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Discovery and Interrogatories in CPC

Updated: May 5


Discovery and Interrogatories in CPC


Content:-


Upon presentation of the plaint by the plaintiff and the submission of the written statement by the defendant in court, it may become apparent to either party that the nature of their opponent's case is inadequately disclosed in the pleadings.


Each party is entitled to prior knowledge of all essential facts constituting the opposing party's case and all relevant documents within their possession or control pertaining to the issues in the lawsuit.


This facilitates the preparation of their own case and the ability to counter, challenge, or refute their adversary's arguments during the trial.


However, it's important to note that this entitlement does not extend to advance knowledge of the opponent's evidence.


Allowing such disclosure could potentially enable an unscrupulous litigant to tamper with or manipulate the evidence to subvert the course of justice.


Every suit revolves around two categories of facts: (1) the facts that form the basis of a party's case (facta probanda), and (2) the facts that serve as evidence to substantiate the case (facta probantia).


While a party is entitled to prior knowledge of the former, access to the latter is not granted beforehand.


The Code of Civil Procedure contains specific provisions to address this matter:


  1. Discovery and inspection: Order 11.

  2. Admissions: Order 12.

  3. Production, impounding, and return of documents: Order 13.

  4. Affidavits: Order 19.


Discovery


"Discovery" entails compelling the opposing party to reveal what they possess or have control over. It constitutes a mandatory disclosure by a party involved in legal proceedings of facts or documents upon which the other party intends to rely.


Following the settlement of issues, a party to a lawsuit may seek information from their opponent regarding facts or documents within their possession or control that are relevant to the issues at hand.


If information regarding facts is sought, the party is permitted to pose a series of questions, known as interrogatories, to their adversary.


The judge will review these questions, and if deemed appropriate, will require the other party to answer them under oath prior to the trial. This process is referred to as the discovery of facts.


Conversely, if information regarding documents is needed, the party may request a court order compelling the other party to provide a list of pertinent documents in their possession or control, and, under certain circumstances, may seek permission to examine and obtain copies of said documents. This procedure is termed the discovery of documents.


Section 30 of the Code authorises the court to issue an order for discovery. Modern procedural codes increasingly emphasise the importance of full and comprehensive disclosure by the parties involved.


Adhering to this provision aids in uncovering the truth. Regrettably, this provision has seldom been utilised by judges.


It has been determined that Order 11 contains provisions aimed at reducing costs by acquiring information on material facts and securing admissions on any fact that a party needs to prove concerning any issue.


Consequently, a party has the right to present interrogatories pertaining to the matter in dispute.

 
 

Types of Decree

Interrogatories


"Interrogatory" refers to the act of posing inquiries or conducting thorough questioning. In legal proceedings, when one party seeks factual information from the opposing party, they may present a set of inquiries to them.


These inquiries, known as interrogatories, serve to uncover the specifics of the opponent's argument, whether to bolster one's own case, challenge the opponent's stance, or refute their claims.


The purpose of interrogatories serves a dual function: firstly, to understand the opponent's case; and secondly, to bolster one's own case either directly, by eliciting admissions, or indirectly, by undermining the opponent's argument.


Essentially, this procedure aims to streamline the issues at hand, reducing costs by enabling a party to gather pertinent information and secure admissions on relevant matters that would otherwise require evidence.


The authority to permit interrogatories should be exercised generously, without undue adherence to technicalities.


Interrogatories can be directed from one party in a lawsuit to the opposing party. For instance, a plaintiff can pose interrogatories to a defendant, and vice versa.


In certain instances, a plaintiff might address interrogatories to a co-plaintiff, or a defendant may do the same to a co-defendant, albeit exceptionally. 


Regarding whom interrogatories can be directed, typically, they are aimed at a party involved in the lawsuit, whether plaintiff or defendant.


However, there are scenarios where an individual may not be formally listed as a party but holds substantial significance, such as when an agent acts on behalf of a principal, effectively making the principal the true plaintiff.


In such cases, an order for interrogatories can be sought against them. Similarly, interrogatories can be directed against the government.


In situations where a party to the lawsuit is a minor, mentally incapacitated, or otherwise legally incapable, interrogatories may be served upon their legal representative, such as their next friend or guardian ad litem.


 
 

Order

Interrogatories Allowed


Interrogatories are generally permitted when their answers can either substantiate the interrogating party's case or weaken their opponent's argument. This right is considered significant and should not be easily denied.


Therefore, the authority to administer interrogatories should not be narrowly constrained by technicalities but should be exercised liberally to expedite legal proceedings, reduce costs, and uphold justice.


Interrogatories must pertain to facts relevant to any contested matters in the lawsuit. The term "matter" refers to a disputed question or issue in the case, not the subject of the dispute itself.


Thus, interrogatories need not be directly related to the main issues but must be relevant to the matters at hand in the suit.


For instance, an author of a newspaper article could be asked whether the article cited in the complaint was intended to refer to the plaintiff.


Similarly, if a defendant denies authorship of a crucial document, they could be asked about other documents in their handwriting, even if those documents are unrelated to the case but are utilised for handwriting comparison.


Interrogatories cannot be rejected solely because the interrogating party has alternative methods of proving the facts in question, as one of the aims of interrogatories is to obtain admissions from the opposing party.


Interrogatories May Not Be Allowed


The procedure for issuing interrogatories is susceptible to abuse in certain cases, necessitating limitations on this right. It's imperative to exercise this power judiciously to prevent it from becoming oppressive or serving improper purposes.


Interrogatories may not be permitted under the following circumstances:


  1. Interrogatories aimed at discovering facts that exclusively constitute the evidence of the opposing party's case. The purpose of interrogatories is not to provide insight into how an opponent intends to prove their case. For instance, in a damages suit, if the defendant seeks information on how the plaintiff calculated damages, the plaintiff is not obligated to respond.

  2. Interrogatories regarding confidential and privileged communications between a party and their legal advisors.

  3. Interrogatories that would entail disclosures harmful to the public interest.

  4. Interrogatories deemed scandalous, irrelevant, or lacking sincerity for the suit's purpose or insufficiently material at that stage.

  5. Interrogatories resembling cross-examination rather than genuine inquiries.

  6. Interrogatories concerning legal matters.

  7. Interrogatories of a "fishing" nature, meaning they are not based on existing circumstances but are merely hopeful attempts to uncover advantageous information or to exploit loopholes.

  8. Any interrogatories may be dismissed if they are administered unreasonably or vexatiously or if they are excessively lengthy, oppressive, unnecessary, or scandalous.

 
 

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