Introduction to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC), 1908

The Civil Procedure Code (CPC) of 1908 is a comprehensive legal framework that governs the conduct of civil litigation in India. It is designed to ensure the administration of justice is both fair and efficient, adhering to the principles of natural justice. The CPC is foundational to the procedural law in India, defining how civil matters are to be filed, heard, and adjudicated in courts.

Classification of Law: Substantive and Procedural

Substantive Law: This branch of law determines the rights and duties of individuals and collective entities. It includes laws that define, create, or confer substantive legal rights or statuses, such as the Indian Contract Act, 1872, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Substantive laws are primarily prospective in their application, laying down the legal groundwork that governs society.

Procedural Law: Also known as Adjective Law, this area governs the mechanisms and methods through which substantive laws are enforced and administered. Unlike substantive law, procedural laws can sometimes be retrospective, although the CPC typically operates prospectively. This includes legislations like the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and the CPC itself. Procedural laws are essential as they provide the “machinery” for the enforcement of rights.

Overview of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908

Enactment and Amendments: The CPC was enacted on January 1, 1909, and has been amended several times, notably by the Amendment Acts of 1976, 1999, and 2002, to improve efficiency and adapt to contemporary needs.

Purpose of the CPC: The main objectives of the CPC are to ensure a fair trial in accordance with the principles of natural justice, to expedite the process of justice, to simplify the procedure, and to make justice accessible to all, irrespective of socio-economic status.

Major Reforms in CPC

Justice Malimath Committee’s Recommendations: The amendments in 1999 and 2002 were largely influenced by this committee, which proposed several key changes:

  • Time limits for various stages of litigation, such as for summons, written statements, and judgments.
  • Inclusion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under Section 89 to encourage settlements out of court.
  • Limitation on the number of adjournments to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • Provisions for recording of evidence by commissioners and the filing of written arguments.

These reforms aimed to streamline procedures and reduce the backlog of cases.

Key Provisions and Stages of Civil Litigation Under the CPC

Jurisdiction: Defined under various sections, jurisdiction refers to the legal authority of a court to hear and decide cases. This is classified into subject-matter, territorial, and pecuniary jurisdictions, which determine which court has the authority to hear a case.

Stages of a Civil Suit:

  1. Filing of Plaint: The process begins with the plaint, where the plaintiff states the facts and claims against the defendant.
  2. Written Statement by Defendant: The defendant responds to the plaint by filing a written statement.
  3. Framing of Issues: The court identifies the issues to be addressed during the trial.
  4. Trial Process: Involves the presentation and examination of evidence.
  5. Judgment and Decree: Concludes with the court delivering a judgment and issuing a decree based on the findings.

Stages of a Civil Suit Under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908

The following is a detailed list of the stages in a civil lawsuit under the CPC, including the relevant sections, orders, and rules that govern each stage:

Filing of Plaint

  • Section 26: Institution of suits.
  • Order 7: Pertains to the specifics of what should be included in a plaint.

Written Statement by Defendant

  • Order 8: Governs the filing of the written statement, set-off, and counter-claims.

Framing of Issues

  • Order 14: Relates to the settling of issues and determination of the suit on issues of law or on issues agreed upon by the parties.

Discovery and Inspection

  • Order 11: Deals with discovery and inspection of documents and other material objects relevant to the lawsuit.


  • Order 12: Provides for the admission of facts, simplifying the trial by establishing certain ground truths that need not be argued.

Production, Impounding and Return of Documents

  • Order 13: Concerns the handling of documents during the trial, including their submission, safekeeping, and eventual return.

Examination of Parties by the Court

  • Order 10: Pertains to the court’s authority to orally examine parties to ascertain the truth or clarify matters relevant to the case.

Hearing of the Suit and Oral Arguments

  • Order 18: Regulates the hearing of the suit and the procedure for submission of oral arguments.

Recording of Evidence

  • Section 33 and Order 18: Govern the recording of evidence when the examination of witnesses occurs.


  • Section 33: Discusses the court’s obligation to pronounce judgment.
  • Order 20: Details the procedure for the pronouncement of judgment.


  • Section 2(2): Defines what constitutes a decree.
  • Section 33 and Order 20: These sections and order also encompass the issuance of the decree following the judgment.

Execution of Decree

  • Sections 36 to 74: Outline the procedures for the execution of decrees.
  • Order 21: Provides detailed rules on the execution process, including attachment and auction of property, and arrest and detention in civil prison.


  • Sections 96 to 112: Set out the laws regarding appeals to higher courts.
  • Order 41: Provides the procedure for filing appeals, including what should be contained in the appeal, how it should be presented, and how the courts will handle it.


  • Section 114 and Order 47: Deal with the application for review of judgment by the same court that issued the original judgment.


  • Section 115: Provides for the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court over the decrees and orders of subordinate courts.


  • Section 113 and Order 46: Regulate the procedure when a court feels that a case involves a question of law concerning the interpretation of the constitution, requiring it to refer the question to a higher court.

Each of these stages is crucial for the proper functioning of civil proceedings, ensuring that every aspect of a case is thoroughly considered and adjudicated upon based on legal principles and evidence.

Comparative Legal Framework

Comparing the CPC with procedural laws in other jurisdictions, such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the United States or the Civil Procedure Rules in the United Kingdom, highlights its unique blend of detailed procedural guidance and flexibility. This flexibility is crucial in allowing the courts to interpret and apply the law in a manner that promotes justice.

Judicial Interpretations and Case Laws

Significant case laws that have shaped the interpretation of the CPC include:

  • Sangram Singh v. Election Tribunal: Emphasized that procedural laws should not be a hindrance to justice but should aid its realization.
  • Saiyad Mohd. v. Abdul Habib: Highlighted that procedural laws should be interpreted flexibly to prevent miscarriages of justice.

Future Directions and Reforms

The evolution of the CPC continues as the legal system confronts new challenges such as the integration of technology in judicial processes. The move towards digital courts and online procedures could significantly impact the efficiency and accessibility of civil justice.


The Civil Procedure Code, 1908, is more than just a set of procedural rules; it is a dynamic framework that adapts to the legal, social, and technological changes in society. Its purpose is not only to govern the conduct of civil litigation but also to ensure that justice is delivered in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner. As legal reforms continue to evolve, the CPC remains central to the administration of civil law in India, reflecting the balance between procedural detail and the overarching goal of justice.

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