Tareekh Pe Tareekh…….Tareekh Pe Tareekh!!! This might look like just another synonym to civil matters in Indian courts. But how do civil courts function? Is it the judges who decide the process to be followed? Or is it the lawmakers who specify how to decide a legal dispute? The answer to all these questions lies with the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, also commonly termed as CPC. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 lays the process to be followed in the criminal courts. Similarly, the Civil Procedure Code lays the process to be followed in courts dealing with civil disputes. Although the judges dealing with civil and criminal matters are not necessarily different individuals unless some court has been granted jurisdiction related to specific subject matters. To have a brief understanding of the history of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and related provisions, read below.
What is the Code of Civil Procedure?
There are legal matters in India which are civil in nature, or say, not criminal in nature. The difference between criminal law and civil law lies with the grievance, process followed and the outcome. The acts or omissions of one person which resulted in some kind of loss to another give rise to a civil dispute. The process followed by courts to settle such disputes is laid down under the Civil Procedure Code Bare Act. It lays down provisions for which court has the power to hear a certain matter, how the parties bring in their versions before the court, how the courts reach their decision, whether parties can bring the decision before higher courts for reconsideration, and so on. As per the Act, the objective of CPC bare Act is to “consolidate and amend the laws relating to the procedure of the Courts of Civil Judicature”.
History of Civil Procedure Code,1908
A couple of centuries ago, we did not have any procedural law to uniformly regulate the civil disputes in the courts. In those days, civil matters were taken up by Crown Courts in Presidency towns and Provincial Courts in Mofussils for resolution as per British rules. It was Act VII of 1859 when British India got its first Civil Procedure Code, 1859. However, the same was not applicable to the then apex courts, i.e. the Crown Courts under the Royal Charter and Sadar Diwani Adalats. Since the Act was not wholesome and had some glitches, it underwent several amendments. This was followed by the Civil Procedure Code, 1877 and thereafter the CPC 1882. Overcoming the limitations of the Code of 1882, finally the present Code of Civil procedure, 1908 came into force on January 1, 1909.
Salient Features of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
- The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is distributed in 2 parts. The first part contains 158 sections, and there are 51 orders and rules in the second part.
- People have doubts like ‘What is order in civil procedure code?’. While CPC sections lay the general provisions related to civil disputes, the orders lay specific procedure in the matters therein.
- The Civil Procedure Code Bare Act provides for jurisdiction of courts, i.e.power of the courts to hear a particular civil matter based on the territorial, monetary, original or appellate, and subject matter aspects.
- For civil matters having special laws, the specific rules apply. But in case there is no clarity on the procedure to be followed, the Code of Civil Procedure is followed in such cases.
- The whole process on how to file a civil suit in India has been provided in a very detailed manner in the CPC bare Act. It starts with the plaint (plaintiff’s version) followed by a written statement (defendant’s reply), goes on with evidence and statements from both the parties, cross examination of witnesses, and finally the arguments. Based on all of this, the judge decides the basis of judgment.
- There is explicit clarity on when, how, and whom the summons and notices will be served to the concerned person.
- In civil disputes, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. In other words, it is the responsibility of the aggrieved person moving the court to prove his/ her stance with requisite facts and laws against the other party.
- Civil rights are also inherent and costs need to be borne by the person who moves the court. For someone who is poor and can not bear the expenses, such cases may go on at the state expenses if the court agrees. Such a plaintiff is termed as indigent and it is also called ‘Pauper suit’.
- Courts have been empowered with a wider range of discretion in cases whereby the Act does not lay anything specific, confined to the principle of natural justice, equity and good conscience.
- The concept of res-judicata under CPC 1908 restricts instituting the same subject matter, between the same parties, already decided, to be taken up again by the court.
- There is another provision termed as res-subjudice which restricts considering legal matters which are awaiting judicial enquiry or undergoing trial.
- If the party seeks transfer of case from one district to another, there are specific circumstances whereby the defendant can apply for such transfer as per the Civil Procedure Code Bare Act.
- Frequent amendments in CPC have focused more upon making resolution of civil cases more expedient and quick with less delays.
- Once a case is decided, there are three options with the parties unsatisfied with the decision. They are Review, Appeal and Revision. Review is done by the original court in case of some superficial error in the judgment. Revision is done by hon’ble High Courts to ensure delivery of justice and maintenance of fairness. Appeal means continuing the matter with a court superior to the one whose decision is being questioned.
- For a matter decided under Civil Procedure Code, the final decision is called decree, while the detailed grounds which paved the way for such decree constitute a judgment. Execution of a matter in Kolkata requires timely action by the lawyer in Kolkata. On the other hand, the court may pass orders anytime during the trial requiring something in particular from the authorities or parties, as the case may be.
- In case there seems to be some emergency situation causing loss to the plaintiff, the court may also pass interlocutory orders in the course of trial, if needed.
Alternative Dispute Resolution and C.P.C., 1908
The Civil Procedure Code has this applaudable provision under Section 89 of the code which directs courts to refer matters for settlement outside court, or alternative dispute resolution. The courts may refer the matter to any of the types of arbitration, mediation, conciliation, or judicial settlement through Lok Adalat, as may deem suitable. Since disputes civil in nature can be resolved through mutual understanding of clients, these methods will help reduce the burden of courts in the longer run.
Civil Procedure Code, 1908: Extract
There is no doubt that matters following the Code of Civil Procedure do take some time. For a timely conclusion, various amendments have been introduced in recent years. There is another factor that civil disputes, specifically related to property, need in-depth understanding of the facts and applicable laws. In case of any confusion regarding the procedure followed by the civil courts, one should definitely approach a legal professional to gain clarity. A civil lawyer in Kolkata may help understand the complexity of CPC through application on a dispute related to a property located in a Kolkata district.