The initiation of a civil proceeding by a person against another is governed
by the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) in India. The Code is quite complicated
and, though, no law mandates the engagement of a lawyer, its rigours makes
engagement of a law practitioner a prudent call. The complications of the Code
are meant to address the concerns surrounding dispensation of justice; for what
the law makers would have experienced over a period of time.
For instance, the principle of res judicata imbibed in Section 11 tackles the
act of a notorious litigant who attempts to use the court process to harass the
other party by bringing multiple legal proceedings for the same cause, one after
the other. This might seem very obvious, but no it's not so because many a times
very fine but materially different and genuine cases might look similar; and
then if such distinction is not presented properly before the Court, the case
may eventually be rejected or dismissed by the Court.
OR there may even be a situation where two cases have been filed which are
substantively the same, but have been given a different colour through clever
drafting. So such situation do require proper aid and advice of an experienced
Any act performed in contravention of the procedure laid down may cause immense
damage to a person's rights and interests, no matter howsoever great case he/
she may be having on merits. Many a times such damages are irreversible.
However, even if they can be remedied, usually such will require execution of a
daunting task leading to expense of time and resources, and embarrassment, may
Accordingly, immense care is observed while pursuing a civil case, which leads
to emergence of numerous technicalities, often leading to doubts and confusion
in the mind of the litigant. So, to begin with one must have a basic
understanding of legal process in case of a civil litigation. In this module,
our attempt is to explain stages involved in a civil proceeding, and to explain
that each of these stages are clearly drawn out, and do not overlap each other.
Barring some exception, these stages prevail in almost every kind of civil
A civil case begins with the presentment of 'plaint' by the plaintiff, which
enumerates the statement of facts forming the basis of the plaintiff's claim
against the defendant. An appropriate plaint needs to be crisp, containing the
material particulars necessary to clearly identify the basis of the claim.
However, it is not required to mention every possible detail about a document
etc. substantiating the claim.
For example, in case initiated on basis of a cheque, it is sufficient to mention
that a cheque was received under the agreed dues but was unpaid due to
deficiencies on part of the drawer of cheque. It may not be necessary to mention
the heads of payment, cheque number, date, name of the banker, date of cheque
return memo, etc. unless the draftsman thinks those to be necessary ingredients
of the claim. In ordinary cases, even if the minute details are not mentioned,
the claim remains identifiable and clearly explained.
An ideal plaint should remain brief, direct and be an 'easy read' for the Judge.
Too much detailing or too much use of scholarly words may bring irritation to
its reader. Its language must be simple, broad and understandable, enabling the
reader to easily find out the likely issues involved or the principles to be
followed. Again, it must restrict itself to only those facts which form the
claim, and there is no necessity to refer to the possible pleas or defences of
the opposite or law involved. [Order VI]
STAGES OF A CIVIL PROCEEDING (Stages post case preparation and filing of the
- Step 1: INITIATION: A civil case begins with the presentment of the
plaint along with supportive documents. Upon receipt of the case file, the
Court issues notice of it (after holding a brief hearing to ascertain its
nature) to the named Defendants.
- Step 2: COMPLETION OF PLEADINGS: Upon receipt of the summons, the
Defendant is granted a period of 30 days to file its response (by way of
written statement). The Defendant must not wait for the next date of hearing
to file written statement, as very often dates are given much after the
expiry of this 30 days' time period, and a non- filing during this time may
not always be condoned by the Court. This may mean that the Defendant is
prohibited from placing any defence before the Court.
- Step 3: FRAMING OF ISSUES: Once the written statement is filed, the
Plaintiff may file a replication (which is basically a rejoinder), and
thereafter the court proceeds to frame issues involved in the case (which
are basically the points of dispute), on the basis of the pleadings and the
accompanying documents. The Court also mentions the 'onus' of which of the
party subsists in establishing a particular issue. Upon framing the issues,
the case is committed to trial.
- Step 4: EVIDENCE: Either of parties is now required to state his/ her
respective case/ defence under Oath before the Court. This is called the
As per CPC, it is the Plaintiff, who usually, begins. Under the prevailing
law, statement is recorded by furnishing affidavit (referred as Evidence by
way of Affidavit). This affidavit also identifies (and pin points) the
document upon which he/ she relies, and marks the documents accordingly.
Unlike the pleadings, the emphasis here is more on the details, or the
evidence or the documents that substantiate the claim. There may further be
other witnesses to support the respective claims/ defences.
While the statements are recorded as above, the opposite party is given the
right to cross examine the maker of the respective statements, with respect
to their statements or the documents produced. The statements made during
cross- examination also form part of the evidence, and the cross- examiner
has all the power to find out the veracity of the claim or the documents/
There is no limit to the number of witnesses a party can bring in, but care
must be observed to limit them on basis of their relevancy to the case.
- Step 5: FINAL ARGUMENTS: On completion of the evidence stage, the matter
comes up before the Court for detailed hearing, popularly known as the
"final arguments" stage. Here the Court hears each of the party in detail.
Sometimes, the case gets adjourned for two or more dates to hear the
argument of just one party, if needed.
- Step 6: ORDER/ JUDGEMENT: After the Court has heard the arguments of
both the sides, it reserves the mater, and subsequently pronounces the final
The above lay down a broad outline of the stages involved in a civil proceeding.
Specific cases may necessitate certain modifications. However, it must be kept
in mind that the stages explained above are clearly determined by the Courts,
and are not permitted to be overlapped. Meaning thereby, that, for example, if a
person has not filed a document during the stage of pleadings, he will not be
permitted to do so when the stage of evidence begins.
Similarly, the Court will not accept a new fact or evidence during the stage of
final arguments. Further to note that a pleading (whether plaint or the written
statement) forms the basis of the litigants case/ defence. And so, any fact
which has not been averred in the pleadings will not be allowed to be taken up
during the evidence or the final arguments' stage.
In such a case, the litigant or his/ her lawyer will have to argue the case as
if there had been no document to that very fact (in the former event), or as if
he/ she never took up that very plea (in the latter event). Consequences of the
same may be very much damaging.
Written By: D. Bhattacharya
Ph no: +91-9899814806, 0129-4162669