India: Discovery By Interrogatories

What is Interrogatory and Discovery by Interrogatories?

  • Interrogatories are covered under Section 30 and Order XI Rule 1 to 11, 21 and 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  • Interrogatories are a set of questions which a party administers on the other party with the leave of the Court.
  • The party to whom interrogatories are administered, must answer them in writing and on oath. The party to whom interrogatories are administered, discovers or discloses by his affidavit, in answer to the interrogatories, the nature of its case. This is called Discovery by Interrogatories.
  • Interrogatories have to be confined to the facts which are relevant to the matters in question but not as to conclusions of law, inference from facts or construction of words or documents.
  • The Application for leave to administer interrogatories is as a rule made ex parte and the Court shall decide the said application within 7 days from its filing. (Rule 2)
  • Interrogatories shall be in Form 2 of Appendix C. (Rule 4)

Purpose of Interrogatories

Interrogatories are allowed for the following purposes:

  1. To ascertain the nature of the opponent's case or the material facts constituting his case
  2. To support one's own case, either

    1. Directly, by obtaining admissions, or
    2. Indirectly, by destroying the opponent's case

Which types of Interrogatories may not be allowed

  • Interrogatories for obtaining discovery of facts, may not be allowed, which

    • constitute the evidence of the opposite party
    • contain any confidential or privileged communication
    • involve disclosures injurious to public interests
  • Interrogatories in the nature of fishing or roving enquiries are not allowed

Interrogation of a body corporate

  • Where the party to be interrogated is a body corporate, the interrogatories should specify the officer or member on whom the interrogatories are to be served. (Rule 5)

Objections to Interrogatories by answer can be made on following grounds, if the interrogatory is: (Rule 6)

    • Scandalous
    • Irrelevant
    • Not exhibited bonafide
    • Premature i.e. not material at that stage
    • Privileged communications
    • Any other ground such as provided under Rule 7 or the answers are likely to be incriminating in offences.
  • These objections must be taken by the answering party in its affidavit of answers to the interrogatories in Form No. 2, Appendix C. (Rule 8&9)

Setting aside and Striking off Interrogatories can be made on the following grounds (Rule 7)

    • Unreasonably or vexatiously exhibited
    • Prolix, Oppressive, Unnecessary or Scandalous
  • The Application for setting aside or striking off interrogatories shall be made within 7 days after service of interrogatories.

Interrogatories not answered or insufficiently answered (Rule 11)

  • If the interrogatories are not answered or insufficiently answered, then the interrogating party may apply to the Court for an order requiring the other party to answer or answer further.
  • The Court may direct the party to answer either by affidavit or by viva voce examination.

Consequence of failure to answer interrogatories (Rule 21)

If a party fails to comply with an order to answer interrogatories, then:

  • If the failing party is a Plaintiff, its suit is to be dismissed for want of prosecution
  • If the failing party is a Defendant, its defense to be struck out and be placed in a position as if it had not defended.

    • The party which served the interrogatories may apply to the Court for an order to this effect.
    • The Court shall pass such order after notice to the other party and giving them an opportunity of being heard.

The Rajasthan High Court in a recent judgment of Govind Narayan and Ors. vs. Nagendra Nagda and Ors. MANU/RH/0832/2017 has held the following:

  • The whole purpose of interrogatories is to seek admission of a party on matter in dispute so that the issues can be accordingly framed, minimizing the contentious issues or disputes left for the adjudication of the Court, with the ultimate object of facilitating an early and expeditious disposal of the suit.
  • A perusal of the corresponding substantive provisions contained in Section 30 of the Code of Civil Procedure shows that the Court has been clothed with a power to order discovery or permit interrogatories at any time. Order XI Rule 1 of the Code contemplates service of interrogatories on the opposite party, with a leave of the Court. A close and conjoint reading of these two provisions make it clear that the Court can allow service of interrogatories, at any stage of the suit, for which it has been conferred wide discretion, but at the same time, the discretion must be exercised judiciously.
  • The information sought to be furnished must have some nexus or relevancy with the dispute in question.
  • The stage of the suit is a very significant aspect to be borne in mind, while deciding an application admitting or permitting interrogatories. As stated above, the whole idea or purpose of the provisions contain in Order XI Rule 1 of the Code is to save time and cost by confining the controversy or narrowing down the points of differences or disputes.
  • Hence, the Court can be a bit liberal in admitting the interrogatories at the initial stage of a suit but the same standards cannot be applied at the advanced stage of the trial, when the evidence of the parties has begun. Interrogatories cannot be permitted, once the evidence of the concerned opposite party is over.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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