Law Panel Recommends Amending Sub-Rule of Code of Civil Procedure to Remove Anomaly

The Law Commission has recommended amendment to a sub-rule of Code of Civil Procedure to remove an anomaly for the convenience of courts, lawyers, litigants, and the general public.

The report “Urgent need to amend Rule 14 (4) of Order VII of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908” was submitted to the government earlier this week.

In its 18-page report, the Commission, headed by Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi (retd) pointed out that in sub-rule (4) of Rule 14 of Order VII, mention is made of the cross- examination of the plaintiff’s witnesses.

The words “plaintiff’s witnesses” mentioned in sub-rule (4) of Rule 14 of Order VII require to be corrected as “defendant’s witnesses”, it said.

“A plaintiff cannot, except as provided in Section 154 of the Evidence Act, put questions which might be put in cross-examination to his own witnesses.

“Sub-rule (3) of Rule 1 of Order XIII also makes the position clear when the expression “cross- examination of the witness of the other party” is employed therein.

Therefore, the anomaly in sub-rule (4) of Rule 14 of Order VII is evident,” it said.

The Supreme Court in Salem Advocate Bar Association vs. Union of India dealt with the various amendments made to the Code of Civil Procedure by the 1999 and 2002 amendment acts.

While dealing with Rule 14(4) of Order VII, the Supreme Court took note of the anomaly and held that the words “plaintiff’s witnesses’ are to be read as ‘defendant’s witnesses’ till the time the legislature corrects it, the report read.

“However, even after the Hon’ble Supreme Court pointed it out in the year 2005, the Parliament has not so far made any amendment to Rule 14 (4) of Order VII to rectify the anomaly,” the report observed.

The Commission said is of the considered view that sub-rule (4) of Rule 14 of Order VII requires to be amended by substituting the words “the defendant’s witnesses” for the words “the plaintiff’s witnesses”.

Simply put, a plaintiff is a person who files a case in a court. Defendant is the one against whom a case is filed.

In his letter to Law Minister Kiren Rijiju while submitting the report, Justice Awasthi said while in the absence of any corrective measure undertaken by the Parliament, the direction issued by the Supreme Court holds the field, “the 22nd Law Commission is of the considered opinion that the anomaly be resolved through legislative amendment at the earliest opportunity for the convenience of the courts, lawyers, litigants, and the general public”.

The Law Commission has suo motu taken up the subject-matter for consideration.

This is the first report submitted by the 22nd Law Commission to the government.

The law panel gives advice to the government on complex legal issues.

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