What is a written statement?
Whenever, a suit is filed by plaintiff against defendant, an opportunity is given to defendant to defend his case and he states his facts to deny the facts mentioned by plaintiff in his plaint. The defendant denies the facts mentioned by plaintiff in his plaint through his written statement and Order 8 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with the provisions of written statement.
In the leading case of Food Corporation of India v. Yadav Engineer & Contractor, (1982) 2 SCC 499, the Hon’ble court defined the term “written statement” and stated that though the expression “written statement” has not been defined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, it is “a term of specific connotation ordinarily signifying a reply to the plaint filed by the plaintiff”.
In general sense, written statement is a pleading of defendant wherein he deals with every material fact alleged by the plaintiff in his plaint and also states any new facts in his favour or takes legal objection against the claim of the plaintiff. According to Order 8 Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, it is duty of defendant to file the written statement within 30 days from the date of service of summons but if the defendant fails to submit his written statement within the prescribed period then this time period may be extended upto 90 days. So, according to Order 8 Rule 1 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, this time period shall not be extended beyond 90 days from the date of service of summons.
In the leading case of Salem Advocate Bar Assn. (2) v. Union of India, AIR 2005 SC 3353, the Hon’ble court held that the time to file the written statement can be extended only in exceptionally hard cases. While extending time, it has to be borne in mind that the legislature has fixed the upper time limit of 90 days. The discretion of the court to extend the time shall not be so frequently and routinely exercised so as to nullify the period fixed by Order 8 Rule 1.
According to the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, if the defendant does not file the written statement even after extending the time period then in such case, the court has power to pronounce the judgment on the basis of facts mentioned in the plaint. But, if the defendant is suffering from any legal disability then in such case the court will not pronounce the judgment directly.
According to the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, a defendant can claim set off or counter- claim in his written statement. Order 8 Rule 6 and 6-A of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, deals with the provisions of set- off and counter- claim respectively.
The term ‘set- off’ has not been defined in Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Generally, “set- off” means a claim set up against another. It is a plea in defence available to the defendant. By adjustment, set- off either wipes out or reduces the plaintiff’s claim in a suit for recovery of money.
In the leading case of Union of India v. Karam Chand Thapar and Bros. (Coal Sales) Ltd., (2004) 3 SCC 504, the Hon’ble court stated that set- off is a cross- claim which partly offsets the original claim. It is an extinction of debts of which two persons are reciprocally debtors to one another by the credits of which they are reciprocally creditors to one another. Where there are mutual debts between the plaintiff and the defendant, one debt may be settled against the other.
According to Order 8 Rule 6 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, if plaintiff files a suit against defendant for recovery of money then in such case the defendant can claim set- off against the plaintiff any ascertained sum of money legally recoverable from the plaintiff and that does not exceed the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court in which suit has been filed by the plaintiff.
According to this rule, defendant can submit the written statement containing the details about debt recoverable from plaintiff at the first hearing of the suit. If the defendant does not submit it within the prescribed time period then in such case he can submit it with the permission of court. If the defendant claims the set- off in his written statement then it will be considered as plaint and plaintiff will have to submit the written statement with regard to the set- off and if the decree is passed in favour of both the parties then in such case, the decree will be executed after adjusting both the amounts claimed by plaintiff and defendant respectively.
On the other hand, Order 8 Rule 6-A of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, deals with the provisions of Counter claim. According to Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2002) “counterclaim” may be defined as “a claim made by the defendant in a suit against the plaintiff”. It is a claim independent of and separable from, the plaintiff’s claim which can be enforced by a cross- action. It is a cause of action in favour of the defendant against the plaintiff.
According to Order 8 Rule 6-A of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, if any suit has been filed by plaintiff against defendant, in that suit the defendant can set up counterclaim against the claim of plaintiff and according to this rule that counterclaim will be considered as a cross- suit and plaintiff will have to file written statement with respect to that counterclaim.
In the leading case of Ramesh Chand v. Anil Panjwani, AIR 2003 SC 2508, the Hon’ble court stated that the provisions relating to counterclaim seek to save time of courts, exclude inconvenience to the parties to litigation, decide all disputes between the same parties avoiding unnecessary multiplicity of judicial proceedings and prolong trials.
According to the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, a counterclaim can be set up by a defendant against plaintiff in respect of cause of action accruing either before or after filing of the suit but before the defendant has delivered his defence or before the time limited for delivering his defence has expired. If the counterclaim which has been set up by the defendant is established in the court then the court will pronounce the judgment after adjusting both the claims claimed by plaintiff and defendant respectively.