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Pleading: Objective, General Principles on Amendment, and Principles and Consideration Involved while Permitting Amendment of Pleadings

I. Pleadings: Objective and Basic Rules

Pleadings means a written statement or plaint, forming the backbone of every suit. A plaintiff pleading in his plaint would be a statement under which he sets out his cause of action, inclusive of all relevant particulars. Pleadings need to be properly drafted with clear and concise language so a to avoid any ambiguity.

They should be inclusive of all the material fact and other important and necessary facts, to support the cause of action of the plaintiff and, for the defendant, the written statement should respond to every fact alleged in the plaint as well as introduction of any new fact that may favour the defendant.

The object of pleadings is to ensure parties are stating the issue at hand and to further prevent them from being enlarged once the trial commences. It also helps in keeping the parties on track in terms of what needs to be proved at trial. Order 6 of the CPC covers pleadings in general and for the purpose of this answer, the focus shall be on Order 6 Rule 17 which deals with the amendment of pleadings.

II. Meaning and Object and General Principles on Amendment of Pleadings:

Amending a pleading means to make a correction to what has already been submitted to the Court in the plaint or written statement. There may be instances where certain details may not be available at a certain time but may become available at a later stage or maybe one may not be able to plead all material facts and to avoid such a situation, a provision for amendment exists in the CPC.

The object of amending pleadings was explained in para 21 of Rameshkumar Agarwal v. Rajmala Exports Pvt Ltd. (2012) 5 SCC 337, the Supreme Court held that in the ordinary course of things, the Court must not refuse any bona fide, legitimate and honest and necessary amendments and should never permit dishonest amendments.

The purpose and objective behind Order 6 Rule 17 of the CPC is to permit either of the parties to alter and amend their pleadings in a manner which is just. The Court further stated that an amendment cannot be claimed as a matter of right and it is not possible for the Court to adopt a hyper-technical approach while deciding such prayers. The
basic consideration while permitting an amendment of pleadings is to avoid multiplicity of litigations.

While determining a prayer for amendment, a liberal approach should be taken, particularly in cases where the other side can be compensated with costs. In the Supreme Court case of B.K.N. Narayana Pillai v. P. Pillai and Ors. AIR 2000 SC 614, the Court while overturning the judgement of the High Court, held that the mere fact of delay in filing for an application to amend pleading cannot be a valid grounds for rejection where the other party can be compensated by costs and where no irretrievable prejudice is caused.

The role of courts in a legal system is to promote the ends of justice and hence, empowering the Courts with the power to permit amendment of pleadings is in the interest of doing full justice and not for defeating them with something which can be easily rectified. The Courts are entrusted with a wide range of discretion to determine whether a party can alter, amend or modify his pleading at any given stage. However, such a discretion cannot be used as per the whims and fancies of the Court and therefore, must be exercised inconsonance with the well-established principles.

The power given to the Courts in permitting parties to amend pleadings is limited by the proviso of Order 6 Rule 17. The Supreme Court in the case of Bharat Petroleum Corporations Ltd. v. Precious Finance Ltd. (2006) 6 Bom Cr 510

laid down various guidelines and criteria’s for granting amending of pleadings. In terms of the proviso to Order 6 Rule 17, the Court held that it is procedural and it does give the Court more powers or take away its exiting powers to allow amendments. It only empowers the court to accept an application if the Court is satisfied that even after due diligence, the parties could not have sought the amendment before commencing trial. The Supreme Court in the case of Salem Advocates Bar Association v. UOI (2005) 6 SCC 344 held that the object of this
proviso is to curtail absolute discretion and prevent frivolous applications filed to delay trial.

Hence, an application of amendment can be entertained at any stage of the proceedings by the court even when the discretion of the court is limited by the proviso inserted by the 2002 amendment of the CPC. In the case of State of Juhi Senguttuvan Section B, LLB 2018.

A.P. v. Pioneer Builders (2006) 12 SCC 119, the Court held that amendment of pleadings can be permitted at any stage of the proceedings to allow either party to alter or amend pleadings in such a manner as may be just and necessary to determine the real question of controversy between the parties. The idea behind permitting amendment at any stage is to enough ends of justice are met while ensuring no prejudice is caused and of course, to avoid multiplicity of
litigation.

In the case of the Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal & Ors v. K.K. Modi & Or AIR 2006 SC 1647, the court stated that Amendment of pleadings consists of two parts:
  1. In the first part, the word may gives discretionary power to the court to allow or disallow application of pleadings.
  2. In the second part, the word ‘shall’ gives obligatory direction to the civil court to allow the application of pleadings if this amendment is necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties.
Further, the Court in para 15 and 16 state that object behind permitting amendment of pleading is to allow all amendments that are necessary to determine the real controversy between the parties provided, in doing so, no injustice or prejudice is caused to the other side.

Further, the case of Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal (Supra) explain the meaning of “real controversy” test as the basic or cardinal test that the Court must utilise to determine whether permitting an amendment is necessary to decide the real dispute between the
parties.

III. Principles and Consideration Involved while Permitting Amendment of Pleading

Furthermore, an overview of various judicial precedents help in formulating some basic principles pertaining to consideration by court while accepting or rejecting an application for amendment of pleadings.

The Supreme Court in the case of Ganesh Trading Co. v. Moji Ram (1978) 2 SCC 91 detailed the circumstances under which an amendment may or may not be permitted. The Court in para 5 held that an application to amend pleading must be rejected if the plaintiff seeks to alter the cause of action directly or indirectly and that by amending the pleading, an entirely new and inconsistent cause of action will emerge leading to substituting the plaint. The Court also clarified that a mere failure to set out an essential fact does not, it itself constitute a new cause of action.

Other questions for consideration are whether the amendment is needed to ensure proper justice is achieved in the case; whether prejudice is caused and no amount of compensation can undo the prejudice; whether rejecting the application will lead to multiplicity of litigation or injustice; whether the nature of the cause of action is changed etc.

Furthermore, the factors are not exhaustive and are merely illustrative and the court must be mindful of its discretion under Order 6 Rule 17 as it is a very serious judicial exercise and that
the court must not refuse bona fide, legitimate and honest and necessary amendments and never permit mala fide, worthless and dishonest amendments. [(Rajeshkumar Agarwal v. Rajmala Exports Ltd. Supra)]

To summarize, the intent behind permitting amendments is to ensure that the ends of justice are met and mere technicalities or rectifiable errors are not given undue importance. The court has to be satisfied primarily that an application is submitted in good faith and not to abuse the process of law, seeking an amendment and that there is no evidence of negligence while ensuring that permitting the amendment application, no prejudice is caused. 

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