The present article deals with the fundamentals of drafting the plaint under CPC and the essential constituents of a plaint under CPC.
Abstract – Fundamentals of Drafting a Plaint
Every suit commences with the filing of the plaint before the competent court. If the plaint itself is not properly filed, the suit is dismissed in the first instance. There are certain fundamentals of drafting a plaint or certain contents that must be present in a plaint under Order 7 Rule 1 to enable the court to admit the plaint.
Drafting of a plaint is an art of the lawyer and it is believed that if a plaint is well-drafted, half of the case is already won. The present article deals with the fundamentals of drafting the plaint under CPC and the essential constituents of a plaint under COC. Further, the article endeavours to examine the fundamentals of drafting a plaint beyond CPC and what the courts have observed in this regard.
Introduction – Fundamentals of Drafting a Plaint
Plaint is the pleading filed on behalf of the victim, i.e. plaintiff. It is the first step to initiate a civil suit in a court of law. It is a document that contains the statement of facts and circumstances that the plaintiff or victim claims to have occurred or existed which have given rise to the present dispute. Plaint lays down the reason for moving the court, i.e. the cause of action and the relief, i.e. compensation or specific performance of a contract, etc. claimed by the plaintiff.
Contents of a Plaint
Order 7 Rule 1 enlists certain essential particulars that a plaint should contain without which a plaint is invalid. These particulars can be classified into three categories:
- Heading and Cause Title
- Body of the Plaint
- Relief sought by the Plaintiff
Heading and the Cause Title
The Heading refers to the initial part of the plaint that describes the name and location of the court where the suit is preferred by the plaintiff. The cause title refers to the description of the parties to the suit and the nature of the suit. This section of the plaint consists of:
Name and Jurisdiction of the Court
The name of the court is the first item that should appear at the top centre of the document. It is called the heading of the plaint. It must describe the name by which the court is referred to and its location. For instance, “In the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, New Delhi”. Where the case is in a lower court, i.e. city civil courts, plaint may contain, though not mandatory, the name of the judge before whose bench the case is listed.
For instance, “In the Court of Shri XYZ, Principal Judge, City Civil Court, Senior Division”. Moreover, if a court has several benches within a State, the name of the court must follow the bench name. For instance, “In the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Nagpur Bench”.
The name of the court is followed by the nature of jurisdiction that the plaintiff is invoking through its case. If the case is filed in original jurisdiction, the words “Civil Original Jurisdiction” must follow the court name. If the case is filed as an appeal before the court, the words “Civil Appellate Jurisdiction” must follow the court name and so on.
The Cause Title
The cause title is an index of the details of the parties to the suit. Every plaint must comprise of the details of the parties to the suit and not merely their names. The cause title must include the names of all the plaintiffs and all the defendants, their father’s or husband’s name (as the case may be), their respective ages and their permanent address with zip code. The details of the plaintiff must be provided in complete while that of the respondent must be provided as much as can be ascertained with ordinary diligence.
For instance, Plaintiff: “Mr ABC son of Mr XYZ, aged 24 years, residing at No. 120, Reddy Layout Circle, Jayanagar, Bangalore – 560022”.
Under the Indian jurisprudence, a minor, i.e. a person below the age of 18 years and a person of unsound mind cannot sue another person in his/her own name. S/he is represented by their guardian or their next friend or guardian ad litem (in case of the defendant). Thus, in the case of these persons, the cause title must also mention the details of their representatives.
Title of the Suit
A suit is commenced by filing a plaint or memorandum of appeal or a petition, etc. before the court. The title of the suit refers to the nature of the suit whether it is a plaint or an application, etc. It shall also state the legal provisions under which it is filed and the main purpose of filing the document before the court. Suit title is a very brief (usually one or two lines) explanation of the case.
For instance, “Plaint filed under Order 7 Rule 1 read with Section 26 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 for breach of the contract dated 01.01.2001 by the defendants” or “Petition under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for a decree of divorce”.
Body of the Plaint
Like in an essay, the body is the middle and most important part of the plaint. It lays down the events that took place and the order in which they took place. It explains the court the reason for approaching the court and the relief that the plaintiff expects to be granted by the court. Besides the case of the plaintiff, this part must fulfil certain statutory obligations such as mentioning the value of the suit, court fees, etc. the body contains the following particulars:
Facts constituting the cause of action
There is a legal presumption of the existence of a cause of action in every suit and if the court finds that there is no cause of action, the suit or the plaint is liable to be dismissed.
In Cooke v. Gill, the court observed that cause of action means every fact which is quintessential to establish or ascertain the right of the plaintiff and which, if not proved, would lead to the travesty of justice. Further, in Kuldip Singh v. Ganpat Lal, it was averred by the apex court that a plaint must describe the material facts that led to the present dispute and in the absence of the cause of action, a suit can be dismissed.
Grounds for Relief Claimed
The next particular that the plaint must contain in its body are the grounds on which the plaintiff claims a violation of his rights and the reliefs thereon. The grounds basically means an interpretation of the legal provision and mentioning how the requirements of law have not been fulfilled by the adverse party. This part requires an interpretation of law and evidence that forms grounds for moving the court. For instance, ABC ltd. agreed to construct the house for X using a specific quality of cement and iron rods for a decided amount of money. However, after the construction, X found that ABC ltd. used a different quality cement than required by the contract.
Here, the grounds shall be (i) there is a breach of a valid contract and (ii) requirement under the agreement between ABC ltd. and X have not been fulfilled. Thus, X has to prove the existence of such agreement and the clause which binds ABC to use the specific quality of cement.
It is a general rule that the grounds which are not pleaded in the plaint cannot be pleaded before the court. However, the court still reserves its inherent powers under Section151 of the CPC to grant relief on grounds not mentioned in the plaint but which can be derived from the allegations made in the plaint.
Date of Cause of Action and Limitation
According to Order 7 Rule 1(e), a plaint must disclose the facts that constitute the cause of action and when it arose. Facts have already been dealt with above and this part requires that the body of the plaint must disclose the specific date on which the cause of action arose, i.e. the date on which the right of the plaintiff was infringed by the defendant. For instance, if the suit is for breach of a contract by the plaintiff, the date of cause of action shall be the date on which the defendant breached the provisions of the contract.
A cause of action may be continuing one and there can be several instances where cause of action may arise. For instance, in a petition for divorce on grounds of cruelty, every occasion on which the husband showed cruelty to his wife will be the date of cause of action and the last date of them shall be considered for the purpose of calculation of limitation period.
Statement of Jurisdiction
The plaint must also specifically aver that the court which has been approached by the plaintiff has pecuniary, territorial and subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. The plaintiff must highlight essential facts to show that the requisite jurisdiction is present with that court.
The heading part of the plaint which mentions the nature of the case whether it is civil original jurisdiction or civil appellate jurisdiction is not sufficient to satisfy that the court has the requisite jurisdiction. The momentous facts must be stated in the body of the plaint.
Suit Valuation and Court Fees
The pecuniary jurisdiction of the court is determined by the value of the suit. A suit is valued according to the value of the property in dispute (if any) and/or compensation claimed by the plaintiff. There are certainly other factors taken into consideration while the determination of the value of the suit. Besides pecuniary jurisdiction, the valuation of the suit is essential to determine the court fees that needs to be paid to the court.
Court fee is a nominal amount paid to the court towards any expense incurred by the court such as service of notice, summons, caveat, etc. The valuation of the suit and court fees are determined by the State’s Suit Valuation and Court Fees Act.
Statement Declaring Minority or Unsoundness of Mind
Order 7 of the CPC does not require that the plaintiff needs to disclose his/her minority status or mental conditions. However, under the Indian legal system, a minor and an insane person do not have the right to sue in their own name. They need to be represented by their next friend that is usually the parent or guardian. Therefore, the general practice is that the plaint should contain the statement disclosing that the plaintiff is major and not disabled by law to sue in his own name and if he is not able, then statement to that effect and description of the legal representative is essential.
Relief Sought by the Plaintiff
After the body of the plaint, the next part which the most important part of any pleading, i.e. the prayer clause. Generally, ushered as the prayer clause, this part explains the relief sought by the plaintiff from the court. The plaintiff must word his/her relief such that it is absolutely categorical as to what the plaintiff seeks from the court.
Prayer must not be vague or beyond the powers of the court. Moreover, it is essential to note that the plaintiff is entitled to those reliefs only which are mentioned in the plaint and no additional relief can be claimed orally before the court.
The law does not require that general relief cannot be granted by the court if the same is not specifically sought. For instance, order, as to cost of the suit or reimbursement of legal expense, can be made by the court in the interest of justice without specific pleading with regard to the same.
 Cooke v. Gill, (1873) 8 CP 107.
 Kuldip Singh v. Ganpat Lal (1996) 1 SCC 243.