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A Comprehensive Guide to the Trial of Civil Suits in India

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Trial Of Civil Suits- Law Insider

By Bharti Verma

Published on: 05 September 2023 at 21:17 IST

The trial of civil suits in India is a fundamental aspect of the country’s legal system. It provides a platform for individuals and entities to seek justice for civil wrongs, such as contractual disputes, property disputes, and tort claims.

This article aims to provide thorough understanding of the trial process for civil suits in India, emphasizing the importance of integrity and adherence to Law.

The Legal Framework

Civil suits in India are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC), which outlines the procedural aspects of civil litigation. Under the CPC, civil suits are categorized into various types, including suits for recovery of money, suits for possession of property, and suits for specific performance of contracts. Each type follows similar trial procedure.

Here is a guide to understand the process of Civil suit briefly: –

Filing of the Suit/Institution of Suit (Order VII)

The civil suit commences with the filing of a plaint in the appropriate court.

Section 26 CPC,1908 Every suit shall be instituted by the presentation of a plaint or in such other manner as may be prescribed.

A suit or claim petition is the formal initiation of a legal action. It is the process through which a party, known as the plaintiff, seeks legal redress from another party, known as the defendant, for a perceived wrong or breach of rights.

The plaint must include all necessary facts, legal grounds, and relief sought by the plaintiff. It is imperative to draft the plaint carefully, ensuring that it is accurate, clear, and Free from any bar.

When filling a petition, one must ensure it discloses the Cause of Action, the petition is filled in jurisdiction which is duly verified and Court fees must be paid according to the value of the claim. Inadequate payment can lead to the rejection of the plaint.

The plaint is the foundation of the case. It should contain a concise statement of facts, the legal grounds for the claim, and the relief sought.

It is to be taken into Consideration that the petition is filled within the limitation period.

Service of Summons (Order V)

Once the plaint is filed, the court issues summons to the defendant(s), notifying them of the suit and directing them to appear before the court on a specified date.

The summons must also be served to the defendant(s) in a legally prescribed manner. Any fraudulent or deceptive practices, such as submitting false affidavits or forged documents during the service of summons, are strictly prohibited.

The summons can be served through

  • Personal Service: Personal service involves physically handing over the summons to the defendant. This method ensures that the defendant is made aware of the legal proceedings directly. In some cases, personal service may be the most effective and preferred method.
  • Substituted Service: When personal service is not possible or practical, the court may order substituted service. This can include affixing the summons to the defendant’s residence or place of business, publication in newspapers, or other methods as deemed appropriate by the court.
  • Registered Post/Speed Post: Summons can also be sent to the defendant by registered post or speed post with acknowledgment due. This method provides a written record of delivery, confirming that the defendant received the summons.
  • Court Notice Boards: In cases where the defendant’s whereabouts are unknown or they deliberately avoid being served, the court may order the publication of the summons on the court’s notice board. This method is often used as a last resort.

There are two possible scenarios after summons are duly served:

  • Defendant appears
  • Defendant does not appear

Let us briefly examine the stages under both the scenarios

Firstly, we shall examine the process where summons is duly served and defendant appears.

Once the summons has been served to the defendant in a civil suit in India, the legal process continues with various stages and actions.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to what happens after the summon is served, and defendant appears.

Filing of Written Statement: (Order VIII)

After receiving the summons, the defendant has a specific period (usually 30 days, but this can vary) to file a written statement in response to the plaintiff’s claims. In this statement, the defendant outlines their version of the facts, defenses, and counterclaims if any.

Replication (Optional):

    In some cases, the plaintiff may file a replication to respond to specific points raised in the defendant’s written statement. However, a replication is not always necessary.

    Framing of Issues:

    The court, based on the pleadings of both parties (plaintiff’s plaint and defendant’s written statement), frames the issues that need to be decided in the case. These issues act as the focal points of the trial.

    Pre-Trial Proceedings:

    Before the trial commences, there may be pre-trial proceedings such as discovery of documents and interrogatories, if requested by either party. This is a stage where both parties exchange relevant documents and information to support their case.

    Evidence Stage:

    The trial begins with the presentation of evidence by both parties. Evidence can include oral testimony of witnesses, documents, expert opinions, and other relevant materials.

    Each side has the opportunity to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses.

    It’s crucial for both parties to present their evidence clearly and concisely to support their claims or defence’s.

    Argument Stage:

    After the evidence is presented and cross-examinations are complete, both parties are allowed to present their arguments before the court. This is the stage where legal interpretations and precedents are discussed.

    The plaintiff argues to establish their case, while the defendant argues to counter the claims made against them.


    Once the trial is complete, the court takes time to review the evidence, arguments, and legal points presented by both parties.

    Subsequently, the court delivers a judgment, which is a formal decision that can include orders, directions, or the dismissal of the suit.


    If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it may pass a decree outlining the relief or remedies granted to the plaintiff.

    The decree could involve monetary compensation, specific performance of a contract, injunctions, or other appropriate remedies.

    Appeal (if necessary):

    If either party is dissatisfied with the judgment, they have the option to appeal to a higher court. The appellate court reviews the case, and if it finds legal errors or inconsistencies, it may modify or reverse the lower court’s decision.

    Execution of Decree:

    If a decree for a specific action or payment of money is granted, and the losing party does not voluntarily comply, the winning party can seek the court’s assistance in executing the decree. This may involve the court ordering the seizure of assets, wage garnishments, or other methods to enforce the decree.

    • It’s important to note that the duration of a civil suit can vary widely depending on the complexity of the case, court backlog, and other factors. Throughout the process, parties are expected to adhere to ethical standards, provide truthful and accurate information, and comply with court orders and timelines. Failure to do so can have legal consequences and impact the outcome of the case.

    When summons is duly served and defendant does not appear: –

    In this situation, the legal process proceeds in the defendant’s absence through ex-parte proceedings. The court examines the plaintiff’s evidence, frames issue, allows the plaintiff to present arguments, and eventually delivers a judgment and decree.

    The defendant has the option to challenge the ex-parte judgment through an appeal, subject to certain conditions.Top of Form

    Here is a step-by-step guide to what typically happens when summons is duly served, and defendant does not appear

    Ex-Parte Proceedings:(Order IX)

    If the defendant fails to appear in court after being duly served with a summons, the court may proceed with ex-parte proceedings. This means that the case will be heard in the absence of the defendant.

    Examination of Plaintiff’s Evidence:

    The court will first examine the evidence presented by the plaintiff. This may include witness testimonies, documents, and other relevant materials.

    The court will assess the evidence to determine whether the plaintiff has a prima facie case.

    Framing of Issues:

    If necessary, the court may still frame issues based on the pleadings and evidence presented by the plaintiff. These issues act as focal points for the trial.

    Plaintiff’s Arguments:

    The plaintiff is given the opportunity to present their arguments in support of their case. This includes legal interpretations and precedents that support their claims.


    After considering the evidence and the plaintiff’s arguments, the court may proceed to deliver a judgment. The judgment may include orders, directions, or remedies in favor of the plaintiff.


    If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, it may pass a decree outlining the relief or remedies granted to the plaintiff.

    The decree may involve monetary compensation, specific performance of a contract, injunctions, or other appropriate remedies.

    Execution of Decree:

    If a decree for a specific action or payment of money is granted, and the defendant does not voluntarily comply, the winning party (plaintiff) can seek the court’s assistance in executing the decree. This may involve the court ordering the seizure of assets, wage garnishments, or other methods to enforce the decree.

    Appeal (if necessary):

    If the defendant wishes to challenge the judgment passed in their absence, they can file an appeal in a higher court. The appellate court will review the case and may order a fresh trial if it finds that the defendant had a valid reason for not appearing in the lower court.

    • It’s important to note that in ex-parte proceedings, the court is required to ensure that the plaintiff’s case is strong and supported by sufficient evidence before passing a judgment in their favor.
    • The defendant’s absence does not automatically lead to a favorable judgment for the plaintiff. The legal process still requires the plaintiff to establish their case to the satisfaction of the court.
    • Additionally, if the defendant’s failure to appear was due to reasons beyond their control, such as illness or a genuine misunderstanding of the court date, they may have the option to apply for the setting aside of the ex-parte judgment and request a fresh hearing. The court will consider such applications based on the circumstances presented by the defendant.

    When summons is not duly served: –

    When the summons in a civil suit is not successfully served to the defendant, the legal process cannot move forward until the defendant is properly served. Proper service of summons is essential to ensure that all parties have notice of the legal proceedings and can participate in the case.

    Here’s what typically happens when the summons is not served:

    • Attempts to Serve Summons:

    Initially, the court or the plaintiff makes multiple attempts to serve the summons to the defendant. This can involve various methods, including personal service, substituted service, and registered post.

    • Publication of Summons:

    If all traditional methods of serving the summons fail, the court may order the publication of a notice in a newspaper or through other public means. This is often considered a last resort to give the defendant notice of the legal proceedings.

    After all the efforts there again arises 2 situations where defendant appears and when defendant does not appear.

    • If the defendant appears the Suit proceeds in the similar manner discussed above, after he presents himself in Court, he shall file a written statement and the suit shall procced.
    • If the defendant still does not appear the suit proceeds Ex-Parte.


    This comprehensive guide offers a valuable roadmap for navigating the process of civil litigation in India. Civil suits stand as a distinct realm within the legal landscape, driven by the pursuit of compensation and redress for aggrieved parties. Unlike criminal cases, which are centred on punishment, the core objective of civil litigation is the resolution of disputes through equitable remedies and compensation.

    The procedural aspect of civil suits, including the ability to amend pleadings, is a vital feature of this legal domain. Parties are granted the flexibility to adjust their pleadings before final arguments, provided they obtain the requisite consent from the court. Failure to follow this procedural step can result in the dismissal of the suit by the registry, emphasizing the significance of adhering to established legal procedures in civil litigation.