Suits by Indigent Person
Order XXXIII of the Civil Procedure Code talks about suits by indigent persons. Section 304 of Criminal Procedure Code, and Article 39A of the Indian Constitution respectively mention, legal aid to accused at state expense in certain cases, and equal justice and free legal aid.
Who is an Indigent Person?
Indigent means poor, penniless, pauper. A person is an indigent person who is not having sufficient means to pay the fee for the plaint or where no such fee is prescribed, he is not entitled to property worth rupees 1,000.
Order XXXIII of Civil Procedure Code provides remedy to those who need to institute a suit for the enforcement of their rights but are so poor that they cannot afford expenses on court fees etc. The object behind this order is that poverty should not come in the way of getting justice.
Application for Permission to Sue as Indigent
A person may sue as an indigent person only when the court so permits him. When the application is made for permission to sue as an indigent person, every inquiry shall be made in the first instance.
An application for permission to sue as an indigent person shall contain the following particulars-
1. Particulars received in regard to plaint in suit.
2. List of movable/immovable property belonging to the applicant with the estimated value.
3. Signature and Verification.
Presentation of Application
The application shall be presented to the court by the applicant in person (not by any third party), but if he is exempted from personal appearance, an application may be presented by an authorised agent. But the agent must be able to answer the questions regarding the application.
Examination of Applicant
Where the application is in proper form and duly presented, the court may examine the applicant or his agent regarding the merits of the claims and property of the applicant.
To sue as an indigent person, 7 days before notice in writing shall be given to the defendant. The court shall decide a date for adducing evidence in support of the application. After the satisfaction of the court, it shall be deemed the plaint in the suit, and suit shall proceed as a suit instituted in an ordinary manner.
Who may Appeal as an Indigent Person?
Order XLIV of the Civil Procedure Code talks about appeals by indigent persons.
Any person who is entitled to file an appeal but unable to pay the necessary court fee may obtain permission of the court to appeal as an indigent person.
For this purpose, he may present an application to the court, along with a memorandum of appeal. The court may allow the applicant to appeal as an indigent person, subject to the provisions relating to suits by indigent persons.
Period of Limitation
The application for leave to appeal as an indigent person must be filed within 30 days. But in case of appeal before High Court, such period is 60 days from the date of the decree when passed.
If there is no reason to reject the application, the court shall fix a day for receiving evidence in proof or disproof of the indigence of the applicant. At least 10 days clear notice shall be given to the opposite party and the government pleader.
Procedure to Sue as an Indigent Person if Application is Admitted
Where the application for permission to sue as an indigent person is granted, it shall be numbered and registered. It shall be deemed the plaint in the suit, and the suit shall proceed as if it was instituted in an ordinary manner.
But the plaintiff shall not be liable to pay any court fee or process fee. The plaintiff shall also not be liable for any fee for the appointment of pleader.
If a person has been allowed to sue as an indigent person, but he is not represented by a pleader, the court may assign a pleader to him.
Withdrawal of Permission to Sue as an Indigent Person
The defendant or government pleader may apply to the court for the withdrawal of permission granted to the plaintiff.
Rejection of Application
The Court shall reject an application for permission to sue as an indigent person-
2. where the applicant is not an indigent person, or
3. where he has, within two months next before the presentation of the application disposed of any property fraudulently or in order to be able to apply for permission to sue as an indigent person:
Provided that no application shall be rejected if, even after the value of the property disposed of by the applicant is taken into account, the applicant would be entitled to sue as an indigent person, or
4. where his allegations do not show a cause of action, or
5. where he has entered into any agreement with reference to the subject-matter of the proposed suit under which any other person has obtained an interest in such subject-matter, or
6. where the allegations made by the applicant in the application show that the suit would be barred by any law for the time being in force, or
7. where any other person has entered into an agreement with him to finance the litigation.
“This is the beauty of our Constitution and our laws, which ensure that even the poor and needy are not left behind when it comes to getting justice.”