

After the examination of the witnesses is complete, the next stage entails with it the arguments and the judgement of the court concerning the case. The provisions relation to the judgement and decree are envisaged under Order XX of the CPC. During this stage, both the parties present a summary of the case and evidence in support of the issues in front of the judge.

The judge then prepares a judgement after duly hearing both the parties. A judgment is basically a written statement that is passed by the judge on the grounds of which a decree is passed. Once the judgement is passed by the judge, the parties that are not in consonance with the same, can apply for the review of the judgement within 30 days from the date of the judgement. The concerned party can also file a review petition before a higher court within 60-90 days from the date of announcement of judgement.

The final stage of the trial is the preparation and the execution of a decree. The decree is generally prepared by a concerned clerk. The provisions that deal with the specifics with the preparation of a decree are duly provided under order XX Rule 6 and 6A. Then the decree is to be executed by compelling the parties to carry out the mandate of the decree. An execution is considered complete when the party discharges its liabilities or claims as laid out in the decree.

In civil litigation, the compensation is heavily stressed unlike in criminal trials, wherein the criminal liabilities and punishment are stressed upon. If any of the above procedural are not met in the civil trial or in the litigation trial, the dismissal of suit can be undertaken.

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