The Supreme Court on February 14, 2019, in the case of M. Revanna v. Anjanamma, explained when an application for amendment of pleadings filed after commencement of the trial can be allowed.
A Bench comprising of Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar observed that at the time of dealing with such an application, the court needs to take into consideration whether the application for amendment is bona fide or mala fide and whether the amendment causes such prejudice to the other side which cannot be compensated adequately in terms of money.
The court was hearing an appeal filed against the order passed by the Karnataka High Court wherein it had set aside the decision of the Trial Court allowing the application for amendment of pleadings filed by the plaintiff.
In this case, the plaintiffs in a partition suit had filed an application under Order VI Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for amendment of the plaint, pleading that a prior partition had taken place in the year 1972 and thus they don’t want to pursue the suit.
The court taking into consideration the facts of the case noted that the said application was filed in 2008 much after the trial had commenced. Further, it was noted that if the partition had really taken place in the year 1972 and was acted upon, then plaintiffs would not have filed a suit for partition and separate possession in the year 1993.
“Be that as it may, it is clear from records that the suit was being prolonged on one pretext or the other by the Plaintiff Nos. 1 to 5 and ultimately, the application for amendment of the plaint came to be filed,” the court observed.
The court confirming the order passed by the Karnataka High Court quashing the order of the Trial Court held that “the application for amendment of the plaint is not only belated but also not bona fide, and if allowed, would change the nature and character of the suit. If the application for amendment is allowed, the same would lead to a travesty of justice, inasmuch as the Court would be allowing Plaintiff Nos. 1 to 5 to withdraw their admission made in the plaint that the partition had not taken place earlier. Hence, to grant permission for amendment of the plaint at this stage would cause serious prejudice to Plaintiff No. 6/Respondent No. 1 herein.”
With this view, the court laid down the settled proposition of law regarding amendment of pleadings and said that "Leave to amend may be refused if it introduces a totally different, new and inconsistent case, or challenges the fundamental character of the suit. The proviso to Order VI Rule 17 of the CPC virtually prevents an application for amendment of pleadings from being allowed after the trial has commenced, unless the Court comes to the conclusion that in spite of due diligence, the party could not have raised the matter before the commencement of the trial. The proviso, to an extent, curtails absolute discretion to allow amendment at any stage. Therefore, the burden is on the person who seeks an amendment after commencement of the trial to show that in spite of due diligence, such an amendment could not have been sought earlier. There cannot be any dispute that an amendment cannot be claimed as a matter of right, and under all circumstances. Though normally amendments are allowed in the pleadings to avoid multiplicity of litigation, the Court needs to take into consideration whether the application for amendment is bona fide or mala fide and whether the amendment causes such prejudice to the other side which cannot be compensated adequately in terms of money."