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Supreme Court of India

Virendra Kashinath Ravant And ... vs Vinayak N.Joshi And Others on 11 November, 1998

"Every pleading shall contain, and contain only, a statement in a concise form of the material facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim or defence, as the case may be, but not the evidence by which they are to be proved.


The object of the Rule is two-fold. First is to afford the other said intimation regarding the particular facts of hiscase so that they may be met by the other side. Second is to enable the court to determine what is really the issue between the parties. The words in the sub-rule "a statement in a concise form" are definitely suggestive that brevity should be adhered to while drafting pleadings. Of course brevity should not be at the cost of setting out necessary facts, but it does not mean niggling in the pleadings. If care is taken in the syntactic process, pleadings can be saved from tautology. Elaboration of facts in pleadings is not the ideal measure and that is why the sub-rule embodied the words "and contain only" just before the succeeding words "a statement in a concise form of the material facts".


This Court has indicated the position in Manphul Singh vs. Surinder Singh (AIR 1973 SC 2158). On a subsequent occasion this court has again reiterated the principle in M/s. Genesh trading Co. vs Moji Ram (AIR 1978 SC 484). Following observations made in the said decision are useful in this context:


"Procedural law is intended to facilitate and not to obstruct the course of substantive justice. Provisions relating to pleadings in civil cases 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 parties, and to prevent deviations from the course which litigation on particular causes of action must take."


Supreme Court of India

Virender Nath Gautam vs Satpal Singh & Ors on 8 December, 2006

The expression 'material facts' has neither been defined in the Act nor in the Code. According to the dictionary meaning, 'material' means 'fundamental', 'vital', 'basic', 'cardinal', 'central', 'crucial', 'decisive', 'essential', 'pivotal', indispensable', 'elementary' or 'primary'. [Burton's Legal Thesaurus, (Third edn.); p.349]. The phrase 'material facts', therefore, may be said to be those facts upon which a party relies for his claim or defence. In other words, 'material facts' are facts upon which the plaintiff's cause of action or the defendant's defence depends. What particulars could be said to be 'material facts' would depend upon the facts of each case and no rule of universal application can be laid down. It is, however, absolutely essential that all basic and primary facts which must be proved at the trial by the party to establish the existence of a cause of action or defence are material facts and must be stated in the pleading by the party.


In the leading case of Phillips v. Phillips, (1878) 4 QBD 127 : 48 LJ QB 135, Cotton, L.J. stated:


"What particulars are to be stated must depend on the facts of each case. But in my opinion it is absolutely essential that the pleading, not to be embarrassing to the defendants, should state those facts which will put the defendants on their guard and tell them what they have to meet when the case comes on for trial."


In Bruce v. Odhams Press Ltd., (1936) 1 KB 697 : (1936) 1 All ER 287, Scott, L.J. referring to Phillips v. Phillips observed:


"The cardinal provision in Rule 4 is that the statement of claim must state the material facts. The word 'material' means necessary for the purpose of formulating a complete cause of action; and if any one 'material' statement is omitted, the statement of claim is bad; it is 'demurrable' in the old phraseology, and in the new is liable to be 'struck out' under R.S.C. Order 25 Rule 4 (see Phillips v. Phillips); or 'a further and better statement of claim' may be ordered under Rule 7."


A distinction between 'material facts' and 'particulars', however, must not be overlooked. 'Material facts' are primary or basic facts which must be pleaded by the plaintiff or by the defendant in support of the case set up by him either to prove his cause of action or defence. 'Particulars', on the other hand, are details in support of material facts pleaded by the party. They amplify, refine and embellish material facts by giving distinctive touch to the basic contours of a picture already drawn so as to make it full, more clear and more informative. 'Particulars' thus ensure conduct of fair trial and would not take the opposite party by surprise. All 'material facts' must be pleaded by the party in support of the case set up by him. Since the object and purpose is to enable the opposite party to know the case he has to meet with, in the absence of pleading, a party cannot be allowed to lead evidence. Failure to state even a single material fact, hence, will entail dismissal of the suit or petition. Particulars, on the other hand, are the details of the case which is in the nature of evidence a party would be leading at the time of trial.


In Halsbury's Laws of England, (4th edn.); Vol.36; para 38, it has been stated;


"The function of particulars is to carry into operation the overriding principle that the litigation between the parties, and particularly the trial, should be conducted fairly, openly and without surprises, and incidentally to reduce costs. This function has been variously stated, namely either to limit the generality of the allegations in the pleadings, or to define the issues which have to be tried and for which discovery is required. Each party is entitled to know the case that is intended to be made against him at the trial, and to have such particulars of his opponent's case as will prevent him from being taken by surprise. Particulars enable the other party to decide what evidence he ought to be prepared with and to prepare for the trial. A party is bound by the facts included in the particulars, and he may not rely on any other facts at the trial without obtaining the leave of the court."


here is distinction between facta probanda (the facts required to be proved, i.e. material facts) and facta probantia (the facts by means of which they are proved, i.e. particulars or evidence). It is settled law that pleadings must contain only facta probanda and not facta probantia. The material facts on which the party relies for his claim are called facta probanda and they must be stated in the pleadings. But the facts or facts by means of which facta probanda (material facts) are proved and which are in the nature of facta probantia (particulars or evidence) need not be set out in the pleadings. They are not facts in issue, but only relevant facts required to be proved at the trial in order to establish the fact in issue.


Supreme Court of India

Bhikaji Keshao Joshi And Another vs Brijlal Nandlal Biyani And Others on 2 May, 1955

The verifications are accordingly defective only as regards the requirement of the dates thereof. The question is whether the petition is liable to dismissal on this ground. Though there may be cases where the date of the pleading and the verification may be relevant and important, it would be a wrong exercise of discretionary power to dismiss an application on the sole ground of absence of date of verification. In such a case the applicants should normally be called upon to remove the lacuna by adding a supplementary verification indicating the date of the original verification and the reason for the earlier omission.



Supreme Court of India

Maria Margadia Sequeria ... vs Erasmo Jack De Sequeria (D) ... on 21 March, 2012

In civil cases, pleadings are extremely important for ascertaining the title and possession of the property in question.


Possession is an incidence of ownership and can be transferred by the owner of an immovable property to another such as in a mortgage or lease. A licensee holds possession on behalf of the owner.


Possession is important when there are no title documents and other relevant records before the Court, but, once the documents and records of title come before the Court, it is the title which has to be looked at first and due weightage be given to it. Possession cannot be considered in vacuum.


There is a presumption that possession of a person, other than the owner, if at all it is to be called possession, is permissive on behalf of the title-holder. Further, possession of the past is one thing, and the right to remain or continue in future is another thing. It is the latter which is usually more in controversy than the former, and it is the latter which has seen much abuse and misuse before the Courts.


A suit can be filed by the title holder for recovery of possession or it can be one for ejectment of an ex-lessee or for mandatory injunction requiring a person to remove himself or it can be a suit under Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act to recover possession.


A title suit for possession has two parts - first, adjudication of title, and second, adjudication of possession.


If the title dispute is removed and the title is established in one or the other, then, in effect, it becomes a suit for ejectment where the defendant must plead and prove why he must not be ejected.


In an action for recovery of possession of immovable property, or for protecting possession thereof, upon the legal title to the property being established, the possession or occupation of the property by a person other than the holder of the legal title will be presumed to have been under and in subordination to the legal title, and it will be for the person resisting a claim for recovery of possession or claiming a right to continue in possession, to establish that he has such a right. To put it differently, wherever pleadings and documents establish title to a particular property and possession is in question, it will be for the person in possession to give sufficiently detailed pleadings, particulars and documents to support his claim in order to continue in possession.


In order to do justice, it is necessary to direct the parties to give all details of pleadings with particulars. Once the title is prima facie established, it is for the person who is resisting the title holder's claim to possession to plead with sufficient particularity on the basis of his claim to remain in possession and place before the Court all such documents as in the ordinary course of human affairs are expected to be there.


Only if the pleadings are sufficient, would an issue be struck and the matter sent to trial, where the onus will be on him to prove the averred facts and documents.


The person averring a right to continue in possession shall, as far as possible, give a detailed particularized specific pleading along with documents to support his claim and details of subsequent conduct which establish his possession.


It would be imperative that one who claims possession must give all such details as enumerated hereunder. They are only illustrative and not exhaustive.


(a) who is or are the owner or owners of the




property;




(b) title of the property;




(c) who is in possession of the title documents




(d) identity of the claimant or claimants to




possession;




(e) the date of entry into possession;




(f) how he came into possession - whether he purchased the property or inherited or got the same in gift or by any other method;


(g) in case he purchased the property, what is the consideration; if he has taken it on rent, how much is the rent, license fee or lease amount;


(h) If taken on rent, license fee or lease - then insist on rent deed, license deed or lease deed;


(i) who are the persons in possession/occupation or otherwise living with him, in what capacity;


as family members, friends or servants etc.;


(j) subsequent conduct, i.e., any event which might have extinguished his entitlement to possession or caused shift therein; and


(k) basis of his claim that not to deliver possession but continue in possession.


Apart from these pleadings, the Court must insist on documentary proof in support of the pleadings. All those documents would be relevant which come into existence after the transfer of title or possession or the encumbrance as is claimed. While dealing with the civil suits, at the threshold, the Court must carefully and critically examine pleadings and documents.


The Court will examine the pleadings for specificity as also the supporting material for sufficiency and then pass appropriate orders.


Discovery and production of documents and answers to interrogatories, together with an approach of considering what in ordinary course of human affairs is more likely to have been the probability, will prevent many a false claims or defences from sailing beyond the stage for issues.


If the pleadings do not give sufficient details, they will not raise an issue, and the Court can reject the claim or pass a decree on admission.


On vague pleadings, no issue arises. Only when he so establishes, does the question of framing an issue arise.


Framing of issues is an extremely important stage in a civil trial. Judges are expected to carefully examine the pleadings and documents before framing of issues in a given case.


In pleadings, whenever a person claims right to continue in possession of another property, it becomes necessary for him to plead with specificity about who was the owner, on what date did he enter into possession, in what capacity and in what manner did he conduct his relationship with the owner over the years till the date of suit. He must also give details on what basis he is claiming a right to continue in possession. Until the pleadings raise a sufficient case, they will not constitute sufficient claim of defence.



Supreme Court of India

Srinivas Ram Kumar vs Mahabir Prasad And Others on 9 February, 1951

A plaintiff may rely upon different rights alternatively and there is noth- ing in the Civil Procedure Code to prevent a party from making two or more inconsistent sets of allegations and claiming relief thereunder in the alternative. The ques- tion, however, arises whether, in the absence of any such alternative case in the plaint it is open to the court to give him relief on that basis. The rule undoubtedly is that the court cannot grant relief to the plaintiff on a case for which there was no foundation in the pleadings and which the other side was not called upon or had an opportunity to meet. But when the alternative case, which the plaintiff could have made, was not only admitted by the defendant in his written statement but was expressly put forward as an answer to the claim which the plaintiff made in the suit, there would be nothing improper in giving the plaintiff a decree upon the case which the defendant himself makes. A demand of the plaintiff based on the defendant's own plea cannot possibly be regarded with surprise by the latter and no question of adducing evidence on these facts would arise when they were expressly admitted by the defendant in his pleadings. In such circumstances, when no injustice can possibly result to the defendant, it may not be proper to drive the plaintiff to a separate suit.


In Bhagwati Prasad v. Shri Chandramaul, [1956] 1 SCR 286 a Constitution Bench of this Court considering this question observed:


"If a plea is not specifically made and yet it is covered by an issue by implication, and the parties knew that the said plea was involved in the trial, then the mere fact that the plea was not expressly taken in the pleadings would not necessarily disentitle a party from relying upon if it is satisfactorily proved by evidence. The general rule no doubt is that the relief should be founded on pleadings made by the parties. But where the substantial matters relating to the title of both parties to the suit are touched, though indirectly or even obscurely in the issues, and evidence has been led about them, then the argument that a particular matter was not expressly taken in the pleadings would be purely formal and technical and cannot succeed in every case. What the Court has to consider in dealing with such an objection is: did the parties know that the matter in question was involved in the trial, and did they lead evidence about it? If it appears that the parties did not know that the matter was in issue at the trial and one of them has had no opportunity to lead evidence in respect of it, that undoubtedly would be a different matter. To allow one party to reply upon a matter in respect of which the other party did not lead evidence and has had no opportunity to lead evidence, would introduce considerations of prejudice, and in doing justice to one party, the Court cannot do injustice to another."


Supreme Court of India

Ram Sarup Gupta (Dead) By Lrs vs Bishun Narain Inter College & Ors on 8 April, 1987

It is also equally settled that no party should be permitted to travel beyond its pleading and that all necessary and mate- rial facts should be pleaded by the party in support of the case set up by it. The object and purpose of pleading is to enable the adversary party to know the case it has to meet. In order to have a fair trial it is imperative that the party should state the essential material facts so that other party may not be taken by surprise. The pleadings however should receive a liberal construction, no pedantic approach should be adopted to defeat justice on hair split- ting technicalities. Sometimes, pleadings are expressed in words which may not expressly make out a case in accordance with strict interpretation of law, in such a case it is the duty of the Court to ascertain the substance of the plead- ings to determine the question. It is not desirable to place undue emphasis on form, instead the substance of the plead- ings should be considered. Whenever the question about lack of pleading is raised the enquiry should not be so much about the form of the pleadings, instead; the court must find out whether in substance the parties knew the case and the issues upon which they went to trial. Once it is found that in spite of deficiency in the pleadings parties knew the case and they proceeded to trial on those issues by producing evidence, in that event it would not be open to a party to raise the question of absence of pleadings in appeal.


Supreme Court of India

Sathi Vijay Kumar vs Tota Singh & Others on 8 December, 2006

16. Striking out pleadings.The Court may at any stage of the proceedings order to be struck out or amended any matter in any pleading


(a) which may be unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious, or


(b) which may tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay the fair trial of the suit, or


(c) which is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court.


The above provision empowers a Court to strike out any pleading if it is unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious or tend to prejudice, embarrass or delay fair trial of the suit or is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court. The underlying object of the rule is to ensure that every party to a suit should present his pleading in an intelligible form without causing embarrassment to his adversary [vide Davy v. Garrett, (1878) 7 Ch D 473 : 47 LJ Ch 218]. Bare reading of Rule 16 of Order VI makes it clear that the Court may order striking off pleadings in the following circumstances;


(i) Where such pleading is unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious; or


(b) Where such pleading tends to prejudice, embarrass or delay fair trial of the suit; or


(c) Where such pleading is otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court.


In Halsbury's Laws of England, (4th Edn.; Vol. 9; para 38), it has been stated:


"Certain acts of a lesser nature may also constitute an abuse of process as, for instance, initiating or carrying on proceedings which are wanting in bona fides or which are frivolous, vexatious, a oppressive. In such cases the court has extensive alternative powers to prevent an abuse of its process by striking out or staying proceedings or by prohibiting the taking of further proceedings without leave. Where the court by exercising its statutory powers, its powers under rules of court, or its inherent jurisdiction, can give an adequate remedy, it will not in general punish the abuse as a adequate of court. On the other hand, where an irregularity or misuse of process amounts to an offence against justice, extending its influence beyond the parties to the action, it may be punished as a contempt".


In Supreme Court Practice, 1995, p.344 (Sweet & Maxwell), it has been observed;


"This term connotes that the process of the court must be used bona fide and properly and must not be abused. The court will prevent improper use of its machinery and will, in a proper case, summarily prevent its machinery from being used as a means of vexation and oppression in the process of litigation The categories of conduct rendering a claim frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of process are not closed but depend on all the relevant circumstances. And for this purpose considerations of public policy and the interests of justice may be very material".


Since the general principles as to pleadings in civil suits apply to election petitions as well, the pleadings which are required to be struck off under Rule 16 of Order VI in a suit can also be ordered to be struck off in an election petition. In appropriate cases, therefore, an election tribunal (High Court) may invoke the power under Order VI, Rule 16 of the Code.


This Court in Azhar Hussain v. Rajiv Gandhi, (1986) Supp SCC 315 indicated that the whole purpose of conferment of such powers i.e. either to dismiss election petitions in limine or striking out unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious pleadings is to ensure that a litigation which is meaningless and bound to prove abortive should not be permitted to occupy the time of the court and does not embarrass the returned candidate. "The sword of Damocles need not be kept hanging over his head unnecessarily without point or purpose". It was also observed that such hanging sword of the election petition on the returned candidate would not keep him sufficiently free to devote his whole-hearted attention to matters of public importance which clamour for his attention in his capacity as an elected representative of the concerned constituency. The precious time and attention demanded by his elected office would be diverted to matters pertaining to the contest of the election petition. Instead of being engaged in a campaign to relieve the distress of the people in general and of the residents of his constituency who voted him into office in particular, and instead of resolving their problems, he would be engaged in defending himself in the litigation pending against him. The fact that an election petition calling into question his election is pending, may, in a given case, act as a psychological factor and may not permit him to act with full freedom. The Court, in these circumstances, may exercise the power of striking out pleadings in appropriate cases if it is warranted in the facts and circumstances of the case.


At the same time, however, it cannot be overlooked that normally a Court cannot direct parties as to how they should prepare their pleadings. If the parties have not offended the rules of pleadings by making averments or raising arguable issues, the Court would not order striking out pleadings. The power to strike out pleadings is extraordinary in nature and must be exercised by the Court sparingly and with extreme care, caution and circumspection [vide Roop Lal v. Nachhatar Singh, (1982) 3 SCC 487 : AIR 1982 SC 1559; K.K. Modi v. K.N. Modi, (1998) 3 SCC 573 : AIR 1998 SC 1297; United Bank of India v. Naresh Kumar, (1996) 6 SCC 660 : AIR 1997 SC 3].


More than a century back, in Knowles v. Roberts, (1888) 38 Ch D 263, Bowen L.J. said:


"It seems to me that the rule that the Court is not to dictate to parties how they should frame their case, is one that ought always to be preserved sacred. But that rule is, of course, subject to this modification and limitation, that the parties must not offend against the rules of pleading which have been laid down by the law; and if a party introduces a pleading which is unnecessary, and it tends to prejudice, embarrass and delay the trial of the action, it then becomes a pleading which is beyond his right. It is a recognized principle that a defendant may claim ex debito justitiae to have the plaintiff's claim presented in an intelligible form, so that he may not be embarrassed in meeting it; and the Court ought to be strict even to severity in taking care to prevent pleadings from degenerating into the old oppressive pleadings of the Court of Chancery".



15. Pleadings
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