SC: Parties to the Suit cannot be permitted to travel beyond the pleadings.

Yesterday in the matter of L. Ponnayal @ Lakshmi v. Karuppannan (Dead) Thr. L.R. Sengoda Gounder & Anr. the Hon’ble Supreme Court enunciated that:

As the said two documents were neither part of the pleadings in the Suit nor was an issue framed regarding the said documents, we are afraid that we cannot adjudicate on the issues pertaining to the said documents. Civil Suits are decided on the basis of pleadings and the issues framed and the parties to the Suit cannot be permitted to travel beyond the pleadings. (Para 11)

Copy of Judgement: Judgement 17-Sep-2018

Similarly in the matter of Ram Swarup Gupta v. Bishun Narain Inter College (1987) 2 SCC 555 (Copy of Judgement) in which the Hon’ble Supreme Court had observed that:

(4.1) In the  absence of pleadings,  evidence, if  any, produced  by the  parties cannot be considered.  No party should  be permitted to travel beyond its pleadings and  all necessary and material facts should be pleaded by the party in support of the case set up by it. The object and  purpose of pleading  is to enable the adversary party to  know  the case it  has to meet. In order to have a fair trial  it  is imperative that the party should state the essential material  facts so that other party may not be taken by  surprise. The  pleadings, however, should receive a liberal  construction,  no pedantic  approach should be  adopted to  defeat justice on hair-splitting technicalities. Sometimes pleadings are expressed in words which may not expressly make  out  a case  in accordance with strict interpretation of law.  In such  a case, it is the duty of the Court to  ascertain the substance of the pleadings, to determine the question. It is not desirable to place undue emphasis on form; instead,  the substance of the pleadings should be considered. [814C-F]

(4.2) Whenever  the question about lack of  pleadings is raised, the enquiry should not be so much about the form  of the pleadings; instead, the court must find out whether  in substance the parties knew the case and the issues. Once  it is found that in spite of deficiency in the pleadings parties knew the case and they proceeded to trial on those issues by producing evidence, it would not be open to a party to raise the question of absence of pleadings in appeal. [814F-H]

One more instance, where a Constitution bench of the Hon’ble Apex Court took a similar view was in the matter of Bhagwati Prasad v. Shri Chandramaul, [1956] 1 SCR 286 where it was pronounced that:

“If a plea is not specifically made and yet it is covered by an issue by implication, and the parties knew that the said plea was involved in the trial, then the mere fact that the plea was not expressly taken in the pleadings would not necessarily disentitle a party from relying upon if it is satisfactorily proved by evidence. The general rule no doubt is that the relief should be founded on pleadings made by the parties. But where the substantial matters relating to the title of both parties to the suit are touched, though indirectly or even obscurely in the issues, and evidence has been led about them, then the argument that a particular matter was not expressly taken in the pleadings would be purely formal and technical and cannot succeed in every case. What the Court has to consider in dealing with such an objection is: did the parties know that the matter in question was involved in the trial, and did they lead evidence about it? If it appears that the parties did not know that the matter was in issue at the trial and one of them has had no opportunity to lead evidence in respect of it, that undoubtedly would be a different matter. To allow one party to reply upon a matter in respect of which the other party did not lead evidence and has had no opportunity to lead evidence, would introduce considerations of prejudice, and in doing justice to one party, the Court cannot do injustice to another.”

Even in the matter of J.K. Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. v. Mazdoor Union AIR 1956 SC 231 (Copy of judgement), the Hon’ble Supreme Court had expressed:

“It  is not open to the Tribunals to disregard the pleadings and  to reach any conclusion that they think are just and proper.”

“….it was not raised in their pleadings and could not have been put in issue bad the Adjudicator troubled to  draw up issues  as he should have done.”

-Tushar Kaushik

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