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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Order I Rule 8 of the Code deals with the representative suit, which allows a single suit to be filed on behalf of multiple people who are interested in the subject matter.
  • A PIL has a broader scope and can be brought on behalf of the entire community when their legal rights are violated, whereas a representative suit is filed on behalf of one or more individuals on behalf of themselves and others who share the same interest in the matter.

INTRODUCTION

A representative suit as the title suggests is filed by one or more people on behalf of themselves and others who have a similar interest in the case, and representative suits are governed by Order I Rule 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908. The general understanding is that everyone who is involved in a lawsuit should be made a party to it but the representative suit was considered to be an exception to it. Thus, the representative suit was introduced to ensure there is an ease and the expenditure and difficulty that would generally take place are reduced.

The purpose of this provision is to make things easier to resolve in cases where a large number of people are interested without having to resort to the conventional way of solving disputes. In addition to saving time and money, this provision under CPC would ensure that a single comprehensive trial of questions takes place in cases involving the common interest of a particular community or a set of people to prevent parties from being harassed by multiple lawsuits.

The primary objective of including this rule in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is to avoid multiple proceedings and contradictory rulings. Therefore, this article will provide an overview of the concept of a representative suit as well as the key essentials referring to a few case laws that must be taken into consideration when opting to file a representative suit.

CONCEPT OF REPRESENTATIVE SUIT

The concept of a representative suit, as stated in Order I Rule 8 of the CPC, allows for the filing of a single suit on behalf of other individuals who are interested in the subjectmatter of the suit, and is therefore described as a rule of convenience set up to avoid multiple proceedings. Further, when it comes to comprehending the representative suit, the most common questions are whether the decree entered in such an action is binding and, second, whether an appeal on the decree entered is regarded incompetent due to non-publication of the notice.

Firstly, it is to be understood that res Judicata is seen under Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code which implies that if an issue is presented before the court and it has already been decided by another court, between the same parties, and with the same cause of action, the court would dismiss the case. In simpler terms, it states that after an issue has been adjudicated by a competent court, no party can reopen it in a subsequent case at a later point in time.And, because Order I Rule 8 Sub-rule 6 of the Code states that a decree is binding on all persons on whose behalf or for whose benefit the suit is instituted, it is clear that Section 11 of the Code also applies to representative suits and would apply to the people who are directly or indirectly involved in the case if notice is prescribed. Apart from that, it is important to note here that where a representative suit is brought under Section 92 of the Code and a decree is entered in such a suit, the law presumes that all persons who have the same interest as the plaintiffs in the representative suit and have been represented by the same plaintiffs are prevented from reagitating the matters directly and substantially in issue in the former suit as per the principle of res judicata.

To answer the second question, the recent case of Radha K. S. vs. Sadasivan and Anr. (2021),could be cited to understand better, where the question before the bench was whether an appeal could be filed against a decree declaring a representative suit incompetent without making a publication under Order, I Rule 8 sub-rule (2) of CPC. The Hon'ble Bench of Kerala High Court stated that the publication of notice under Order I Rule 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure is not required and further observed that there is no need to follow the procedure intermittently when an appeal is a continuation of the original suit proceedings and the proceedings take on the nature of a representative suit.

ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS FOR A REPRESENTATIVE SUIT

Having understood the concept of representative suit and the general questions that arise, to gain a much more detailed understanding of the subject, it is important to look at the essential conditions with the help of case laws that are to be fulfilled for filing a representative suit.

In Kalyan Singh v. Chhoti (1990), the Supreme Court established the requirements for filing a representative suit which has been explained below in a detailed manner:

a) The parties must be numerous – According to the first condition, it is said that the court must decide whether the parties can be made numerous based on the facts of each case, taking into account, among other things, the nature and subject matter of the dispute. Further, it was observed that the body of persons represented by the plaintiffs or defendants does not have to be ascertainable and all that is required is that they must be sufficiently distinct that would help the Court acknowledge.

A relevant case to cite here is the case of Masjid Shahid Ganj v. SGP Committee (1938), where the Hon’ble Court observed that a representative suit on behalf of residents of a village with regard to village property or behalf of members of a sect, caste, or society is maintainable and does not exclude any member of a community from filing a lawsuit on his own behalf, even if the act involved injures to other members of the community.

b) They must have the same interest in the suit–The second important condition as seen in the definition of representative suit as well is that, a community of interest is required to bring a representative suit. This basically states that the interest or grievance must be common for all for which they seek to file the suit. According to the Explanation to Rule 8, it is not necessary for all of the parties being represented to have the same cause of action in order to assess whether they have the same interest as the person commencing or defending the complaint. Therefore, to put it simply it states that, even if the reason for the action differs, the interest may be the same.

The two cases to cite under this essential are firstly the case ofTN. Housing Board v. T.N. Ganapathy(1990), where the Housing Board assigned residential buildings to applicants who had low-income but the issue arose when excess demand was being created after the settlement of price. Thereafter, a lawsuit was filed in a representative capacity to dispute this, and was argued that such a suit in a representative capacity could not be maintained because each allotee received a separate demand notice, resulting in different causes of action.The Hon’ble Supreme Court in this particular case held that all of the allottees shared the same interest and that the lawsuit may proceed.

Likewise, in the case of Kaira District Co-op. Milk Producers Union Ltd. And Ors. v. Kishore Shantilal Shah (1983),As a representative, a member of the Jain community, Kishore Shantilal Shah, filed a lawsuit demanding a ruling that Amul cheese is not a vegetarian food and that the defendant should not sell it as if it were. Kishore further claimed that the Jain community as a whole is entirely vegetarian and that they have been misled. The Hon'ble High Court of Bombay found in this case that members of the Jain community share a common interest, making the suit under Order 1 Rule 8 tenable.

c) Permission or direction to file the representative suit must be given by the court – The third condition is said that only if the court provides authority to sue or be sued on behalf of others can a representative suit be filed. Further, it was also made clear that the Code does not specify a specific form for this condition, and hence such consent could be in express or implied manner.

d) Notice must be issued to the parties who are proposed to be represented by the suit - The decree is binding on all parties unless it was obtained by fraud or collusion, notice of the suit must be delivered to all parties who are bound by the decree because failure of notice even if they are aware of the suit, could at times adversely affect a party. Therefore, it was decided in the case of Kumaravelu Chettiar v. Ramaswami Ayyar (1933) that if no notice is given, the decree will only bind those who are on record. Further, it was stated that the plaintiff is responsible for serving the notice, which must be done either by personal service or, if that is not viable owing to practical concerns, by public advertisement, as directed by the court.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REPRESENTATIVE SUIT AND PIL

When it comes to understanding representative suit, there is some misunderstanding as to whether a Public Interest Litigation and a representative suit are the same thing and can be used interchangeably. This is incorrect because there is a distinction between the two and one significant difference is that in Public Interest Litigation, the requirement of locus standi is relaxed, and it is not necessary for the person to have an interest in the suit if the matter at issue in the suit affects the general public; however, when it comes to representative suit the same is not the case as we have discussed above.

Moreover, the term public interest itself refers to something in which the general public, or the community at large, has a pecuniary interest or an act that affects their legal rights or duties while Representative suit is brought against one or more people on behalf of themselves and other people who have a similar interest in the case.

Lastly, a person who is not aggrieved and is affected by even social means can file a petition in Public Interest Litigation, but when it comes to representative suit, there exists a condition that there should be several people who are similarly interested in action as per Order I Rule 8 of the CPC in order to sue or be sued on behalf of themselves and others subject to the approval of the court or upon a directive from the court.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, we can see that Order I rule 8 is important and must be strictly followed, according to the four fundamental conditions, based on the conceptual understanding of representative suit. Further, in landmark cases, it was also determined that a decree issued in a representative suit could be carried out just like any other decree and in addition to this, when comparing the differences between a PIL and a representative suit, we see that the conditions for a representative suit are not present when filing a PIL, and anyone whose fundamental right has been violated can file a PIL, whereas this is not the case with a representative suit. As stated, there are a number of a set of conditions that must be met, which were explained in a detailed manner. Therefore, a representative suit reduces the Court's burden and ensures that the matter is resolved quickly because it involves a community of interest.


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