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Discouraging the practice of framing general issues, the Delhi High court has held that framing of omnibus issues with respect to the reliefs claimed in a suit is in violation of Order XIV, Rule 1(3) of the Civil Procedure Code.
“Framing of omnibus issues with respect to the reliefs claimed..is in violation of Order XIV Rule 1(3) which requires distinct issues to be framed on each material proposition affirmed by one party and denied by the other… Omnibus issues .. do not cull out the material propositions of fact or law on which the parties are at variance and do not tell the Court the issues on which the right decision of the case depends, as required by Rule 1(5). Framing such omnibus issues has the potential of the trial as well as the decision, going haywire.”, the Court has said.
The order was passed by a Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in a suit for partition of several immovable properties.
The Court recorded that although the suit was “ripe for framing of issues”, neither counsel had proposed any issues.
The counsel for the plaintiff had nonetheless suggested framing issues with respect to the entitlement of the plaintiff to the reliefs of partition, permanent injunction and mesne profits.
The Court, however, said that framing such general issues was “as good as not framing any issues”.
Framing such general and omnibus issues defeats the whole purpose of framing of issues, the Court said.
After going through the scheme of Order XIV of the Civil Procedure Code, the Court stated that framing of omnibus issues with respect to the reliefs claimed was in violation of Order XIV Rule 1(3).
The Rule requires distinct issues to be framed on each material proposition affirmed by one party and denied by the other, the Court iterated.
Further, referring to Order XV, Rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Code , the Court explained that after framing the issues, it would consider whether existing undisputed documentary evidence would be sufficient to determine the issues framed and if not, to give an opportunity to the parties for the production of any other evidence for deciding upon such issues.
“What falls from the aforesaid procedure is that the evidence led by the parties is to be guided by the issues framed and not by the reliefs claimed in the plaint. What further falls from the aforesaid procedure is, that the determination by the Court also has to be of the issues framed and not of the reliefs claimed in the plaint. The grant of the relief claimed in the plaint is consequential to the determination of the issues.”, the Court said.
Discouraging the practice of framing omnibus issues, the Court observed,
“If such omnibus issues, as suggested are framed, post framing of issues when parties are relegated to trial, they do not know what to prove and on what they are required to lead evidence, resulting in the parties often failing to prove or disprove what they were required to prove or disprove in support of their case and / or to defeat the case of the other.”
The Court also relied on the Supreme Court decision in Makhan Lal Bangal Vs. Manas Bhunia (2001) to state that framing proper issues helped a court arrive at a correct decision by defining the scope of the trial, narrowing the area of conflict and also saved valuable time.
It further added that the parties and their counsel were bound to assist the Court in the process of framing of issues.
The Court also observed that framing general omnibus issues made it difficult to arrive at a decision with reasons on each separate issue.
This often results in the parties to the lis, post judgment, realizing their follies in proving or disproving what they were required to prove, it said.
Thus, the Court held,
“..the counsels as well as the Court, at the stage of framing of issues, are required to peruse the pleadings and in reference to the relief claimed, cull out the essential ingredients which the plaintiff is required to prove to be entitled to that relief and to see whether the defendant is specifically denying (not vaguely denying) the same and if denying, on what facts or grounds and thereafter consider on whom the onus of proof should be.”
The Court thus gave another opportunity to the counsel to propose issues in accordance with the above on the next date of hearing.
The Plaintiff was represented by Advocate KK Sharma.
The Defendants were represented by Advocates Ajay Kumar and Ashok K Sagar.