Sunday, 28 March 2021

Landmark Supreme Court Judgment on framing of issues

 The stage of framing the issues is an important one inasmuch as on that day the scope of the trial is determined by laying the path on which the trial shall proceed excluding diversions and departures therefrom. The date fixed for settlement of issues is, therefore, a date fixed for hearing. The real dispute between the parties is determined, the area of conflict is narrowed and the concave mirror held by the court reflecting the pleadings of the parties pinpoints into issues the disputes on which the two sides differ. The correct decision of civil lis largely depends on correct framing of issues, correctly determining the real points in controversy which need to be decided. The scheme of Order XIV of the Code of Civil Procedure dealing with settlement of issues shows that an issue arises when a material proposition of fact or law is affirmed by one party and denied by the other. Each material proposition affirmed by one party and denied by other should form the subject of a distinct issue. An obligation is cast on the court to read the plaint/petition and the written statement/counter, if any, and then determine with the assistance of the learned counsel for the parties, the material propositions of fact or of law on which the parties are at variance. The issues shall be framed and recorded on which the decision of the case shall depend. The parties and their counsel are bound to assist the court in the process of framing of issues. Duty of the counsel does not belittle the primary obligation cast on the court. It is for the Presiding Judge to exert himself so as to frame sufficiently expressive issues. An omission to frame proper issues may be a ground for remanding the case for retrial subject to prejudice having been shown to have resulted by the omission. The petition may be disposed of at the first hearing if it appears that the parties are not at issue on any material question of law or of fact and the court may at once pronounce the judgment. If the parties are at issue on some questions of law or of fact, the suit or petition shall be fixed for trial calling upon the parties to adduce evidence on issues of fact. The evidence shall be confined to issues and the pleadings. No evidence on controversies not covered by issues and the pleadings, shall normally be admitted, for each party leads evidence in support of issues the burden of proving which lies on him. The object of an issue is to tie down the evidence and arguments and decision to a particular question so that there may be no doubt on what the dispute is. The judgment, then proceeding issue-wise would be able to tell precisely how the dispute was decided.

20. In the case at hand, each one of the corrupt practices alleged by the petitioner and denied by the defendant, should have formed the subject matter of a distinct issue sufficiently expressive of the material proposition of fact and of law arising from the pleadings. Failure to do so has resulted in an utter confusion prevailing throughout the trial and also in the judgment of the High Court as was demonstrated by the learned counsel for the appellant during the hearing of the appeal attacking the findings arrived at by High Court. On some of the points in dispute the High Court has observed that no proof of the said fact (alleged in the petition) was necessary so far as the petitioner is concerned because there was no specific denial of the allegations made or as there was no answer by the defendant to the allegations of the petitioner on points of substance. The contradiction with which the trial and the judgment suffer is writ large. If a material proposition of fact or law alleged in the petition was not denied or was not specifically denied in the written statement within the meaning of Rule 5 of Order 8 of C.P.C. and such tenor of the written statement had persuaded the learned designated Election Judge in forming an opinion (belatedly while writing the judgment) that there was an admission by necessary implication for want of denial or specific denial then there was no need of framing an issue and there was no need for recording of evidence on those issues. Valuable time of the court would have been saved from being wasted in recording evidence on such averments in pleadings as were not in issue for want of traverse, if it was so!
Supreme Court of India
Makhan Lal Bangal vs Manas Bhunia & Ors. on 3 January, 2001
Bench: R.C.Lahoti, S.V.Patil
Equivalent citations: AIR 2001 SC 490, JT 2001 (1) SC 252, 2001 (1) SCALE 11.
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