On a meaningful reading of the plaint, it is meritless, in the sense of not disclosing a clear right to sue, a clever drafting by creating illusory cause of action on the basis of which, the suit is filed seeking partition of the schedule property, which cannot be permitted in law and the suit is clearly barred by limitation and the same can be rejected in exercise of powers under Order 7 Rule 11 (a) of C.P.C (Ref. J. Ratna Reddy and another Vs. Ramuloo (Babu) @ Mohd.Azam and others, 2023 (3) ALT 629). While deciding to accept or to reject a plaint, what is to be seen is only the averments made in the plaint. It is well settled that cause of action consists of a bundle of facts and events. If the plaint discloses a cause of action, but the averments do not show that the suit is barred by any law, the defects cannot be looked into to reject the plaint. The veracity of the pleadings cannot be decided at the stage of numbering of the suit. The observation of the nature with respect to the adequacy or inadequacy of the cause of action is hardly necessary, as it is a matter of appreciation of the material placed after filing of the written statement. The power to reject the plaint rests with the Court in terms of Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The Courts have to examine whether the suit is in order or not. If there are any defects, the plaint should be returned with objections for representation. If there are no defects, the suit has to be registered as early as possible. The Court, which does not have jurisdiction to entertain the suit, cannot return the plaint granting liberty to the plaintiff to represent the suit before the Family Court, but has to dismiss the suit for want of jurisdiction as was held in Bhojraj Srinivas Vs. Bhojraj Divya, 2023 (3) ALT 32 (DB).
Procedure on presentation of plaint:
In Ganesula Uma Parvathi v. Ayitam Rama Swamy and another, 2011 (5) ALT 275, in para 8, it was held that while interpreting the expression ‘where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law’? employed in Rule 11(d) it has been held by the Courts that a conclusion that the suit is barred by any law as provided under Rule 11(d) has to be drawn from the averments made in the plaint and at that stage, it is not open to the Court to look into any evidence.
Order VII Rule 11 of C.P.C. reads as under:
11. Rejection of plaint:
The plaint shall be rejected in the following cases:
(a) where it does not disclose a cause of action;
(b) where the relief claimed is undervalued, and the plaintiff, on being required by the Court to correct the valuation within a time to be fixed by the Court, fails to do so;
(c) where the relief claimed is properly valued, but the plaint is written upon paper insufficiently stamped, and the plaintiff, on being required by the Court to supply the requisite stamp paper within a time to be fixed by the Court, fails to do so;
(d) where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law;
(e) where it is not filed in duplicate;
(f) where the plaintiff fails comply with the provisions of Rule.
(provided that the time fixed by the Court for the correction of the valuation or supplying of the requisite stamp-paper shall not be extended unless the Court, for reasons to be recorded, is satisfied that the plaintiff was prevented by any cause of an exceptional nature from correcting the valuation or supplying the requisite stamp-papers, as the case may be, within the time fixed by the Court and that refusal to extend such time would cause grave injustice to the plaintiff.).
In this context, it would be appropriate to refer to the following observations made by the Supreme Court in Kamala’s case (1 supra).
‘Order VII, Rule 11(d) of the Code has limited application. It must be shown that the suit is barred under any law. Such a conclusion must be drawn from the averments made in the plaint. Different clauses in Order VII, Rule 11, in our opinion, should not be mixed up. Whereas in a given case, an application for rejection of the plaint may be filed on more than one ground specified in various sub-clauses thereof, a clear finding to that effect must be arrived at. What would be relevant for invoking Clause (d) of Order VII, Rule 11 of the Code is the averments made in the plaint. For that purpose, there cannot be any addition or subtraction. Absence of jurisdiction on the part of a court can be invoked at different stages and under different provisions of the Code. Order VII, Rule 11 of the Code is one, Order XIV, Rule 2 is another.
For the purpose of invoking Order VII, Rule 11(d) of the Code, no amount of evidence can be looked into. The issues on merit of the matter which may arise between the parties would not be within the realm of the court at that stage. All issues shall not be the subject matter of an order under the said provision.
The principles of res judicata, when attracted, would bar another suit in view of Section 12 of the Code. The question involving a mixed question of law and fact which may require not only examination of the plaint but also other evidence and the order passed in the earlier suit may be taken up either as a preliminary issue or at the final hearing, but, the said question cannot be determined at that stage.
It is one thing to say that the averments made in the plaint on their face discloses no cause of action, but it is another thing to say that although the same discloses a cause of action, the same is barred by a law.
The decisions rendered by this Court as also by various High Courts are not uniform in this behalf. But, then the broad principle which can be culled out therefrom is that the court at that stage would not consider any evidence or enter into a disputed question of fact of law. In the event, the jurisdiction of the court is found to be barred by any law, meaning thereby, the subject matter thereof, the application for registration of plaint should be entertained.’
Rule 22 and Rule 23 of the Civil Rules of Practice and Circular Orders, 1990 which reads as follows :
22. (New) Procedure on presentation:-
a. On presentation of every plaint the same shall be entered in Register No. 17 in Appendix II, Part-II, Volume II and examined by the Chief Ministerial Officer of the Court.
b. If he finds that the plaint complies with all the requirements, he shall make an endorsement on the plaint ‘Examined and may be registered’ with the date and his signature and placed before the Judge, The Chief Ministerial Officer shall also endorse on the plaint or proceedings if any caveat has been filed. If he thinks that the plaint shall be returned for presentation to the proper court or be rejected under Order VII Rule 11 or for any other person, he shall place the matter before the Judge for orders.
c. Subject to the provisions of sub- rule (2) any non-compliance with these rules or any clerical mistake may be required by the Chief Ministerial officer to be rectified. Any rectification so effected, shall be initialed and, dated by the party or his advocate making the same and the Chief Ministerial Officer shall note the number of corrections in the margin and shall initial and date the same.
In the event of such rectification not being made within the time specified, the Chief Ministerial Officer shall place the matter before the Judge for Orders.
23. (New) Registration of plaint:-
Where, upon examination, the plaint is found to be in order, it shall be entered in the register of suits, and the Judge shall pass orders as to the issue of summons or otherwise.
In the case of Manthina Sitarama Raju and others Vs. Kanda Rambabu and others, 2021 (2) ALT 619, the Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh held that the practice adopted by the Office/Registry of the trial Court in repeatedly returning the plaint on one objection or the other touching upon the merits and demerits of the case without placing the matter before the Court below for hearing is deprecated, unwarranted and contrary to Rule 22 of the Civil Rules of Practice and Circular Orders, 1990. Of course, as was held in Pujari Narsaiah Vs. Modem Sudhaker and another, 2015 (3) ALT 649, Civil Rules of Practice would always be subject to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Pre-judging the issue at the time of numbering of suit:
The Hon’ble Division Bench in Paladugu Nagamani Vs. Madala Rama Rao and another, 2014 (3) ALT 193 (DB) held in para 3 as follows: ‘ The suit was filed for the relief of partition and separate possession of the suit schedule property; by the appellant against her father and sister. She claimed half share in the suit schedule property. The basis was also indicated. That claim, however, is subject to adjudication by the trial Court, after taking into account the respective contentions and evidence that may be adduced by the parties. The cryptic order passed by the trial Court, while returning the plaint, resembles the one of recording a finding on the entitlement of the appellant, once for all. Even if the appellant is not entitled to half share, that cannot be a ground to return the plaint. The order under appeal has the effect of pre-judging the issue.’ In State of Andhra Pradesh, rep. by its Secretary, Revenue Department Vs. Mohd. Muntazuddin Khan (died) per Lrs. 2013 (5) ALT 553 (DB), it was observed that Court is under an obligation to bestow its attention to the question of limitation even at the stage of numbering of the suit but also thereafter whether the other side has taken such a plea or not.(Para 22)
Cause of action :
As is noted earlier, cause of action consists of a bundle of facts and events. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Klockner and Company and others (3) (1996) 8 SCC 377 held that while exercising jurisdiction under Order VII Rule 11 (a) of CPC, the trial Court has to see whether plaint discloses the cause of action or not, but the Trial Court is not required to examine whether the plaintiff has cause of action to file the suit or not. In M. Bala Shirish and others Vs. Shivraj Heda and another, 2016 (6) ALT 324, it was held that the rejection of plaint has been made on the ground that there is ‘no proper cause of action’ to file a suit and the cause of action was invented for the purpose of filing of the suit. The observations of the nature with respect to the adequacy or inadequacy of the cause of action is hardly necessary as it is a matter of the appreciation of the material placed after filing of the written statement. It is well settled that cause of action may consists of a bundle of facts and events. While deciding to accept or to reject a plaint, what is to be seen is only the averments made in the plaint. If the plaint discloses a cause of action but the averments do not show that the suit is barred by any law, the defects cannot be looked into to reject the plaint. As was held in Shaik Sanaulla Vs. D. Suresh Kumar, 2015 (4) ALT 813, the Courts have to examine whether the suit is in order or not. If there are any defects, the plaint should be returned with objections for representation. If there are no defects, the suit has to be registered as early as possible.
The term “right to sue” must be equated with “cause of action”, unless the context indicates otherwise. The expression “cause of action” has sometimes been employed to convey the restricted idea of facts or circumstances which constitute either the infringement or the basis of a right and no more. In a wider and more comprehensive sense, it has been used to denote the whole bundle of material facts which a plaintiff must prove in order to succeed. These are all those essential facts without the proof of which the plaintiff must fail in his suit, Gurdit Singh v. Munsha Singh, (1977) 1 SCC 791. By “cause of action” it is meant every fact, which, if traversed, it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to support his right to a judgment of the court. In other words, a bundle of facts which it is necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to succeed in the suit, Bloom Dekor Ltd. v. Subhash Himatlal Desai, (1994) 6 SCC 322. A right to sue. Cause of action comprises a bundle of facts which are relevant for the determination of the lis between the parties, A.V.M. Sales Corpn. v. Anuradha Chemicals (P) Ltd., (2012) 2 SCC 315.
Sufficiency of Court fee:
The aspect of sufficiency of Court fee is a mixed question of fact and law to be decided during trial and is not possible to reject the plaint straightaway. In Pranit Projects Pvt. Ltd. and others Vs. Goundra Yadaiah and others, 2015 (1) alt 352, it was observed that It is important to note therefrom that irrespective of Section 11 of the Andhra Pradesh Court Fees Act, 1956, particularly sub-section (2), enables defendants to raise a plea regarding the sufficiency of Court Fees, it obligates the Court to consider the plea of the defendants. Here so far as the numbering stage is concerned, on sufficiency of Court Fee as laid down in the Full Bench decision of this Court, in Chillakuru Chenchuram Reddy v. Kanupuru Chenchurami Reddy (2) 1968 (2) An.W.R. 616 (F.B.) = 1968 (2) ALT 1 = ILR 1969 AP 1042, that at the initial stage, the plaint averments and the documents in support of the plaint are only decisive and after appearance, pleadings of the defendants that also to be considered in deciding the sufficiency of Court Fee. In fact the above Full Bench expression equivalent to 1968 (3) An.WR 616 referring the earlier expression of AIR 1962 AP 90 laid down the principle of the decision of the court fees shall be subject to review from time to time as and when occasion arises till end of trial. It also laid down that rejection of plaint arises if the Court gave a finding on insufficiency of court fees and direction to pay the deficit court fee within the time fixed and even then failed to comply the same.
Whether roving enquiry is necessary at the time of numbering the suit?
As to this question, the Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh in Jillellamudi Jagadeesh and another Vs. Jillellamudi Subbayamma and others, 2022 (3) ALT 16, it was observed that at the stage of numbering the plaint, the Courts normally shall not go into merits of the matter. If on perusal of the plaint and if plaint discloses cause of action, the Court shall number the suit. if the plaintiff fails to prove his claim/case during the trial, eventually he will be non-suited. But if the plaint discloses cause of action whether the relief, the plaintiff entitled or not, will depend upon the evidence to be let in. At the stage of numbering of the suit, court, normally, shall not go into merits of the suit and decides as to whether the plaintiff gets the relief or not. In Syed Hadi Ali Moosavi v. Syeda Taquia Moosavi and others (1) 2019 (4) ALT 321 (TS) = 2019 (6) ALD 292, the learned single Judge of the Telangana High Court held as follows:
“16. … … it was not proper for the Court below to express any opinion thereon at the stage of numbering of the plaint, particularly, when as pointed above, it was unnecessary for the petitioner to seek its cancellation.
17. As regards the reason (d) assigned by the Court below regarding defective description of the suit schedule property that the total extent of the property is not specifically mentioned in the schedule, it is not a ground to reject the plaint and at best the Court below can ask the party to submit the extent and incorporate the same in the plaint.
18. Regarding the reason (e) given by the trial Court that petitioner did not mention which part of the property is in his possession, that may be a matter to be gone into while considering grounds of relief in the suit and it is not a ground to reject the plaint.
19. As regards reason (f) that the plaint did not disclose proper and valid cause of action is concerned, para 12 of the plaint deals with the same. It cannot, in my opinion, be said to be inadequate warranting rejection of the plaint at the stage of numbering of the suit.
Eventually, Court directed the Wakf Tribunal to number the suit.
In Pranit Projects Pvt. Ltd. v. Goundra Yadaiah (2) 2015 (1) ALT 352 = 2014 (6) ALD 232, while placing reliance upon Full Bench decision of this Court, in Chillakuru Chenchuram Reddy v. Kanupuru Chenchurami Reddy (ILR 1969 AP 1042), that at the initial stage, the plaint averments and the documents in support of the plaint are only decisive and after appearance, pleadings of the defendants that also to be considered in deciding the sufficiency of Court Fee and this aspect of sufficiency of Court Fee is a mixed question of fact and law and not possible to reject the plaint straight away as sought for by the defendants and all the disputed facts raised require elaborate and roving enquiry that can be possible only by trial. In R.V. Bhuvaneswari and others v. Ponnuboina Chencu Ramaiah and others (3) 2004 (1) An.W.R. 252 (A.P.) = 2004 (1) ALD 539, the composite High Court observed that one of the plaint averments to the effect that alleged alienation by way of sale deed was sham and nominal and alienator had no right to sell the joint family properties, without there being any division and the question whether the possession was joint at the time of alleged alienation is to be decided after trial of the suit and not at the stage of numbering of the suit by the office of the Court.
An appeal under Section 96, CPC is maintainable against an order rejecting plaint:
In V. Geeta Bhavani Vs. Nallu Narasimha Reddy and others, 2012 (6) ALT 540 (DB), it was observed that in Molugu Ram Reddy’s case (2011 (4) ALT 418), a Full Bench of the Hon’ble HIgh Court of Andhra Pradesh held that an order rejecting the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC is deemed to be a decree and only appeal under Section 96 CPC lies against the same and Civil Miscellaneous Appeal under Order 43 Rule 1 read with Section 104 is not maintainable. In Geeta Bhavani’s case, it is thus held that where a plaint is returned, a revision is maintainable and where the plaint is rejected, an appeal under Section 96 of CPC is maintainable.
In Syed Hadi Ali Moosavi Vs. Syeda Taquia Moosavi and others, 2019 (4) ALT 321, it was held that dispute as to cancellation of registered document is to be tried only by a Civil Court relying on the judgment in Banwar Lal v. Rajasthan Board of Muslim Wakf is concerned, it was not proper for the Court below to express any opinion thereon at the stage of numbering of the plaint, particularly, when as pointed above, it was unnecessary for the petitioner to seek its cancellation. In Kudumula Kishore Reddy v. Kudumula Krishna Reddy and others, 2010 (5) ALT 130, it was observed that As seen from the order impugned it is clear that the learned District has gone deep into the merits and probabilities of the case and came to the conclusion that as per the documents filed by the petitioner already a partition was effected between the father of the petitioner and his brothers and further stated that since the plaintiff is relying on the Will deed in support of his case, the suit for partition is not maintainable. This finding, in the considered opinion of this court is unwarranted at the stage of numbering the suit. In Neela Swaroopa v. Gunda Radhika and another, 2010 (4) ALT 751, held that suit is not maintainable against Municipal Corporation without issuing prior notice under Section 685 (1) of HMC Act as made applicable to Municipal Corporation of Warangal. Rejection of plaint by lower Court is sustainable. In Biragimut, rep. by Executive Officer, Nellore Vs. Noone Mallikarjuna and another, 2006 (1) ALT 198, it was held that Petition should not be returned number of times. Any objection can be taken up on Bench and judicial order be passed after hearing the counsel – A hearing as to maintainability can be made even after numbering the petition. The Court observed as follows:
‘The trial Court nor numbering and not hearing the petition for deciding its maintainability is improper. All petitions for amendment of pleadings need expeditious disposal because their pendency hampers the trial of the suit. The trial Court after hearing the Counsel for petitioner either before or after numbering the petition can pas a reasoned order. Merely because a proceeding is numbered by the Office it does not mean that an adjudication about its maintainability is made, thereby. Even after numbering a proceeding it can be dismissed by the Court as not maintainable, by a judicial order, but the Court should not brood over a proceedings without numbering it.’
While registering the suit, court has simply to go through the averments made in the plaint, as was held in K. Raghavendra Raju v. Syed Yousuf and others, 2005 (3) ALT 645. Plaint cannot be returned at the initial stage on the presumption that documents filed with it indicate prior partition. Court-fee be collected as per averments made in the plaint at the time of numbering, as was held in Gundsay Swaroopa v. Gundsay Balaiah, 2005 (3) ALT 98.
At the stage of numbering the plaint, no court can appreciate the case on merits and reject the plaint on the ground that case is not well-founded or devoid of merits unless defect goes to root of the matter. The expression “cause of action” is tersely defined in Mulla’s Code of Civil Procedure: “The ‘cause of action’ means every fact which, if traversed, it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to support his right to a judgment of the court.” In other words, it is a bundle of facts which taken with the law applicable to them gives the plaintiff a right to relief against the defendant, State of Rajasthan v. Swaika Properties, (1985) 3 SCC 217. The expression “cause of action” means that bundle of facts which the petitioner must prove, if traversed, to entitle him to a judgment in his favour by the court, ONGC v. Utpal Kumar Basu, (1994) 4 SCC 711. Some times, a part of cause of action confers jurisdiction to maintain the suit. In order to reject a plaint for the suit being barred by any law under Order 7 Rule 11(d), the court needs to be guided by the averments in the plaint and not the defence taken. Of course, the plaint is ought to have been rejected being vexatious, illusory cause of action and barred by limitation and it is a clear case of clever drafting as was held in Ramisetty Venkatanna and another Vs. Nasyam Jamal Saheb and others, 2023 (4) ALT (SC) 38 (DB). For deciding an application under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC, only the averments in the plaint are to be looked at It is impermissible to look at the defence, go into the merits or demerits of the case; examine any document beyond what is stated in the plaint That apart, the plaint has to be read as a whole and not in a piecemeal manner.