Friday, 19 August 2016

What is importance of pleading and principle of natural justice

The High Court, in this case, in its obvious zeal to cut delay and hardship that may ensue by relegating the plaintiffs to one more round of litigation, has rendered a judgment which violates several fundamental rules of civil procedure. The rules breached are:
(i) No amount of evidence can be looked into, upon a plea which was never put forward in the pleadings. A question which did arise from the pleadings and which was not the subject-matter of an issue, cannot be decided by the court.
(ii) A court cannot make out a case not pleaded. The court should confine its decision to the question raised in pleadings. Nor can it grant a relief which is not claimed and which does not flow from the facts and the cause of action alleged in the plaint.
(iii) A factual issue cannot be raised or considered for the first time in a second appeal.
11. The Civil Procedure Code is an elaborate codification of the principles of natural justice to be applied to civil litigation. The provisions are so elaborate that many a time, fulfilment of the procedural requirements of the Code may itself contribute to delay. But any anxiety to cut the delay or further litigation should not be a ground to flout the settled fundamental rules of civil procedure. Be that as it may. We will briefly set out the reasons for the aforesaid conclusions.
12. The object and purpose of pleadings and issues is to ensure that the litigants come to trial with all issues clearly defined and to prevent cases being expanded or grounds being shifted during trial. Its object is also to ensure that each side is fully alive to the questions that are likely to be raised or considered so that they may have an opportunity of placing the relevant evidence appropriate to the issues before the court for its consideration. This Court has repeatedly held that the pleadings are meant to give to each side intimation of the case of the other so that it may be met, to enable courts to determine what is really at issue between the parties, and to prevent any deviation from the course which litigation on particular causes must take.
13. The object of issues is to identify from the pleadings the questions or points required to be decided by the courts so as to enable parties to let in evidence thereon. When the facts necessary to make out a particular claim, or to seek a particular relief, are not found in the plaint, the court cannot focus the attention of the parties, or its own attention on that claim or relief, by framing an appropriate issue. As a result the defendant does not get an opportunity to place the facts and contentions necessary to repudiate or challenge such a claim or relief. Therefore, the court cannot, on finding that the plaintiff has not made out the case put forth by him, grant some other relief. The question before a court is not whether there is some material on the basis of which some relief can be granted. The question is whether any relief can be granted, when the defendant had no opportunity to show that the relief proposed by the court could not be granted. When there is no prayer for a particular relief and no pleadings to support such a relief, and when the defendant has no opportunity to resist or oppose such a relief, if the court considers and grants such a relief, it will lead to miscarriage of justice. Thus it is said that no amount of evidence, on a plea that is not put forward in the pleadings, can be looked into to grant any relief.
Supreme Court of India
Nandkishore Lalbhai Mehta vs New Era Fabrics P.Ltd.& Ors on 8 July, 2015

Bench: Ranjan Gogoi, R.K. Agrawal
Citation:(2015)9 SCC 755
Read full judgment here: click here
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