The dictionary meaning of the term ‘plead’ means ‘to state and argue a case’. Therefore, pleading comprises of respective contentions of the parties in a dispute, which are reduced into writing. ‘Pleadings’, under Civil as well as Criminal Law, meant that to determine what the parties were currently fighting about. Pleading is the beginning stage of a lawsuit in which parties formally submit their claims and defences. In Civil proceedings the plaintiff submits a plaint stating the cause of action — the issue or issues in controversy. The defendant submits an answer- the reply- the written statement- stating his or her defences and denials. In other words it is nothing but the formal presentation of claims and defences by parties to a lawsuit. Therefore, it includes every legal document filed in a lawsuit, petition, motion and/or hearing, including complaint, petition, answer/reply, rejoinder, motion, declaration and memorandum of points and authorities (written argument citing precedents and statutes).
Hence, the term pleading would be applicable to the Court proceedings including filing of the complaint/plaint, etc., replies thereto and other incidental documents related to the dispute filed by either of the parties. Needless to mention here that, our legal system is adversary legal system wherein there are two contesting parties. One party stakes its claim or right to a particular thing, which is disputed by the opposite side before the Court. Under these circumstances each of the parties in support of its claim files in writing various contentions and submissions in terms of the different provisions under the law before the Court. All these documents constitute pleadings. It is only after the completion of the pleadings that a matter is argued and subsequently the dispute is adjudicated by the Court.
Meaning of Pleadings
Pleadings are the statement of facts in writing drawn up and filed in a court by each party to the case stating therein what his contention shall be at the trial and giving all such details as his opponent will need to know in order to prepare his case in answer. In India there are only two pleadings in a suit as defined under Order 6, rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, it says that pleading means “Plaint or Written Statement”. This definition is not very clear in itself. The plaint and written statement are defined as:
Plaint: A statement of claims, called the “plaint” in which the plaintiff sets out his cause of action with all necessary particulars; and
Written Statement: A statement of defences, called the “written statement” which the defendant deals with every material fact alleged by the Plaintiff in the plaint and also sets any new facts which tells in his favour, adding such objection as he wishes to take to the claim.
Beside the plaint and the written statement, other pleadings that may be filed, may be divided under two heads: (i) subsequent pleadings, and (ii) additional pleadings.
Subsequent Pleadings: The only subsequent pleading which is filed as a matter of right, without the leave of the court, is a written statement of a plaintiff by way of defence to a plea of set-off set up by a defendant in the written statement of his defences. No other pleading subsequent to the written statement of a defendant other than that by way of defence to a plea of set off can be presented except with the leave of the court and upon such terms as the court may think proper. But the court may at any time require a written statement or an additional written statement from any of the parties and fix a time for presenting the same (O.8, r.9). Any ground of defence which has arisen after the institution of the suit or the presentation of the written statement, may be, raised by the plaintiff or the defendant as the case may be, in his written statement (O.8, r.9). This is also a subsequent pleading. The subsequent pleading, i.e., this written statement in some states is also termed as “replication”. This term was formerly used in England where plaintiff’s written statement is now called “reply”.
Additional Pleading: Although no pleading subsequent to the written statement of a defendant other than by way of defence to a plea of set-off can be presented without the leave of the court, yet the court may at any time require a written statement or additional written statement from any of the parties, i.e., plaintiff or defendant or both (O.8, r.8). The additional pleadings are not subsequent pleadings in the true sense of the term. They are pleading by way of further and better statement of the nature of the claim or defence or further and better particular of any matter in the pleadings. These pleading may be ordered under order 6, rule 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Under the English Law, pleading has been defined as follows: “pleading includes any petition or summons and also include the statement in writing of the claim or demand of any plaintiff and of the defence of any defendant thereto and of reply of the plaintiff to any counter-claim of a defendant.”