Bar under Order II Rule 2 CPC cannot apply to an amendment sought on an existing suit; Supreme Court lays down Principles for Amendment of Pleadings

Supreme Court: On the question as to whether Order II Rule 2 CPC can be made applicable to an application for amendment of plaint, the bench of Aniruddha Bose and JB Pardiwala*, JJ has held that Order II Rule 2 of the CPC operates as a bar against a subsequent suit if the requisite conditions for application thereof are satisfied and the field of amendment of pleadings falls far beyond its purview, and cannot apply to an amendment which is sought on an existing suit.

Power of Courts to allow/decline amendments

It is well settled that the court must be extremely liberal in granting the prayer for amendment, if the court is of the view that if such amendment is not allowed, a party, who has prayed for such an amendment, shall suffer irreparable loss and injury. It is also equally well settled that there is no absolute rule that in every case where a relief is barred because of limitation, amendment should not be allowed. It is always open to the court to allow an amendment if it is of the view that allowing of an amendment shall really sub-serve the ultimate cause of justice and avoid further litigation.

The courts generally, as a rule, decline to allow amendments, if a fresh suit on the amended claim would be barred by limitation on the date of filing of the application. But that would be a factor to be taken into account in the exercise of the discretion as to whether the amendment should be ordered, and does not affect the power of the court to order it, if that is required in the interest of justice.

Further, the courts are more generous in allowing the amendment of the written statement as question of prejudice is less likely to operate in that event. The defendant has a right to take alternative plea in defense which, however, is subject to an exception that by the proposed amendment other side should not be subjected to injustice and that any admission made in favor of the plaintiff is not withdrawn.

Interpretation of Order II Rule 2 CPC

Generally, the term ‘sue’ can mean both the filing of the suit and prosecuting the suit to its culmination, depending on the context of the provision. However, the expressions “omits to sue” and “intentionally relinquish any portion of his claim” in Order II Rule 2 CPC indicate that the legislature thought it fit to debar a plaintiff from suing afterwards for any relief which he/she has omitted without the leave of the court or from suing in respect of any portion of his claim which he intentionally relinquishes. Order II Rule 2(1) provides that every suit shall include the whole of the claim which the plaintiff is entitled to make in respect of the cause of action.

If the two suits and the relief claimed therein are based on the same cause of action then the subsequent suit will become barred under Order II Rule 2 of the CPC. However, we do not find any merit in the contention raised on behalf of the appellant herein that the amendment application is liable to be rejected by applying the bar under Order II Rule 2 of the CPC. Order II Rule 2 of the CPC cannot apply to an amendment which is sought on an existing suit.

Principles for Amendment of Pleadings

(i) Order II Rule 2 CPC operates as a bar against a subsequent suit if the requisite conditions for application thereof are satisfied and the field of amendment of pleadings falls far beyond its purview. The plea of amendment being barred under Order II Rule 2 CPC is, thus, misconceived and hence negatived.

(ii) All amendments are to be allowed which are necessary for determining the real question in controversy provided it does not cause injustice or prejudice to the other side. This is mandatory, as is apparent from the use of the word “shall”, in the latter part of Order VI Rule 17 of the CPC.

(iii) The prayer for amendment is to be allowed

(i) if the amendment is required for effective and proper adjudication of the controversy between the parties, and

(ii) to avoid multiplicity of proceedings, provided

(a) the amendment does not result in injustice to the other side,

(b) by the amendment, the parties seeking amendment does not seek to withdraw any clear admission made by the party which confers a right on the other side and

(c) the amendment does not raise a time barred claim, resulting in divesting of the other side of a valuable accrued right (in certain situations).

(iv) A prayer for amendment is generally required to be allowed unless

(i) by the amendment, a time barred claim is sought to be introduced, in which case the fact that the claim would be time barred becomes a relevant factor for consideration,

(ii) the amendment changes the nature of the suit,

(iii) the prayer for amendment is malafide, or

(iv) by the amendment, the other side loses a valid defence.

(v) In dealing with a prayer for amendment of pleadings, the court should avoid a hypertechnical approach, and is ordinarily required to be liberal especially where the opposite party can be compensated by costs.

(vi) Where the amendment would enable the court to pin-pointedly consider the dispute and would aid in rendering a more satisfactory decision, the prayer for amendment should be allowed.

(vii) Where the amendment merely sought to introduce an additional or a new approach without introducing a time barred cause of action, the amendment is liable to be allowed even after expiry of limitation.

(viii) Amendment may be justifiably allowed where it is intended to rectify the absence of material particulars in the plaint.

(ix) Delay in applying for amendment alone is not a ground to disallow the prayer. Where the aspect of delay is arguable, the prayer for amendment could be allowed and the issue of limitation framed separately for decision.

(x) Where the amendment changes the nature of the suit or the cause of action, so as to set up an entirely new case, foreign to the case set up in the plaint, the amendment must be disallowed. Where, however, the amendment sought is only with respect to the relief in the plaint, and is predicated on facts which are already pleaded in the plaint, ordinarily the amendment is required to be allowed.

(xi) Where the amendment is sought before commencement of trial, the court is required to be liberal in its approach. The court is required to bear in mind the fact that the opposite party would have a chance to meet the case set up in amendment. As such, where the amendment does not result in irreparable prejudice to the opposite party, or divest the opposite party of an advantage which it had secured as a result of an admission by the party seeking amendment, the amendment is required to be allowed. Equally, where the amendment is necessary for the court to effectively adjudicate on the main issues in controversy between the parties, the amendment should be allowed.

[Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Sanjiv Builders Pvt Ltd, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1128, decided on 01.09.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice JB Pardiwala

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