Context of Civil Suit
In legal parlance it means a judicial examination and determination of the issue in civil or criminal Court by a competent Tribunal. According to Webster Comprehensive Dictionary, International Edition, it means the examination, before a tribunal having assigned jurisdiction, of the facts or law involved in an issue in order to determine that issue. According to Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary (5th Edition), a ‘trial’ is the conclusion, by a competent tribunal, of questions in issue in legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal. Thus in its widest sense it would include all the proceedings right from the stage of institution of a plaint in a civil case to the stage of final determination by a judgment and decree of the Court. Whether the widest meaning should be given to the word ‘trial’ or that it should be construed narrowly must necessarily depend upon the nature and object of the provision and the context in which it used.
Therefore, the word “trial” in Section 10 of CPC will have to be interpreted and construed keeping in mind the object and nature of that provision and the prohibition to ‘proceed with the trial of any suit in which the matter in issue is also directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit.’ The object of the prohibition contained in Section 10 is to prevent the Courts of concurrent jurisdiction from simultaneously trying two parallel suits and also to avoid inconsistent findings on the matters in issue. The provision is in the nature of a rule of procedure and does not affect the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain and deal with the later suit nor does it create any substantive right in the matters. It is not a bar to the institution of a suit. It has been construed by the Court as not a bar of the passing of interlocutory orders such as an order for consolidation of the later suit with the earlier suit, or appointment of a Receiver or an injunction or attachment before judgment. The course of action which the Court has to follow according to Section 10 is not to proceed with the ‘trial’ of the suit but that does not mean that it cannot deal with the subsequent suit any more or for any other purpose. In view of the object and nature of the provision and the fairly settled legal position with respect to passing of interlocutory orders it has to be stated that the word ‘trial’ in Section 10 is not used in its widest sense.
The provision contained in Section 10 of Code(CPC) is a general provision applicable to all categories of cases. The provision contained in Order 37 apply to certain classes of suits. One provides a bar against proceeding with the trial of a suit, the other provides for granting of quick relief. Both these provision have to be interpreted harmoniously so that the objects of both are not frustrated. This being the correct approach and as the question that has arisen for consideration in this appeal is whether the bar to proceed with the trial of subsequently instituted suit contained in Section 10 of the Code is applicable to a summary suit filed under Order 37 of the Code, the words ‘trial of any suit’ will have to be construed in the context of the provisions of Order 37 of the Code. Rule 2 of Order 37 enables the plaintiff to institute a summary suit in certain cases. On such a suit being filed the defendant is required to be served with a copy of the plaint and summons in the prescribed form. Within 10 days of service the defendant has to enter an appearance. Within the prescribed time the defendant has to apply for leave to defend the suit and leave to defend may be granted to him unconditionally or upon such terms as may appear to the Court or Judge to be just. If the defendant has not applied for leave to defend, or if such an application has been made and refused, the plaintiff becomes entitled to judgment forthwith. If the conditions on which leave was granted are not complied with by the defendant then also the plaintiff becomes entitled to judgment forthwith. Sub-rule (7) of Order 37 provides that save as provided by that order the procedure in summary suits shall be the same as the procedure in suits instituted in the ordinary manner. Thus in classes of suits where adopting summary procedure for deciding them is permissible the defendant has to file an appearance within 10 days of the service of summons and apply for leave to defend the suit. If the defendant does not enter his appearance as required or fails to obtain leave the allegations in the plaint are deemed to be admitted and straightway a decree can be passed in favour of the plaintiff. The stage of determination of the matter in issue will arise in a summary suit only after the defendant obtains leave. The trial would really begin only after leave is granted to the defendant. This clearly appears to be the scheme of summary procedure as provided by Order 37 of the Code.
Considering the objects of both the provisions, i.e., Section 10 and Order 37 wider interpretation of the word “trial” is not called for. We are of the opinion that the word ‘trial’ in Section 10 in the context of a summary suit, cannot be interpreted to mean the entire proceedings starting with institution of the suit by lodging a plaint. In a summary suit the ‘trial’ really begins after the Court or the Judge grants leave to the defendant to contest the suit. Therefore, the Court or the Judge dealing with the summary suit can proceed up to the stage of hearing the summons for judgment and passing the judgment in favour of the plaintiff if (a) the defendant has not applied for leave to defend or if such application has been made and refused or if (b) the defendant who is permitted to defend fails to comply with the conditions on which leave to defend is granted.
Refer: AIR 1998 SC 1952 : (1998) 3 SCR 187 : (1998) 5 SCC 69 : JT 1998 (3) SC 733 : (1998) 3 SCALE 441
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