Legal Articles

DISSECTION OF A PLEA

Plea is an assertion of a fact in a legal proceeding; and would also include such pleas constituting the principal grounds on the basis of which a claim is laid or a relief is prayed for in the Court of law. What is dissection. According to Blacks dictionary, the act of separating into constituent parts, for the purpose of its critical examination. So, I will be dissecting the legal expression “Plea”.

A Plea is an assertion of a material fact, and sometimes, an assertion of an argument or sometimes the crux of the whole case of the Party advancing the Plea.

In my understanding of things, a Plea/Fact is always composed of two things, one, the legality of the Plea and two, the truthfulness/falsity of the Plea. Any and every assertion of material fact, must have legal sanctity, that is to say, the assertion of a material fact or assertion of any argument must be legally sustainable. And if such assertion of fact is not legally sustainable, there is no occasion to examine such “fact” as to its truthfulness / falsity, that is to say, there is no occasion to enter into the exercise of leading evidence to prove/disprove that fact.

The organic point which I am trying to develop and convey is – every Plea / material fact, before it is examined for its truthfulness/falsity, must be tested at the touchstone of its legality. If the asserted Plea / material fact is legally sustainable, then of course, if it is disputed, must be examined at the threshold of standards of legal evidence/merits.

The heart of the submission is – the “Legal sustainability of a Plea/Fact/case” is one thing and the “truthfulness / falsity of a Plea/Fact”, is another; as the former is examined, and is decided at the altar of established principles of interpretation of law / on the premise of precedents (doctrine of stare decisis); and the latter is examined, tested and is decided on the basis of evidences being led. And if the former is not legally sustainable, there is no occasion for the Courts to go for the latter.

The submission is – a right or a litigation which is sought to be prosecuted, or a defense which is advanced, must be legally sustainable, before it is sought to be decided at the touchstone of evidence or otherwise. [AIR 2017 Civil Cases 3057] The Courts, it is observed, are quite reluctant in dismissing / deciding the legal proceedings, at the threshold, ordinarily on the grounds that the “Plea” agitated is a mixed question of law and fact, and unless evidences are led, the Courts cannot record any findings in that behalf.

The submission is – every Plea / Fact can be tested of its legality, independent of its truthfulness / falsity; and the argument by the Counsels and the Courts, that “the Issue involves mixed question of law and fact, and cannot be decided at the threshold”, is totally misconceived.
The Legality of a Plea can be tested in CPC, at – Order VII Rule 11(a) and (d), Order X, Order XIV Rules 1 and 2; in CrPC, Sections 190 when the Court takes cognizance of an offence, Sections 200 at the examination of the Complainant and his witnesses, in the discharge provisions like Sections 227, 239 and 245, in Bail provisions like 437, 438 and 439, and of course in Section 482. In fact, the legality of a Plea / fact can be examined and tested at the threshold in every litigation and in particularly every summary jurisdiction tribunals.

Let us look at a illustration. Suppose a Person files a Suit, claiming possession of an (benami) immovable property, on the grounds that he has paid the entite consideration for the purchase of said immovable property. Therefore, the Plea is “since I have paid the entire consideration, I am entitled for possession”. Ordinarily, the law confers such right, and a person can claim possession of an immovable property, for which he has paid the consideration. But the Benami law expressly prohibits such right.

Therefore, before entering into “finding of fact exercise of evidence” as to whether the Plaintiff proves paying of entire consideration, the Courts should, as a matter of course, should examine the legal sustainability of a claim.

Let us look at another illustration. A Person files a Criminal Complaint alleging commission of an office. Every offence is composed of certain specific ingredients, that is to say, certain overt acts and omissions, the combination of which is regarded as the “commission of that offence”. The said person in supportof his complaint,alleges certain facts, thereby attributing commission of an offence. The Courts, therefore, before embarking upon finding out whether the allegations of facts, are true or false, should examine whether the facts alleged, satisfies the requirements of ingredients of the offence. If the facts alleged, even if taken as true, does not satisfies the requirement of ingredient of the offence, there is no occasion for the Courts to take cognizance of the offence.

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