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Kerala HC Emphasizes Timely Application of Order VII Rule 11 for Plaint Rejection

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Kerala HC Law Insider

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Published on: 01 October 2023 at 12:54 IST

The Kerala High Court has clarified that a trial judge must not delay the decision to reject a plaint until the conclusion of the trial. Instead, such a determination should be based solely on an evaluation of the plaint as per Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC).

Justice Devan Ramachandran emphasized that when a trial judge postpones the rejection of a plaint until the end of the trial, it defeats the purpose of Order VII Rule 11 CPC.

The court noted that Order VII Rule 11 requires a clear mention of the cause of action in the plaint for the suit’s initiation. If this requirement is not met, the court can reject the plaint.

The case involved a summons received by the petitioner from the Munsiff’s Court regarding a lawsuit filed against them by the first respondent. The petitioner promptly sought the rejection of the plaintiff’s claim under Order VII Rule 11, arguing that the plaint did not disclose a valid cause of action.

It was also alleged that the statements in the plaint contradicted the stand taken by the respondents in a previous suit and were barred by law, amounting to an abuse of the legal process.

The petitioner claimed that the Munsiff rejected the application without considering its merits, misunderstanding the purpose of Order VII Rule 11, which aims to eliminate unworthy lawsuits at their outset.

Dissatisfied with the Munsiff Court’s decision, the petitioner appealed to the High Court.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the Munsiff’s order was inconsistent with Order VII Rule 11, which is intended to eliminate unworthy plaints at the beginning, without waiting for the trial. It was asserted that when a plaint does not disclose a valid cause of action, it can be rejected under Order VII Rule 11, and there is no need to wait for the trial to conclude.

The respondents’ counsel contended that the Munsiff’s order was valid, as a decision regarding the petitioner’s claim could only be made after the trial.

Advocate Millu Dandapani, counsel for the ninth respondent, supported the petitioner’s position, stating that when a lawsuit lacks a valid cause of action or is affected by the conditions mentioned in Order VII Rule 11, the trial judge must reject it outright and not wait until the trial concludes.

The Court emphasized that the purpose of Order VII Rule 11 is to assess the plaintiff’s claim at the outset, determining whether it should be rejected for any valid reasons.

The Court clarified that the Munsiff could reject the plaint under Order VII Rule 11 based solely on an assessment of the plaint, provided it met the specified criteria.

The Court found the Munsiff’s order, which postponed the rejection of the plaint until after the trial, unreasonable and contrary to the provision’s purpose.

It noted that a Trial Judge’s role is to determine whether the plaint is an abuse of the legal process and if any of the prohibiting factors listed in the rule apply, rendering it incompetent and unsuitable for prosecution.

Consequently, the Court granted the petition and instructed the Trial Court to reconsider the petitioner’s application for plaint rejection and issue an appropriate order within one month.