Decree and its kinds

In a civil suit several facts might be alleged and the court may be required to rule on several claims. In simple terms, a decree is the ruling of the court regarding the claims of the parties of the suit. For example, in a suit between A and B, A may claim that a particular property P belongs A. After hearing all the arguments, the court will rule in the favor of either A or B. The final decision of the court regarding this claim i.e. whether the property belongs to A or B, is a decree.

As per Section 2(2) of CPC,  a decree is the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit. It can be final or preliminary.

From the above definition we can see the following essential elements of a decree –

1. There must be an adjudication – Adjudication means Judicial Determination of the matter in dispute. In other words, the court must have applied its mind on the facts of the case to resolve the matter in dispute. For example, dismissing a suite because of default in appearance of the plaintiff is not a decree. But dismissing a suite on merits of the case would be a decree.

2. There must be a suit –  Decree can only be given in relation to a suit. Although CPC does not define what suit means, in Hansraj vs Dehradun Mussoorie Tramways Co. Ltd. AIR 1933, the Privy Council defined the term suit as “a civil proceeding instituted by the presentation of a plaint”.

3. Rights of the parties – The adjudication must be about any or all of the matters in controversy in the suit. The word right means substantive rights and not merely procedural rights. For example, an order refusing leave to sue in forma pauperis (i.e. an order rejecting the application of a poor plaintiff to waive court costs) is not a decree because it does not determine the right of the party in regards to the matters alleged in the suit.

4. Conclusive Determination – The determination of the right must be conclusive. This means that the court will not entertain any argument to change the decision. I.e. as far as the court is concerned, the matter in issue stands resolved. For example, an order striking out defence of a tenant under a relevant Rent Act, or an order refusing an adjournment is not a decree as they do not determine the right of a party conclusively. On the other hand, out of several properties in issue in a suit, the court may make a conclusive determination about the ownership of a particular property. Such a conclusive determination would be a decree even though it does not dispose off the suit completely.

5. Formal expression – To be a decree, the court must formally express its decision in the manner provided by law. A mere comment of the judge cannot be a decree.

Examples of decisions which are Decrees –  Dismissal of appeal as time barred, Dismissal or a suit or appeal for want of evidence or proof, Order holding appeal to be not maintainable.

Examples of decisions which are not Decrees –  Dismissal of appeal for default, order of remand, order granting interim relief.


Kinds of Decree

1. Preliminary –  Where an adjudication decides the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit but does not completely dispose of the suit, it is a preliminary decree. It is passed when the court needs to adjudicate upon some matters before proceeding to adjudicate upon the rest.
In Shankar vs Chandrakant SCC 1995, SC stated that a preliminary decree is one which declares the rights and liabilities of the parties leaving the actual result to be worked out in further proceedings.
CPC provides for passing a preliminary decrees in several suits such as – suit for possession and mesne profits, administration suit, suits for pre-emption, dissolution of partnership, suits relating to mortgage. In Narayanan vs Laxmi Narayan AIR 1953, it was held that the list given in CPC is not exhaustive and a court may pass a preliminary decree in cases not expressly provided for in the code.

2. Final –  When the decree disposes of the suit completely, so far as the court passing it is concerned, it is a final decree. A final decree settles all the issues and controversies in the suit.

3. Party preliminary and partly final – When a decree resolves some issues but leaves the rest open for further decision, such a decree is partly final and party preliminary. For example, in a suit for possession of immovable property with mesne profits, where the court decrees possession of the property and directs an enquiry into the mesne profits, the former part of the decree is final but the latter part is preliminary.

4. Deemed Decree –  The word “deemed” usually implies a fiction whereby a thing is assumed to be something that it is ordinarily not. In this case, an adjudication that does not fulfill the requisites of S. 2 (2) cannot be said to be a decree. However, certain orders and determinations are deemed to be decrees under the code. For example, rejection of a plaint and the determination of questions under S. 144 (Restitution) are deemed decrees.

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