Civil Litigation Stages

Civil litigation follows a number of procedural steps in order to arrive at the final judgment. Civil suits are mostly related to monetary transactions or property disputes and are mostly concerned with the claim for damages or compensation for losses.  

A civil suit is one that alleges violations of civil law by one or more persons. Civil litigation comes up when one person wrongs another person. Both the persons here are referred to as the parties or litigants. Civil litigation pertains to settling disputes that are not criminal in nature. Civil litigation is governed by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

Additionally, legislations like the Indian Contract Act, 1872, The Trademarks Act, 1999, The Transfer of Property Act, 1882, etc. also regulate civil law in India. In short, civil litigation is a culmination of various acts and rules that aims to render remedies for issues that are of civil or commercial nature. Civil litigation focuses on the settling of damages or compensating the party that was affected and not on inflicting punishment or levying penalties as in the case of criminal litigation. However, there are offences that have both civil and criminal remedies guaranteed by the respective legislations.

Stages in Civil Litigation

Civil litigation goes through the following stages from its inception to the declaration of the final order:

1. Filing of Plaint

The facts and summary of the case are recorded in the plaint, which is a legal document. The litigation is based on the facts mentioned in the plaint, and therefore it is the starting point of the litigation. Order VII of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 delineates the contents of the plaint. Some of them are:

  •   Name of the Court where the litigation takes place
  •   Details of the parties contending the civil dispute
  •   Facts of the case
  •   The relief or damages claimed by the plaintiff
  •   The documents that substantiate the facts of the case.

2. Issuing of Summons

 Once the plaint is accepted by the court, a summon is issued to the defendant against whom the case is filed. The defendant is required to be present in the court in person or can be represented by a legal representative. The term “summon” is not defined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but it is simply a writ that states that legal action is initiated against the defendant. The summon is issued within 30 days from the date of initiation of the suit. The summons calls for the defendant to make an appearance before the court, to give the defendant an opportunity to be heard. Alternatively, if the defendant admits the plaintiff’s claim even before the summon is issued, then there is no need for such issuance in the first place, and the judgment will be pronounced in favor of the plaintiff.

3. The appearance of the Parties to the Dispute

It is mandatory that the parties to whom the summons was sent appear in court at the specified time and date. In the event that the parties fail to appear, an ex parte order will be passed in favor of the plaintiff. A court may dismiss a case if both parties fail to appear on the stipulated date, even after giving them a fair chance.

4. Interlocutory Proceedings

Civil litigation is a long and circumvented process and goes through various stages before the final order is passed. The Court has the obligation to intervene and maintain the status quo most often. The status quo order can be requested by the plaintiff by filing a notice of motion in the City Civil Court or by filing the required application in the High Court of the respective jurisdiction. In short, an interlocutory order is more like a temporary injunction. An interlocutory order often helps in the progress of the case but only helps with issues collateral to the main dispute in the litigation. Interlocutory proceedings are more often issued for matters related to the interim sale of property, detention preservation, the appointment of court receiver, etc.

5. Written Statement

The written statement mentions the defendant’s pleas against the plaintiff’s plaint. The written statement should be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the summons to the defendant. In the written statement, it is mandatory that the defendant specifically denies every allegation that the plaintiff has mentioned in the plaint. The defendant can also mention counterclaims, if required, against the plaintiff in the written statement.

6. Examination

Once the written statement is filed, the Court records the acceptance or denial of the allegations made by the plaintiff, by the defendants. After the filing of the plaint and the written statement, the next step is to carry out the examination of the parties.


7. Framing of the Issues Involved

Once the process of litigation commences, and the written statement is filed, the parties will then be allowed to submit the issues. The Court after examining the draft issues will frame the final set of issues. The court, after the first hearing, and after analysing the plaint and the written statement would weigh the proposition of the facts of the dispute and would frame the issues.

8. Documents Required

Subsequent to the framing of the issues, the parties have to furnish the required documents that substantiate their claims. If the parties intend to produce documents that are in the possession of a third party, an application has to be made to the court to issue summons to the concerned parties to procure the said documents. In such circumstances, the parties to the dispute, have to pay the required fee to the court.

9. Inspection and Discovery of the Documents

Once the documents are submitted, the parties can apply to the court for the inspection of the documents. With the permission of the court, the parties can gain access to the required documents. The opposition parties, however, can admit or deny the documents.

10. Producing the Required Documents

Once the list of documents is furnished in the court and depending upon the acceptance or denial of the same, the documents have to be produced in the court.

11. Examination and Cross-Examination of the Witnesses

The most important stage in litigation is the examination of the witnesses. In the first hearing of the suit, the court asks the parties if either of them agrees or denies the allegations made by the opposition. Usually, the plaintiff gets the first chance to begin, unless the defendant proves otherwise. The plaintiff has to submit the pieces of evidence, and the defendant’s advocate gets to cross-examine the plaintiff and witnesses who represent the plaintiff’s side. The plaintiff’s advocate also gets the chance to cross-examine the defendant’s side of the witness.

12. Arguments

Once the process of examination and cross-examination has been completed, the next stage in civil litigation is to take the arguments. The parties to the dispute are asked to present their arguments, the summary of the case, and the list of evidence to substantiate their arguments.

13. Judgment

The next stage in litigation is to pronounce the judgment. The judge of the respective court, on weighing the merits of the case and the arguments advanced, passes the judgment based on which the decree will be passed.

14. Appeal, Review, Revision of the Judgment Passed

Once the judgment is passed, and if one of the parties is not satisfied with the same, they can apply for the review of the judgment within 30 days from the date of the judgment. The aggrieved party can also file a revision petition to the higher court within the same time frame or can opt for an appeal to a higher court within 60 to 90 days from the date of announcement of the judgment.

15. Decree Execution

The final stage is the execution of the decree, wherein the decree-holder forces the judgment debtor to perform the mandate of the decree or order, depending upon the situation. The execution of the decree is said to have been performed when the creditor gets the money that was due or receives the claims that were directed in the judgment order.

Thus, in civil litigation, the compensation is given due weightage, unlike criminal litigation wherein punishments and penalties are given weightage. Also, failing to follow the above-mentioned steps in the litigation process could result in the dismissal of the suit.

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