|Justice P. Sathasivam|
Supreme Court of India
We have already dealt with a post on the Law relating to Amendment of Pleadings, and the different tests to be applied in cases of amendment of Plaint as against a Written Statement. The Supreme Court in State of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Union of India has re-itereated the law relating to amendment of pleadings under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The Court, while considering Order VI Rule 17 of the Code, in several judgments has laid down the principles applicable in the case of amendment of plaint which are as follows:
8. In order to consider the claim of the plaintiff and the opposition of the defendants, it is desirable to refer the relevant provisions. Order VI Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (in short `the Code') enables the parties to make amendment of the plaint which reads as under;
"17. Amendment of pleadings - The Court may at any stage of the proceedings allow either party to alter or amend his pleadings in such manner and on such terms as may be just, and all such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties: Provided that no application for amendment shall be allowed after the trial has commenced, unless the Court comes to the conclusion that in spite of due diligence, the party could not have raised the matter before the commencement of trial."
The above provision deals with amendment of pleadings. By Amendment Act 46 of 1999, this provision was deleted. It has again been restored by Amendment Act 22 of 2002 but with an added proviso to prevent application for amendment being allowed after the trial has commenced, unless the Court comes to the conclusion that in spite of due diligence, the party could not have raised the matter before the commencement of trial. The proviso, to some extent, curtails absolute discretion to allow amendment at any stage. Now, if application is filed after commencement of trial, it must be shown that in spite of due diligence, such amendment could not have been sought earlier. The purpose and object of Order VI Rule 17 of the Code is to allow either party to alter or amend his pleadings in such manner and on such terms as may be just. Amendment cannot be claimed as a matter of right and under all circumstances, but the Courts while deciding such prayers should not adopt a hyper-technical approach. Liberal approach should be the general rule particularly, in cases where the other side can be compensated with costs. Normally, amendments are allowed in the pleadings to avoid multiplicity of litigations.
9. Inasmuch as the plaintiff-State of Madhya Pradesh has approached this Court invoking the original jurisdiction under Article 131 of the Constitution of India, the Rules framed by this Court, i.e., The Supreme Court Rules, 1966 (in short `the Rules) have to be applied to the case on hand. Order XXVI speaks about "Pleadings Generally".
Among various rules, we are concerned about Rule 8 which reads as under:
"The Court may, at any stage of the proceedings, allow either party to amend his pleading in such manner and on such terms as may be just, but only such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real question in controversy between the parties."
The above provision, which is similar to Order VI Rule 17 of the Code prescribes that at any stage of the proceedings, the Court may allow either party to amend his pleadings. However, it must be established that the proposed amendment is necessary for the purpose of determining the real question in controversy between the parties.
10. This Court, while considering Order VI Rule 17 of the Code, in several judgments has laid down the principles to be applicable in the case of amendment of plaint which are as follows:
(i) Surender Kumar Sharma v. Makhan Singh, (2009) 10 SCC 626, at para 5:
"5. As noted hereinearlier, the prayer for amendment was refused by the High Court on two grounds. So far as the first ground is concerned i.e. the prayer for amendment was a belated one, we are of the view that even if it was belated, then also, the question that needs to be decided is to see whether by allowing the amendment, the real controversy between the parties may be resolved. It is well settled that under Order 6 Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure, wide powers and unfettered discretion have been conferred on the court to allow amendment of the pleadings to a party in such a manner and on such terms as it appears to the court just and proper. Even if, such an application for amendment of the plaint was filed belatedly, such belated amendment cannot be refused if it is found that for deciding the real controversy between the parties, it can be allowed on payment of costs. Therefore, in our view, mere delay and laches in making the application for amendment cannot be a ground to refuse the amendment."
(ii) North Eastern Railway Administration, Gorakhpur v. Bhagwan Das (dead) by LRS, (2008) 8 SCC 511, at para16:
"16. Insofar as the principles which govern the question of granting or disallowing amendments under Order 6 Rule 17 CPC (as it stood at the relevant time) are concerned, these are also well settled. Order 6 Rule 17 CPC postulates amendment of pleadings at any stage of the proceedings.
In Pirgonda Hongonda Patil v. Kalgonda Shidgonda Patil which still holds the field, it was held that all amendments ought to be allowed which satisfy the two conditions:
(a) of not working injustice to the other side, and
(b) of being necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties. Amendments should be refused only where the other party cannot be placed in the same position as if the pleading had been originally correct, but the amendment would cause him an injury which could not be compensated in costs."
(iii) Usha Devi v. Rijwan Ahamd and Others, (2008) 3 SCC 717, at para 13:
"13. Mr Bharuka, on the other hand, invited our attention to another decision of this Court in Baldev Singh v. Manohar Singh. In para 17 of the decision, it was held and observed as follows: (SCC pp. 504-05)
"17. Before we part with this order, we may also notice that proviso to Order 6 Rule 17 CPC provides that amendment of pleadings shall not be allowed when the trial of the suit has already commenced. For this reason, we have examined the records and find that, in fact, the trial has not yet commenced. It appears from the records that the parties have yet to file their documentary evidence in the suit. From the record, it also appears that the suit was not on the verge of conclusion as found by the High Court and the trial court. That apart, commencement of trial as used in proviso to Order 6 Rule 17 in the Code of Civil Procedure must be understood in the limited sense as meaning the final hearing of the suit, examination of witnesses, filing of documents and addressing of arguments. As noted hereinbefore, parties are yet to file their documents, we do not find any reason to reject the application for amendment of the written statement in view of proviso to Order 6 Rule 17 CPC which confers wide power and unfettered discretion on the court to allow an amendment of the written statement at any stage of the proceedings."
(iv) Rajesh Kumar Aggarwal and Others v. K.K. Modi and Others, (2006) 4 SCC 385, at paras 15 & 16:
"15. The object of the rule is that the courts should try the merits of the case that come before them and should, consequently, allow all amendments that may be necessary for determining the real question in controversy between the parties provided it does not cause injustice or prejudice to the other side.
16. Order 6 Rule 17 consists of two parts. Whereas the first part is discretionary (may) and leaves it to the court to order amendment of pleading. The second part is imperative (shall) and enjoins the court to allow all amendments which are necessary for the purpose of determining the real question in controversy between the parties."
(v) Revajeetu Builders and Developers v. Narayanaswamy and Sons and Others, (2009) 10 SCC 84, at para 63:
"63. On critically analysing both the English and Indian cases, some basic principles emerge which ought to be taken into consideration while allowing or rejecting the application for amendment:
(1) whether the amendment sought is imperative for proper and effective adjudication of the case;
(2) whether the application for amendment is bona fide or mala fide;
(3) the amendment should not cause such prejudice to the other side which cannot be compensated adequately in terms of money;
(4) refusing amendment would in fact lead to injustice or lead to multiple litigation;
(5) whether the proposed amendment constitutionally or fundamentally changes the nature and character of the case; and
(6) as a general rule, the court should decline amendments if a fresh suit on the amended claims would be barred by limitation on the date of application. These are some of the important factors which may be kept in mind while dealing with application filed under Order 6 Rule 17. These are only illustrative and not exhaustive."
The above principles make it clear that Courts have ample power to allow the application for amendment of the plaint. However, it must be satisfied that the same is required in the interest of justice and for the purpose of determination of real question in controversy between the parties.