Author: Shravani Gupta, III Year B.A.,LLB from University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.
Prior to 1859, there were multiple overlapping codes in the same areas, therefore a single civil code was developed. This code has been rewritten, reformulated, and re-executed several times. However, there is a pressing need to amend it further in today's world, since the Code appears to lag behind society in certain areas such as trial delays, outstanding backlogs, cost effectiveness, and so on. In light of the Law Commission's reports, this article addresses several questions of natural justice in relation to the CPC.
The CPC has been revised several times, the most recent being in 2002. (for reducing delays, barring any 2nd appeal from a decree). The Preamble establishes the concept of natural justice, which includes a fair trial, impartiality, good faith, reasonable time, and fair notice, among other things. The country's procedural code must reflect this spirit, or the concept will become obsolete. These concepts are echoed in CPC statutes and have been confirmed in a slew of court decisions, most notably the rule of audi alteram partum (the right to be heard) and nemo debet esse propria causa (no one is responsible for his own actions) (no one shall be a judge in his own case). Other concepts include the right to legal representation, expedited trials, Lok Adalats, and res judicata, among others. The CPC has been in a constant state of evolution to keep in consonance with rules of fair trial.
In fact, the Code of Civil Procedure was founded in the year 1859. There was no universal code that regulated civil procedures prior to this. In fact, numerous different codes were in use in the same places. As a result, for the first time, civil procedures were codified and made applicable throughout the country. This particular code was found to have numerous problems, and as a result, a couple of additional civil codes were established to replace the old code. Finally, in 1908, after twenty-five years of experience, legislators were able to draught a more effective code. This code was well-written and well-considered. The code's provisions were deemed appropriate for the time period.However, there are a number of things that are out of date in terms of the coding. Case delays, a large number of ongoing cases, and ineffective trials are just a few of the severe issues that the country is currently dealing with and that require immediate attention. Many law improvements have been examined by several committees and law reports, such as the Law Commission's 14th and 27th reports. This initiative attempts to address concerns of fair trial and natural justice, as well as certain related overseas cases.
Amendments at a glance
Lawmakers have made a number of attempts to modify the procedural code of civil procedures by revising the act at regular intervals. These reforms aim to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial and that justice is delivered quickly. In 1999, a bill was introduced to modify the Civil Procedure Code, but it was defeated due to strong opposition and legal strikes. As a result, in 2002, a new amendment code named the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment), 2002 was drafted. The statute of 2002 received less opposition and proved to be more effective than the one passed in 1999. "The 2002 Act has been lauded for decreasing delays during the trial of civil claims," Venkatesan writes in his piece "Trial and Execution." More options for serving summonses on defendants have been added, including e-mail, fax, and private courier service. The defendant was given 30 days to respond to the summons under the 1999 Act, which the lawyers objected to. The court has three months to record reasons in writing under the 2002 Act[i]."
"When the quantity or value of the subject-matter of the first suit did not exceed Rs.25,000, the 1999 Act substituted Section 102 of the CPC to state that no second appeal shall lie from any judgement." Critics have pointed out that it would preclude second appeals even when a substantive matter of law was at issue. The revenue being negligible, it was asserted that the jurisdictional worth of all actions coming from rural areas and agricultural land, prescribed as a multiple thereof (usually 30), would never surpass Rs.25,000. This would have created an inequitable division between two classes of plaintiffs, with the right to a second appeal reserved for the wealthy. When the subject-matter of the original suit is for the recovery of an amount not exceeding Rs.25,000, the 2002 Act corrects this distortion by stating that "no second appeal shall lie from any decree when the subject-matter of the original suit is for the recovery of an amount not exceeding Rs.25,000[ii]."
This guarantees that both sides have sufficient time and equal opportunities to respond. The adjustments ensure that no one person has an unfair edge over another.
The Concept Of Fair Trial
The government will make an attempt to achieve "social, political, and economic justice to all its residents," according to the constitution's preamble[iii]. Natural Justice is the term used to describe the fairness of social, political, and economic aspects. Natural justice simply refers to legal procedures that are unbiased, fair, and just. "The Apex Court of the country has laid down guidelines for all the courts to ensure fair trial during a legal proceeding and that courts while giving a judgement should insure impartiality, should act fair in all manners, should not be biassed in any way, and the judgments must be passed in good faith," Ken Binmore writes in his article "Natural Justice."
Also, the courts must give both parties a reasonable amount of time to react to the legal notice, as well as a fair and equal opportunity to state their case[iv]." The author also argues that in order for natural justice to survive, the country's procedural law must embody the spirit of fair trial, or else the notion will perish. A violation of these principles is deemed a violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
Order 41 Rule (2), (3) of the Code of Civil Procedure protects and defends a decree holder's interests. It stipulates that before the Court orders custody, it must ensure that the detention was not imposed in ill faith. It's important to remember that this custody wasn't given only on the basis of omission. Natural justice ideals are upheld in this manner.
"An unfair trial resulting to conviction is against the very notion of justice," the Supreme Court stated in the case of State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh.[v]
"The notion of fair trial today informs and energises many areas of the law[vi]," the Court observed in Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anrvs State Of Gujarat."[vii]
Numerous policies and procedures reflect this. A fair trial would certainly imply a trial before an impartial judge, a fair prosecutor, and a judicially calm setting. A fair trial is one in which there is no bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the cause being tried." [viii] In fact, in a 2010 case (Babubhai v. State of Gujarat &Ors.[ix]), the Supreme Court read "the right to a free and fair trial as well as investigation into Article 21 of the Constitution, which, in turn, guarantees 'personal liberty' and has been interpreted to include the fairness of procedure to be used by a court in order to ensure compliance with the principles of natural justice[x]."
The two ingredients of natural justice are:
Audi Alteram Partem i.e. no one shall be condemned without reasonable hearing.
"Audi alteram partem" is a Latin phrase that meaning "hear the other side as well," or "hear the alternative party as well." This is a crucial component of the natural justice and free trial concepts since it guarantees a person's right to be heard. The principle of allowing both parties to be heard is favoured by all courts since it ensures the courts' impartiality. It must be incorporated in civil procedural laws and codes because it is such an important element.
In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[xi], the Supreme Court accorded the right to life, as guaranteed by Article 21, a significant and profound meaning. The decision effectively overturned an earlier decision by the same court. The requirement in Article 21 for a fair trial before an impartial judge stems from the decision in the aforementioned Maneka Gandhi case[xii]. "It is usually regarded as India's equivalent of the American concept of 'due process of law[xiii]."
There are also provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure that relate to the right to be heard in a free and impartial manner.
"In the event that the summons is not served properly, or if sufficient cause exists, the ex parte decree should be set aside," says Rule 13 of Order IX. The benefit of such a rule is that, despite the existence of an ex-parte judgement, both parties in a matter get a chance to present their side and arguments in front of the Court and receive a fair trial according to the Court's procedure.
The landmark decision of Jolly George Varghese v. Bank of Cochin[xiv], in which the Supreme Court lay out the law in this regard, included such a rule.
Nemo debet esse propria causa i.e. no one shall be a judge in his own case.
Although it may seem self-evident now that some Articles, such as Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with fair trial, require such an ingredient, it is critical that such a feature not be overlooked. "Nemo debet esse propria causa" is a Latin phrase that means "no one should be a judge in their own cause." To put it another way, justice should not only be done, but also perceived to be done.
This right to an unbiased hearing is protected by Section 100 A of the Civil Procedure Code, which states that if an appeal from an original or appellate decree is heard and decided by a Single Judge of a High Court, he has the freedom to hold a firm and unchanging opinion on the issues. Because there is no further appeal from such a Single Judge's order, his opinion is safeguarded from additional prejudice [xv].
The provision of legal aid is one of the most notable elements of the Indian judiciary. This idea isn't new; it's been around since British India's colonial era. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution deals with the right to a fair trial. A person who is unable to defend his case because he lacks the financial means to do so appears to be treating economically disadvantaged people unfairly. As a result, a committee led by Justice Bhagwati was constituted to ensure that those who want legal assistance receive it. Furthermore, "the State Government must mandatorily create a programme that assists those in need of legal aid so that the nature of justice remains unbiased and effective at all times," according to Article 39A of the Constitution[xvi]. Order XXXIII, Rule 9A of the CPC Act deals with the principle of free legal aid. This decree directs all government bodies to obey the guideline, stating that a poor person should not be disadvantaged financially over a richer person. If the impoverished person cannot afford a lawyer or a pleader, the court is urged to supply one. "The impoverished shall not be priced out of the justice market by insistence on court-fee and reluctance to implement the exemptive provisions of order XXXIII, CPC," the Court stated in State of Haryana v. Darshana Devi[xvii].
Right to Speedy Trial and Lok Adalats
With so many cases outstanding and so little time to render a fair and just decision, it only makes sense to have the right to rapid trials and other means of delivering justice enshrined in the Civil Procedure Code. Arbitration, lok adalats, and other methods can be used to settle civil cases outside of the courtroom. Article 21 underscores the importance of a quick trial once more. No one should be bothered by judicial proceedings that prolong the time it takes for justice to be served. Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code governs the use of arbitration, mediation, and conciliation to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom.
Right against Double Jeopardy
Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution protects against double jeopardy. The term "double jeopardy" simply indicates that a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime. As a result, a person does not have to return to court for the same offence over and over. This aids in the trial's speeding up once more.
The Latin phrase "res judicata" refers to the same thing.
As seen by this endeavour, legislators and constitution writers have continued to improve sections of the Civil Procedure Code and articles of the Constitution in order to aid natural justice by ensuring a fair trial. While the Constitution's Articles 12, 21, and 20(2) play a vital part in natural justice, the Civil Procedure Code's Sections 100, 89, 26, and 27 do as well. To apply the principles of fair trial and natural justice, amendments have been made, law reforms have been urged, and numerous law reviews have advised improvements to civil proceedings.
We discussed the components of natural justice and a fair trial in this project, such as equal opportunity to be heard, the fact that no one can be his own judge, rapid trials, and the development of new techniques to deal with minor cases outside of the courtroom in order to promote justice. As a result, our legislators have worked hard to make the Civil Procedure Code of 1908 more effective and just.
[i]V. Venkatesan, ‘Trial and Execution’  Hindu 1.
[ii]V. Venkatesan, ‘Trial and Execution’ (hindu.com 2002) <http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl1914/19141020.htm> accessed 16 February 14
[iii] See Constitution of India, 1950, Preamble.
[iv] Ken Binmore, Natural Justice, Oxford University Press, (2005).
[v]State of Punjab v. Baldev Singh  AIR 2378 (SC).
[vii]Zahira Habibullah Sheikh & Anrvs State Of Gujarat  AIR 3467 (SC).
[ix]Babubhai v. State of Gujarat &Ors AIR 1461 (SC).
[xi]Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India  AIR 597 (SC).
[xii]M. P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law(6th Edition, 2012).
[xiv]M. P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law(6th Edition, 2012).
[xv] Jolly George Varghese v. Bank of Cochin  AIR 470 (SC).
[xvi]C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (6th, Eastern Book Co, Lucknow 2006) 506
[xvii]MP Jain, The Code of Civil Procedure (3rd, LexisNexis Butterworths, Nagpur 2012) 211
[xviii] State of Haryana v. Darshana Devi  184 SCR (3).