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Judgment vs Decree v/s order: Same or different?

Judgement Decree Order

Let's delve into the conceptual framework through a very easy example before we delve into the technicalities of the meanings and distinctions as per Code of Civil Procedure,1908.

Consider a scenario where you all are seated in an examination hall, and the examiner unequivocally declares that no individual shall engage in cheating. This is an order, since it helps in regulating the process of examination properly.

Subsequently, answer sheets are distributed, requiring each participant to give answers comprehensively to all posed questions along with logical reasoning. Here, the answer sheet is a judgement.

The subsequent and the last stage involves the creation of marksheets, which serve as the decisive factor determining the eligibility of an individual for promotion to the next academic grade. Here, the marksheet is a decree.

Hence, an order is passed to regulate the Court proceedings, a judgement includes the issues answered by the Court with reasons & a decree is the description about the rights of the parties.

Now, let's understand the terms individually.

The definitions of the above three terms and the related provisions under Code of Civil Procedure,1908 are as follows:
Judgement: As per section 2(9), 'judgement' means the statement given by the Judge on the grounds of a decree or order.

As per Rule 4(2) of Order XX, following are the essentials of a judgement (other than that of a Court of Small Causes):
  1. a concise statement of the case
  2. the points or grounds for determination (issues to be decided)
  3. the decision thereon, and
  4. the reasons for such decision

In Balraj Taneja v. Sunil Madan[1], the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed that a judgement should be a self-contained document from which it should appear as to what the facts of the case were and what was the controversy which was tried to be settled by the Court and in what manner. The process of reasoning by which the Court came to the ultimate conclusion and decreed the suit should be reflected clearly in the judgement.

In Surendra Singh v. State of U.P.[2], Justice Vivian Bose defined a judgement as "the final decision of the Court intimated to the parties and to the world at large by formal 'pronouncement' or 'delivery' in open Court."

Section 33 of the Code and Rule 1 of Order XX provides the time limit for the delivery of a judgement and the manner in which it may be pronounced.

Decree: As per Section 2(2), '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:
  1. any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order, or
  2. any order of dismissal for default.
As per explanation to the section, a decree is preliminary when further proceedings have to be taken before the suit can be completely disposed of. It is final when such adjudication completely disposes of the suit. It may be partly preliminary and partly final.
As per the above definition, following are the essentials of a decree:
  1. There must be a formal expression of adjudication. Adjudication[3] means "any suit or appeal, or other proceedings settled by the Court or justice system."
  2. The adjudication must have been given in a suit before the Court. A suit[4] "is commenced by filing a plaint in a Civil Court."
  3. The adjudication must have determined the rights of the parties.
  4. Such adjudication must be conclusive, i.e., it must be complete and final as regards the Courts which passed it.
It is only when all the four conditions are fulfilled that the adjudication is termed as 'decree'. Classes of Decrees:
  • Preliminary decree: A decree is preliminary when further proceedings have to be taken before the suit can be completely disposed of.
  • Final decree: A decree is final when such adjudication completely disposes of the suit.
  • Partly preliminary and partly final: In a suit for possession of land and mesne profits, the court orders possession of the land in suit in favour of the plaintiff and directs an inquiry of mesne profit. The first part of the decree is the final decree, and the second part is the preliminary decree.
The provisions relating to decree are also laid down in Order XX and Order XXI lays down the procedure for execution of a decree. Order: As per Section 2(14), 'order' means the expression of any decision of a Civil Court which is not a decree.
As per the above definition, following are the essentials of an order:
  1. It is a pronouncement of a Civil Court, i.e., must have been given in a suit before the Court.
  2. It must not be a decree, i.e., it must not determine the rights of the parties.
  3. It must be a formal expression, i.e., it must be in writing.

For instance, an order striking out defence of a tenant under a relevant Rent Act, or an interlocutory order which does not finally determine the rights of parties are all orders and not decrees.

Hence, evident similarities between an order and decree are as follows:
  1. Both relate to matters in controversy
  2. Both are decisions given by a Civil Court (in a suit)
  3. Both are formal expressions of a decision; and
  4. Both are adjudications of a Court of Law.

Now, let us understand the terms with the help of differences between them.

Difference between Decree and Order:
  1. A decree originates from a suit commenced by presenting a plaint, an order is passed in a suit that may be instituted upon the presentation of either a plaint, an application, or a petition.
  2. A decree is an adjudication that conclusively determines the rights of the parties in a suit, an order may or may not finally determine the rights of the parties.
  3. A decree may be preliminary or final but there is no such classification in an order.
  4. Every decree is appealable whereas the only orders that are specified in Section 104 and Order XLIII of the Code are appealable.
  5. A second appeal lies to the High Court in the case of a decree if there is some substantial question of law involved therein whereas no second appeal lies at all even in the case of appealable orders.
  6. In every suit only one decree is passed except in suits where preliminary and final decrees are prepared as mentioned under Order XX and Order XXXIV whereas there is no such restriction as to the number of orders that may be passed in a suit or proceeding.

Difference between Judgement and Decree:
  1. A judgement is a statement given by the Judge which includes the points or grounds for determination, the decision thereon, and the reasons for such decision whereas a decree is the formal expression of conclusions arrived at in the judgement.
  2. Judgement is always made prior to a decree and a decree is based upon judgement.

To conclude the article, let us elucidate the terms through the analysis of a very renowned and pivotal case, Ayodhya Dispute Case[5].

It was a story of Ayodhya city inhabited by both, Hindus (who claim it to be a birthplace of Lord Rama) and Muslims (who see it as a city which locates Babri Mosque which was built by first Mughal emperor, Babur in 1528). In this case, the Court directed the Archeological Survey of India to conduct excavations and investigation at the site in controversy.

Now, this constitutes an order (and not a decree) as it did not determine the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in the controversy.

Subsequently, following a comprehensive assessment of all evidence, the Court rendered a decision which is called the judgement, spanning 1045 pages as it was a concise statement of the case mentioning the points for determination, the decision thereon and the reasons for such decision.

Thus, the length and complexity of the judgement renders it impractical for a layperson to comprehend the determined rights directly. Consequently, a decree is formulated based on the judgement, serving as a formal expression of the adjudication of the Court.

  • AIR 1999 SC 3381
  • AIR 1954 SC 194
  • Oxford Dictionary
  • Oxford Dictionary
  • M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs Vs Mahant Suresh Das & Ors.

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