Parties to the Suit: A Comprehensive Legal Guide
The identification and proper inclusion of parties in a civil suit are critical for the effective administration of justice. Parties are those persons who have a direct interest in the subject matter of the suit and who seek or oppose any relief from the court. The Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (CPC), provides a detailed framework for who can be parties to a civil suit. It outlines the conditions under which individuals, companies, and government entities can be either plaintiffs or defendants. It also specifies the procedure for suits by or against minors and persons of unsound mind. This article will discuss the relevant provisions of the CPC, and landmark judgments that have shaped the understanding of who can be parties to a civil suit.
Legal Framework: Provisions in the CPC
Order 1: Parties to Suits
Order 1 of the CPC provides a detailed framework for who can be parties to a civil suit. It contains 10 rules that deal with various aspects of parties, such as:
- Rule 1: Who may be joined as plaintiffs
- Rule 2: Power of court to order separate trials
- Rule 3: Who may be joined as defendants
- Rule 4: Court may give judgment for or against one or more of joint parties
- Rule 5: Defendant need not be interested in all the relief claimed
- Rule 6: Joinder of parties liable on same contract
- Rule 7: When plaintiff in doubt from whom redress is to be sought
- Rule 8: One person may sue or defend on behalf of all in same interest
- Rule 9: Misjoinder and non-joinder of parties
- Rule 10: Suit in name of wrong plaintiff
The main principles underlying Order 1 are:
- All persons who have a direct interest in the subject matter of the suit should be made parties, either as plaintiffs or defendants.
- No person who has no interest in the subject matter of the suit should be made a party, either as a plaintiff or defendant.
- The court has the power to order separate trials or make such other orders as may be expedient in case of misjoinder or non-joinder of parties.
Order 32: Suits by Minors
Order 32 of the CPC deals with suits by or against minors and persons of unsound mind. A minor is a person who has not attained majority within the meaning of Section 3 of the Indian Majority Act, 1875. A person of unsound mind is one who has been adjudged by a competent court to be incapable of managing his own affairs.
Order 32 contains 16 rules that deal with various aspects of suits by or against minors and persons of unsound mind, such as:
- Rule 1: Minor to sue by next friend
- Rule 2: Where suit is instituted without next friend, plaint to be taken off the file
- Rule 3: Guardian for the suit to be appointed by court for minor defendant
- Rule 4: Who may act as next friend or be appointed guardian for the suit
- Rule 5: Representation of minor by next friend or guardian for the suit
- Rule 6: Receipt of property by next friend or guardian for the suit on behalf of minor
- Rule 7: Agreement or compromise by next friend or guardian for the suit
- Rule 8: Retirement of next friend
- Rule 9: Removal of next friend
- Rule 10: Stay of proceedings on death of next friend or guardian for the suit
- Rule 11: Procedure where minor attains majority during pendency of suit
- Rule 12: Application by minor for appointment as next friend on attaining majority
- Rule 13: Where minor co-plaintiff attaining majority desires to repudiate suit
- Rule 14: Unreasonable or improper suit
- Rule 15: Rules applicable mutatis mutandis to persons adjudged to be unsound mind
- Rule 16: Savings
The main principles underlying Order 32 are:
- A minor cannot sue or be sued in his own name. He must sue through a next friend, and he must be defended by a guardian appointed by the court.
- A next friend or a guardian for the suit must act in good faith and in the best interests of the minor. He must not have any adverse interest to that of the minor.
- A next friend or a guardian for the suit must obtain leave from the court before entering into any agreement or compromise on behalf of the minor.
- A minor can apply to be appointed as his own next friend after attaining majority, if he wishes to continue with the suit. He can also repudiate the suit if he finds it unreasonable or improper.
Sections 79 and 80: Suits by or Against the Government Parties to the Suit
Sections 79 and 80 of the CPC deal with suits by or against the Government or public officers in respect of any act done by them in their official capacity. Section 79 provides for the naming of parties in such suits, while Section 80 provides for the notice to be given before instituting such suits.
Section 79 states that:
- In a suit by or against the Central Government, the authority to be named as plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be, shall be the Union of India.
- In a suit by or against a State Government, the authority to be named as plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be, shall be the State.
- In a suit by or against a public officer in respect of any act done by him in his official capacity, the authority to be named as plaintiff or defendant, as the case may be, shall be the officer described by his official designation.
Section 80 states that:
- No suit shall be instituted against the Government or against a public officer in respect of any act done by him in his official capacity, until the expiration of two months after notice in writing has been delivered to, or left at the office of:
- In the case of a suit against the Central Government, except where it relates to a railway, a Secretary to that Government;
- In the case of a suit against the Central Government where it relates to a railway, the General Manager of that railway;
- In the case of a suit against the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, the Chief Secretary to that Government or any other officer authorised by that Government in this behalf;
- In the case of a suit against any other State Government, a Secretary to that Government or the Collector of the district;
- In the case of a public officer, delivered to him or left at his office, stating the cause of action, the name, description and place of residence of the plaintiff and the relief which he claims.
- The notice shall also be delivered to, or left at the office of, such officer as the Central Government or State Government may appoint in this behalf.
- No suit instituted against a public officer shall be dismissed merely by reason of any error or defect in the notice referred to above, if in such notice:
- The name, description and place of residence of the plaintiff had been so given as to enable the defendant to identify him;
- The cause of action and the relief claimed by the plaintiff had been substantially indicated.
The main principles underlying Sections 79 and 80 are:
- The Government and public officers are entitled to special protection from vexatious and frivolous suits.
- The notice under Section 80 is intended to give an opportunity to the Government or public officer to reconsider their legal position and make amends or afford restitution without recourse to litigation.
- The notice under Section 80 is mandatory and must comply with its essential requirements. However, minor errors or defects in the notice may not invalidate it if they do not cause prejudice to the defendant.