Litigation is a dynamic system which has been continuously evolving and adapting to the changing circumstances. Before the modern codified law came into existence, any person who had any grievances approached the law enforcement agencies without ascertaining whether the issue was legitimate or not, and the enforcement agencies were bound to address the issues raised. With the passage of time, the lawmakers, with the view to curb frivolous litigation introduced the concept of court fee and a structured code. This further led to the enactment of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (‘the Code’).
The Code containing 158 Sections, 51 Orders, 8 Appendices, provides a systematic approach towards conducting a trial, i.e. institution of a plaint by the Plaintiff, the Defendant’s reply vide a written statement, the framing of issues by the court, conducting the trial where evidence is recorded and finally passing of a decree or dismissal of the suit. A glance at the index of the Code would help intuit that the drafting committee had one sole objective i.e. to ensure the process of trial is structured and systematic, allowing advocates to assist the Judiciary in adjudicating in an expeditious manner.
While the entire legal fraternity concentrates on certain parts of the Code to ensure a quick and just disposal, one particular provision has been neglected. If used in appropriate situations, it would help the Judiciary in reducing the tedious volume of litigations, including frivolous and vexatious suits. This provision of law is Order XII Rule 6 of the Code (‘the Rule’), which provides for ‘Judgment on Admission’.
Order XII Rule 6
More often than not, a judgment is a result of prolonged litigation, which could be set aside by the Appellate Court on an appeal by the aggrieved party. However, one can obtain a judgment in a faster and direct manner if both the Bar and Bench discreetly use the provision provided under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code which states as under –
“(1) Where admissions of fact have been made either in the pleading or otherwise, whether orally or in writing, the Court may at any stage of the suit, either on the application of anyparty or of its own motion and without waiting for the determination of any other question between the parties, make such order or give such judgment as it may think fit, having regard to such admissions.
(2) whenever a judgment is pronounced under sub-rule (1) a decree shall be drawn up in accordance with the judgment and the decree shall bear the date on which the judgment was pronounced.”
A bare perusal of the Rule makes it appear simple, whereas a detailed scrutiny helps us understand that the complexity of the ‘words’ and ‘phrases’ stated. Perhaps, this is why this Rule has been rarely used by the legal fraternity.
Elemental Dissection of the Rule
This article aims to highlight and explain the key elements of the Rule which may assist the fraternity to employ it more regularly –
- Admissions of fact
The term admission would in all circumstances mean a statement, where a fact in dispute has been accepted and agreed to, including a relevant fact. It is necessary to understand that any admission, which is or would be under consideration for the purpose of the Rule, is by implication both specific and relevant to the dispute. E.g. in a suit for eviction Mr. A being the owner of the property seeks for eviction of Mr. B, who admits to Mr. A being the owner of the property. Though this is a specific admission, the same is not a relevant fact and hence, cannot be considered an ‘admission of fact’ under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code. However, this admission would be relevant if the same was made in a suit for declaration of ownership.
While evaluating the application or filing an application under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code, it is a rule that such an admission must be unequivocal It is essential to read the document completely where the admission is made to ensure that the admission made is not in conflict with other statements. It is also important to check that the admission is not subject to any proof or evidence, which would entitle the other party to proceed to trial as a matter of right.
One can truly appreciate the scrupulous structure of the Code when Order X and XII of the Code are read together – Under Order X of the Code, a court seeks a set of admissions and denials and if the admissions so made are relevant to the dispute, the judge can, under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code, pass an order or provide an opportunity to the Bar to file an application. This effectively helps the Bench reduce the number of frivolous and vexatious litigations. However, this specific practice was usually followed, by the “Old Madras Bar” now neither the bar nor the bench appears to be following it and hence it has become archaic.
- Pleading or otherwise, whether orally or in writing
The filing of a Plaint under Order VII of the Code by the Plaintiff and corresponding statement of objections under Order VIII of the Code by the Defendant would complete the ‘pleadings’ as per Order VI Rule 1 of the Code. The word ‘otherwise’, by application of principle of ejusdem generis, would mean and include any document appended to a plaint as laid down in Rajender Soni v. Mahabir Pd, 2011 AIR 1347 Del (1351) or other applications such as interlocutory applications, Evidence Stage which includes, examination and cross-examination examination-in-chief (orally made and recorded) and any memo filed by the parties before the court to the proceedings.
Any oral or written admission made in the above manners would come under ambit of Order XII Rule 6 of the Code. The admissions made may not be necessary in the same suit/proceedings, to invoke Order XII Rule 6, a party may rely on any unequivocal admission made other proceedings. But care should be taken to ensure that, in such situations the parties, the subject matter and the issues should be the same. Hence, it can be safely concluded that, even admissions made in any other proceedings would be material in deciding the application under the Rule.
- May at any stage of the suit
When either party, based on pleadings or otherwise, can convince the court regarding admission of fact, the court may, after due consideration, pass a judgment. However, it is necessary to highlight the word ‘may’ which suggests that the Code has conferred complete discretion on the Bench, which was reiterated in S.M. Asif v. Virender Kumar Bajaj, (2015) 9 SCC 287. Such discretion should always be based and guided by the principles of fairness and should not be arbitrary in nature. E.g. If the objection raises objections which relates to or is pertaining to the very root of the issue/s, then the court shall not exercise its power to pass a judgment under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code.
In my view, to serve the purpose of this rule, it would be ideal if the judgment is pronounced before the stage of evidence, assisting parties and court to avoid lengthy litigation. However, the Rule provides that judgment may be given ‘at any stage’, which can be interpreted as even after the evidence has been commenced, but before the stage of judgment. The terms ‘may’ and ‘at any stage’ contain and carry the same connotation as contemplated under the Order VI Rule 17 of the Code which provides for amendment of Pleadings. This balance in the form of the discretion is necessary to ensure that the parties to the proceedings would be provided with a fair opportunity to prove their case without any bias.
- On the application of any party or of its own motion
A court could contemplate passing a judgment under the Rule when either the Plaintiff or Defendant files an application. However, if the court is convinced that there is reasonable admission pertaining to the issue-in-dispute, it also has the power to take up the issue on its own motion. Such suo moto power is similar Order I Rule 10(2) of the Code, which provides the court the discretion of adding/removing parties, and for all practical purposes, the phrase ‘of its own motion’ under the Rule would carry the same legal interpretation. While the court is passing such a judgment, there is duty conferred upon it to see that, such prayer so granted would not defeat the provision of various laws such as Stamp Act, 1882, Registration act, 1908 or such prayers are not collusive or even preferred to defeat the process of law.
- Without waiting for the determination of any other question
The sole object of Order XII Rule 6 of the Code is to ensure that the parties to the litigation obtain a speedy disposal of the case or the issues in contention at least, in so far as admissions of relevant fact made by either party. It is for this reason the courts are conferred with the discretion to grant multiple decrees in the same suit. Hence, a party under this enabling provision may make an application against the other, who has admitted to a claim, thus seeking resolution of that issue.
It was stated in Bhai Chanchal v. Syed Jalaluddin, (1970) 3 SCC 12 that while the court passes an interim decree against one such party, other issues are left open for trial. E.g. In a suit for eviction filed by a lessor for eviction of lessees, the court can pass one decree upon compromise (admission of fact) and another decree determining the rights of parties at the later stage. Both decrees are valid and the court has the power to do so. However, care and caution must be shown by parties and the Bench to ensure that such a decree is restricted only to the admission made and does not exceed beyond such admission.
- Make such order or give such judgment as it may think fit
Parties preferring an application under the Rule must bear in mind at all times that, this is only an enabling provision i.e. this provision only enables the party to prefer an application highlighting all the necessary points for consideration. The Supreme Court interpreted the phrase ‘may think fit’ in the case of Karam Kapahi v. Lal Chand PC Trust, AIR 2010 SC 2077, it stated that the phrase confirms that filing an application under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code is a matter of legal right but granting the relief sought is the discretion of the Bench. E.g. In a suit for recovery of money, the Defendant agrees the liability of the sum claimed but disputes the transaction. The court, at this instance, may or may not pass an order or judgment regarding money claimed and such transaction. Such order or judgment is not a matter of right of the party.
Once such a judgment has been pronounced by the court, it is the duty of the same court to draw a decree in terms of the judgment pronounced. Drawing a decree is an end to litigation without which the rights of the parties cannot be enforced. Hence in view of this importance, Code has incorporated the Order XII Rule 6(2) to ensure a form is given to the rights decided.
A forgotten provision
Order XII Rule 6 of the Code is rarely used and is mostly applied when the Written Statement or an application is poorly drafted without understanding the consequences of a vague and evasive denial. Order VIII Rule 2 provides that the denials in a Written Statement ought to be specific failing which, it fails to qualify as denial leading the same to understood as an admission. It is, therefore, important that all documents and statements made in relation to a suit are clear, unambiguous and to the point.
It is surprising to see how such an important provision of law, aimed as speedy disposal of the case and thereby reducing the burden on the Judiciary, has been fading away with little or no application at all. Its non-use can be attributed to a number of reasons – no knowledge of its existence, intentional non-use to prolong the litigation in the interest of monetary gains, or even because the Bench does not pay observance to the detailing during the framing of issues. Such delay can be avoided only if the Bar becomes more observant of the remedies in the Code and the Bench is more observant of any crucial admissions.
DISCLAIMER:The information provided in this article is for educational purpose only. The same cannot be construed as legal advice.