AMENDMENT OF ISSUES UNDER CPC
Author: Komal Agrawal, III year of B.A.,LL.B from KIIT Law School, KIIT University.
Order 14 of the Code of Civil procedure, 1908 (hereinafter CPC, 1908) lays down rules for the settlement of issues and determination of suits on issues of law or on issues agreed upon. Rule 5 Order XIV of the CPC, 1908 empowers the civil court to alter, amend or modify the issues or frame additional issues at any stage of the proceeding before passing a decree. It will apply in both the cases, i.e. for adding the issue & striking off the issue. Before elaborating upon the amendment of issues, it is pertinent to discuss about the amendment of pleadings. A pleading in civil suit includes plaint & written statement. Pleadings & issues are sine-qua-non in a civil suit. Proper issues are to be framed based upon the pleadings of the parties in the plaint & written statement. Otherwise the motive of the litigation is bound to take a deviation.
Order VI Rule 17 of the CPC, 1908 permits the court to amend the pleadings of the party seeking amendment. Only such amendments are allowed which enables the court to decide what is really at issue between the parties. The only question to be considered by the court is whether such amendment would be necessary to determine the real controversy between the parties in the suit. The Amendment of pleadings shall be allowed to bring or to clarify all matters in issue before the Court because the matter in issue is essential for the determination of the suit and henceforth, amendment can be made if granting such amendment really meets the ends of justice & circumvents further litigation.
Issues shall be fairly & properly framed as it contains multitudinous advantages with it such as; it helps the parties to know which matters are left in dispute & which matters have been admitted; it helps the parties to identify whether the dispute revolves around the question of fact or question of law. If the suit is at the stage of the trial, the provisions of Order XIV Rule 5 would not debar the trial court from framing issues.
The Delhi High Court ruled that the court can amend issues at any stage of the suit which might be out of necessity to determine the controversy between the parties.
It is quite obvious that for deciding the controversy involved in the suit, the issues which are necessary have already been framed by the trial court. The issues which either of the parties wants to be amended or wants to be framed as additional issues must be the matter of evidence then only the party seeking amendment can lead evidence in this regard.
It is important to note that if there is an undue delay in the filing of the application with regard to the amendment of issues, the suit will not be barred by limitation. Order XIV Rule 5 of CPC gives power to the Court, even after the amendment to add any further additional issue necessary for the disposal of the suit before passing of the decree. If briefly explained, even if the issues have already been framed after hearing the parties, the court has been empowered to frame additional issues which is necessary & left to be framed. Issues can be amended before passing of a decree.
Amendment of issues is a discretionary power of the court. Framing of issues is a procedure & no such rights and obligations of the parties are determined. It is upon the trial court to determine the real controversy between the parties. It is an established principle of law that every issue is not required to be framed. The objective of framing of issues is to determine whether the plaintiff is entitled to any relief sought or the suit is liable to be dismissed. And if the court deems it necessary to raise additional issue for determination of real controversy, it can raise those additional issues even at the stage of disposing final arguments & allow the parties to adduce evidences in such matter. Order XIV Rule 5 of the CPC, 1908 can be exercised at any stage of the trial before the final disposal of the suit if the court is convinced that in order to serve substantial justice between the parties, an issue needs to be added or deleted.
If the issue that is to be amended or added is found to have been contrary to the pleading or is not related to the suit in any way or is already settled by the Trial Court, then the Court can rightly dismiss the application & the order will be just & proper which calls for no intervention. If the issues intended to be amended are not necessary for determining the suit, the court is not bound to add those issues. If the additional issues sought to be framed is not necessary for the disposal of the suit or for adjudication of the dispute between the parties, the application can be dismissed & thereafter, no petition can stand on the ground of infirmity or irregularity in the order passed by the Trial Court. On an application of amendment, it is the responsibility of the Court to properly scrutinize the averments sought by the parties & consider only the relevant ones made in the plea to see whether those issues which are already framed is sufficient enough to effectively dispose of the matter or whether there is actually the need for those amendments. Granting the application under Order XIV Rule 5 merely on the ground that issues have not been properly framed & therefore, additional issues is required to be framed will not be relevant for the proper disposal of the suit & is not going to subserve the ends of justice. If the existing issues that has already been framed are sufficient for proper adjudication of the suit, then there is no need to permit those additional averments & the application under Rule 5 is subject to dismissal.
Very interestingly, in the case of Preussse India Pvt. Ltd. v. Precision Gears and Components, it appeared that the learned judge is hurt for using the words ‘wrongly framed’. In this case, the application for amendment was made on the ground that the issues have been wrongly framed & there’s a need to reframe the issues. The learned judge observed that the words ‘wrongly framed’ is not acceptable.
In Nagubai case, the Supreme Court held that since the parties are fully aware of the real issues involved in the suit even if an issue is not framed it will not vitiate the proceedings. The same was observed by the court in the case of Ganpat Rao v. Ashok Rao. In Bhaiyalal and Another v. Bundabai and ors., the court, therefore, rejected the application by the petitioners under Order XIV Rule 5 for amendment of issues. The learned counsel for defendant supported the Court’s order by placing reliance on Nagubai & Ganpat case and argued that the parties are aware of the real issues involved in the matter and therefore, even otherwise they can lead evidence and assist the court to determine the real question involved and therefore, denied the application by the petitioner. The issues raised by the petitioners can very well be looked into while deciding the issues already in existence.
Thus, no additional issue is required to be framed when the subject matter so raised is already covered in the existing issues. And if the proposed issue is pure question of law, it has to be addressed while deciding the suit & there’s no need at entirety to frame any specific issue in that aspect of the suit. The framing of additional issue should not be permitted to delay & defeat the just adjudication of the lis. And if any such apprehension is raised then the Court shall take care of it by restricting the opportunities to adduce evidence.
No prejudice shall be caused to either of the parties by framing additional issues. The Civil Court shall grant the opportunity to both the parties to put forward their evidences with regard to those additional issues.
And if the court is satisfied that certain amendments is necessary for the determining real controversy between the parties & for proper disposal of the suit, then the Court can permit the same in the following manner:
“Whether the plaintiffs have valued the suit properly and paid the court fees accordingly”.
Therefore, at any time before passing of decree, court can amend framed issues specially when it appears to the court that such issues were wrongly framed. In applications involving amendment of issues, it cannot be asserted by the parties as their right nor can the courts can exercise their power & dismiss arbitrarily. The power is to be exercised by the Court by utmost scrutiny depending upon the facts & circumstances of the cases with the motive to serve in the interest of justice & equity, thereby properly disposing of the case.