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Important Definitions in CPC

Updated: May 5

Important Definitions CPC


Section 2 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 serves as the definition clause, outlining the meanings of various terms within the context of the Code, with the caveat that these definitions apply unless they conflict with the subject matter or context. Specifically, Section 2(1) stipulates that the term 'Code' encompasses not only the provisions within the Code itself but also any accompanying rules.


Section 2(2) of the Civil Procedure Code defines the term 'decree' as follows: A decree embodies the formal articulation of a judicial decision that definitively settles the rights of the parties involved regarding any or all of the disputed matters in the lawsuit.

Such a decree can take the form of either a preliminary ruling or a final judgement.

Essentials of a Valid Decree

  1. Adjudication: A decree entails a judicial determination of the matter in dispute. Administrative decisions or orders dismissing suits due to default or lack of prosecution do not qualify as decrees since they do not involve judicial adjudication.

  2. Formal expression: A decree must be formally expressed, adhering to all necessary formalities. Failure to draft a decree in line with the judgement renders it non-appealable. However, mislabeling a decision as an order instead of a decree does not invalidate its status as a decree.

  3. Suit: A decree must arise from a suit filed in a civil court. While most decrees stem from suits initiated by filing a plaint, certain applications under specific enactments are treated as suits, such as proceedings under the Indian Succession Act or the Hindu Marriage Act.

  4. Determination of rights: The adjudication must conclusively determine the substantive rights of the parties involved in the controversy. This encompasses rights related to status, limitation, jurisdiction, and the frame of the suit, among others.

  5. Conclusive determination: The determination of rights must be final and conclusive, not subject to further conditions or interlocutory orders. Decrees settle disputes definitively, while interlocutory orders, such as those granting adjournments or interim relief, do not qualify as decrees.

  1. Matters in controversy: The matters in controversy refer to the subject matter of the suit for which relief is sought. This includes questions related to the character and status of the parties, jurisdiction of the court, maintainability of the suit, and other preliminary matters requiring adjudication.

  1. Parties to the suit: The parties to the suit, namely the plaintiff and the defendant, must be involved in the adjudication for it to qualify as a decree. Orders involving parties not directly related to the suit do not meet this criterion.


Types of Decree

Preliminary Decree

A preliminary decree signifies a stage within legal proceedings where further actions must occur before the case reaches a complete resolution.

It serves to establish the rights of the involved parties concerning one or more aspects under dispute, yet it does not conclude the entire case. Essentially, a preliminary decree represents an interim step in the process of clarifying the rights that will ultimately be determined by a final decree.

These types of decrees are typically issued in various types of legal actions, including those related to possession and mesne profits, administration, pre-emption, dissolution of partnerships, partition, mortgages, sales, and more.

Final Decree

A final decree represents the culmination of legal proceedings, conclusively settling all disputes between the parties involved, leaving no further issues for consideration.

Unlike a preliminary decree, which outlines the actions to be taken, the final decree reflects the outcome determined by the preliminary decree. While the preliminary decree establishes what must be done, the final decree articulates the results achieved through the actions outlined in the preliminary decree.

It's important to note that the preliminary decree stands independently of the final decree; however, the final decree relies on and is subordinate to the preliminary decree, which remains valid even after the final decree is issued. 

For instance, in a partition suit, the preliminary decree establishes the rights of the parties involved, while the final decree specifies the division of the properties based on those rights, effectively concluding the suit.

This results in an enforceable decree for the parties. Essentially, the role of the final decree is to accurately reiterate and implement what has been ordained in the preliminary decree.

Partly Preliminary and Partly Final

In certain cases, a "composite decree" is issued, which combines elements of both preliminary and final decrees.

For instance, in a suit concerning the possession of land and mesne profits, the court may order the transfer of possession of the land to the plaintiff, thus finalising that aspect of the case.

However, the decree also includes a directive for an inquiry into mesne profits, which remains preliminary in nature.

The initial part of this composite decree is considered final since it mandates the transfer of possession to the plaintiff. Meanwhile, the subsequent part retains a preliminary status as it necessitates an inquiry into mesne profits.

This unique decree structure reflects the dual nature of the legal proceedings, addressing both immediate relief and ongoing matters that require further examination.

Decree Holder

As per Section 2(3), a "decree-holder" is defined as any individual who has been granted a decree in their favour or for whom an enforceable order has been issued.

It's essential to note that the decree-holder may not always be the plaintiff in the case. For example, a decree for specific performance can be executed by either the plaintiff or the defendant.

Additionally, even a person who is not directly involved in the lawsuit but has received an enforceable order in their favour is considered a decree-holder.

This broad definition ensures that any party or individual benefiting from a legal decree or order capable of execution is recognized as a decree-holder under the law.



The term "order" refers to the official declaration of any decision made by a civil court that does not qualify as a decree (Section 2(14). Consequently, any judgement or decision rendered by a court that does not meet the criteria for a decree is classified as an order.

Typically, a judicial order is grounded in an objective assessment of the matter at hand. Therefore, it is customary for a judicial order to include a detailed examination of the issues in contention and the rationale behind the court's decision.

This requirement ensures transparency and accountability in the legal process, as the reasons underlying the court's order are clearly articulated for the benefit of all parties involved.

Legal Representative

According to Section 2(11), a "Legal Representative" is defined as an individual who legally represents the estate of a deceased person.

This encompasses various scenarios, including individuals who assume such representation by law, those who meddle with the deceased's estate, and those who inherit the estate upon the death of the party involved in legal proceedings.

The term "legal representative" has an inclusive nature and covers a wide range of individuals beyond those directly appointed to represent the deceased's estate. It's important to note that possession of the deceased's property is not a prerequisite for being considered a legal representative; rather, the key factor is whether the estate would devolve upon the individual.

Additionally, the term "estate" does not necessarily refer to the entirety of the deceased's assets; even individuals in possession of specific portions of the estate can be considered legal representatives.

An "intermeddler" refers to someone who assumes the role of an executor without lawful authority.

However, merely purchasing property through a collusive transaction during the deceased's lifetime does not qualify one as an intermeddler or a legal representative.

The intention to represent the estate is crucial for someone to be recognized as a legal representative, and they are only liable for claims against the estate in their possession.

The classification of individuals as legal representatives depends on the context of the situation. Examples of legal representatives include executors, administrators, reversioners, Hindu coparceners, residuary legatees, and individuals in de facto possession of the deceased's entire estate.

Conversely, individuals such as trespassers, creditors, succeeding trustees, official assignees, receivers, and those dealing with the deceased's goods in the ordinary course of business are not considered legal representatives.

Mesne Profits

According to Section 2(12), "Mesne profits" of a property refer to the profits obtained by a person in wrongful possession of such property, either actually received or potentially obtainable through ordinary diligence, along with interest on these profits.

However, profits resulting from improvements made by the person in wrongful possession are not included in this definition.

The right to possession is a fundamental entitlement afforded to all law-abiding individuals. When someone is unlawfully deprived of their possession, they are not only entitled to regain possession but also to seek damages for the wrongful possession by another party. Mesne profits serve as a form of compensation, with a punitive aspect.

The primary aim of awarding a decree for Mesne profits is to compensate the individual who has been unlawfully kept out of possession and denied the enjoyment of their property. Therefore, the wrongful possession of the defendant is crucial in establishing a claim for Mesne profits.

As Mesne profits are essentially damages, there is no fixed rule for their award and assessment in every case. Instead, the court has the discretion to tailor the award according to the merits of each case.

Typically, in assessing Mesne profits, the court considers the gains obtained or reasonably obtainable by the defendant through their wrongful possession of the property, rather than focusing solely on the losses suffered by the plaintiff due to being deprived of possession.

Judgement Debtor

As per Section 2(10), a "Judgement-debtor" is defined as any individual against whom a decree has been issued or for whom an enforceable order has been made.

When a decree is rendered against a surety, that surety is considered a judgement-debtor. However, if a person is a party to a lawsuit but no decree has been specifically issued against them, they do not fall under the category of judgement-debtor.


Public Officer

Sec. 2(17) reads: ‘Public officer’ means a person in the following categories: 

  1. Every Judge.

  2. Every member of an All-India Service

  3. Every Commissioned or Gazetted officer (while serving) in the military, naval or air force of the Union. 

  4. Every officer of a court of justice whose duty it is, as such officer, to investigate/ report on any matter of law or fact, or to make, authenticate or keep any document, or to take charge or dispose of any property, or to execute any judicial process, or to administer any oath, or to interpret, or to preserve order in the court, and every person especially authorised by a court to perform any of such duties.

  5. Every person who holds any office by virtue of which he is empowered to place or keep any person in confinement

  6. Every officer of the Government whose duty is to prevent offences, to give information of offences, to bring offenders to justice, or to protect public health, safety or convenience.

  7. Every officer whose duty is to take, receive, etc. any property on behalf of the Government, or to make any survey, assessment, or contract on behalf of the Government, or to execute any revenue process, or to report any matter affecting the pecuniary interests of the Government, etc.  

  8. Every officer in the service or pay of the Government, or remunerated by fees or commission for the performance of any duty. 

Cause of Action

The term "cause of action" encompasses all essential facts that the plaintiff must prove, if contested, to warrant a favourable decree in the lawsuit. It serves as the basis upon which the plaintiff seeks the court's judgement in their favour, unrelated to the specific relief sought or defences presented.

It's important to note that the cause of action must precede the initiation of the lawsuit, and no new cause of action can arise from allegations made during the proceedings.

However, a new claim founded on fresh facts can still be considered part of the cause of action.

This understanding aligns with legal precedent, as established in cases such as Read v. Brown (1888) 22 QBD 126 and State of Madras v. C.P. Agencies AIR 1960 SC 1309. Additionally, A.K. Gupta & Sons Ltd. v. Damodar Valley Corpn. AIR 1967 SC 96 reaffirms the inclusion of new claims based on new facts within the broader scope of the cause of action.


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