How to File a Civil Suit
Authored by Dipali Jagannath Nikam
Keywords: Civil case, Suit, How to file a suit, Cpc.
A court case between a person or an institution, generally over money or any injury to their rights is called a Civil Case. A Civil Suit begins when one person or entity (called the ‘plaintiff’) asserts that the other person or organization (called the ‘defendant’) has harmed him personally or through their action. The civil case can either be about defamation, disputes, maintenance from husband, cheque bounce, Copyright violation, etc. The plaintiff registers a case by filing a “complaint” which is a document that provides the facts from the plaintiff's side with legal theories under the principles of the Code of Civil Procedure and makes a request for relief from the court. (1) The plaintiff can ask for: -
“Damages" – meaning a sum of money to be paid to the plaintiff for his suffering
“Injunction” – a court order restraining the defendant from the beginning or continuing or compelling an act or action which is causing harm or invading the legal right of the plaintiff
“Declaratory Judgment” – A binding judgment defining the role of the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant rights under a contract or statute (2)
The judge or jury after studying the case and examining the facts of the case and also examining the witnesses if any will apply the appropriate law to those facts. Based on those analyses, the judge or jury will decide the appropriate action or legal consequences to follow in their final judgment. The parties can also resolve the case themselves with the help of their lawyers or on their own at any time during the case. These are usually done to save the long court proceedings and to avoid the trial or risk of losing. The settlement of these cases often involves payment of money or compromise of any nature. (2)
Types of Cases in Civil Court
There is a wide variety of civil cases but broadly it can be divided into:-
Tort Claims - A tort or a tortious act is a wrongful act that causes harm to someone’s person, reputation, property, and for which that person who is harmed is entitled to get paid. Cases like personal injury, battery, defamation, medical malpractice, negligence, fraud, and many similar cases are all examples of Torts.
Contract Breach or claims - A type of civil wrong in which agreed-upon terms or conditions of an agreement or contract is not honored or violated. It can be anything from not finishing a job at a specified time, failing to deliver goods sold or promised, not paying the promised amount, and many others. A contract breach can be anything that is promised in the contract and is not fulfilled whether partially or fully.
Equitable Claims – Equitable claims are mostly injunctions where the plaintiff asks the court to prevent the defendant from continuing or doing a particular action which is or might be harmful to the plaintiff either personally or his organization.
Landlord-Tenant Claims - These cases can either be for claims of money or injunction. The case can be registered by the Tenant or Landlord and it can involve personal injury or to the property. A landlord can register a case to evict a tenant, A tenant can register a case suing the landlord for the return of the security deposit. The landlord can put a case on the harm to the property or a tenant can register a case saying that there is a medical emergency and asking for an injunction on the order from the Landlord for eviction.
Stages of a Civil Case
There are generally six stages involved in a civil case. The stages are:-
Pre-Filing - As the name suggests this stage is when the dispute arises and the parties make demands or try to negotiate the matter internally. Overall they try to resolve the issue without going forward with the legal recourse. If they fail to resolve it internally or within themselves then they prepare for the possibility of a court action.
Initial Pleading - At this stage, the plaintiff files documents and papers as an official complaint to start the court action and the defendant prepares their response or an answer to the complaint.
Discovery – Both the parties at this stage exchange between them the documents and responses filed by them to learn about the weaknesses and strength of both side’s case
Pre-Trial – At this stage, both parties prepare to get their pieces of evidence and witnesses for the trial and in some cases, they try out of court settlement after which they can file motions with the court to resolve the case or limit the number of hearings.
Trial Stage – At this stage, the case is heard by a judge or jury. Depending on the complexity of the case it can last for a few hours or months. It is during this stage that the pieces of evidence are presented, witnesses are examined and the judge or jury delivers their final judgment.
Post-Trial Stage – In this stage, the party or parties file an appeal challenging the judgment or the winning party can try to collect to the judgment that was entered.
Not every civil case follows the steps or stages. The court or parties can rearrange the stages and in some cases, there are unique procedures involved. The stages depend on the cases.
Procedure for Filing a Civil Case in India
The procedure for filing a civil case is very important and it is laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure because if the process is not followed properly then the registry has a right to dismiss the case. A registry is an office which provides the court forms and information about the court matter
The procedure to file a civil case is as follows
Filing of a Plaint/Suit
A plaint is a written complaint or allegation and it is the first step to initiate a suit. The party who files the suit is known as “Plaintiff” and the opposite party is called “Defendant”.
The plaint contains the name of the court, name, and address of the parties with whom the disputes happen, a brief about the sections and orders under which the jurisdiction is invoked, content or submission made by the plaint on the case, and a declaration from the plaintiff stating that the contents given by them are true and correct
Vakalatnama is a written document empowering the advocate/lawyer to represent the person or party filing the case. Also a person or party can represent their case personally in any court, and in those cases, the entity or person does not need a Vakalatnama. A Vakalatnama on general terms may contain (3)
That the advocate will not be held responsible for any decision of the court
That the party will pay all the expenses incurred during the proceedings
That the client is free to release the advocate at any time of the proceedings
That the advocate has the right to retain the documents unless the total fees are paid
That the advocate shall have the rights in the best interest of his client to take any decision on his own during the hearing.
Filing of Plaint
The next step or procedure is filing of the plaint before CMO or Chief Ministerial Officer (Sherestedar) at the filing counter with the appropriate court fee and process fee. Court fee is a nominal percentage of the value of the suit.
If a court thinks that there are merits in the case on the very first day of the hearing it will issue a notice to the opposite party to submit their response. Also, the court will fix a date of hearing.
The defendant has to record their written statement which will give details on the person/organization perspective denying the allegations put on them. The written statement will also contain a declaration similar to the plaintiff verifying that the content of the written statement is true and correct
Replication by Plaintiff
It is a reply against the written statement filed by the defendant denying the allegations.
Filing of Other Documents
Once the pleadings are done then the parties will be provided an opportunity to produce and file documents on which they rely to justify their respective claims
The Framing of Issues
The framing of issues is done by the court based on arguments and examinations of witnesses or pieces of evidence
List of Witness
The witnesses to be produced or examined has to be presented before the court and these witnesses will be examined by both the parties. After that, a date will be discussed for the final hearing.
On the final hearing day, the arguments will take place restricted to the framed issues
Certified copy of order or appeal
The court gives a final order having the seal and stamp of the court and the plaintiff or defendant has the choice to appeal on higher court.
1. Hardeep Sinh,” How to file civil suits in India, ipleaders, Aug.2016.16,https://blog.ipleaders.in/civil-case/
2. “Overview of a civil case”, Civil law self – help center, https://www.civillawselfhelpcenter.org/self-help/lawsuits-for-money/overview-of-a-civil-case
3. “Civil suits in India: steps involved in the procedure for filing a civil suit”, By lawnin.com, Sept.2017.15, https://www.lawnn.com/civil-suit-india/