The Provision for amendment in pleadings has been laid down in Oder VI, Rule 17 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908. It gives power to the Civil Court to allow the parties to alter, change or modify the pleadings during the course of the trial. Application of a party seeking amendment in the pleadings can be reasonably considered by the courts, and if found material and significant, can be allowed. If such amendments are necessary for the purpose of determining the real question in issue between the parties, the Courts are very liberal in allowing such amendments. However, a party cannot be allowed to introduce by amendment, inconsistent or any contradictory allegations which are in the nature of negation of admitted position of facts.
Order VI, Rule 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 reads as under:
“Amendment of pleadings.—The Court may at any stage of the proceedings allow either party to alter or amend his pleading in such manner and on such terms as may be just, and all such amendments shall be made as may be necessary for the purpose of determining the real questions in controversy between the parties:
Provided that no application for amendment shall be 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 trial.”
The proviso given above has been included by section 7 of the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 2002. In the year 2000, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of B.K. Narayan Pillai v. Parmeswaran Pillai [(2000) 1 SCC 712] stated:
“The purpose and object of Order VI Rule 17 CPCs to allow either party to alter or amend his pleadings in such manner and on such terms as may be just. The power to allow the amendment is wide and can be exercised at any stage of the proceedings in the interests of justice on the basis of guidelines laid down by various High Courts and this Court. It is true that the amendment cannot be claimed as a matter of right under all circumstances. But it is equally true that Courts while deciding such prayers should not adopt a hyper technical approach. Liberal approach should be the general rule particularly in cases where the other side can be compensated with the costs. Technicalities of Law should not be permitted to hamper the Courts in the administration of justice between the parties. Amendments are allowed in the pleadings to avoid uncalled-for multiplicity of litigation.”
Post the Amendment, the Apex Court in the year 2005 appreciated the amendment in the case of Bar Association v. Union of India [(2005) 6 SCC 344] held as follows:
“Order VI, Rule 17 of the Code deals with amendment of pleadings. By amendment Act 46 of 1999, this provision was deleted. It has again been restored by Amendment Act 2002 of 2002 but with an added proviso to prevent application for amendment 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 trial. The proviso, to some extent curtails absolute discretion to allow amendment at any stage. Now, if application is filed after commencement of trial, it has to be shown that in spite of due diligence, such amendment could not have been sought earlier. The object is to prevent frivolous applications which are filed to delay the trial. There is no illegality in the provision.”
Analysing the above cases it can be said that prior to the amendment, the Courts had a higher discretion before the amendment came in 2002. The proviso is a limitation to the arbitrary authority provided by the substantive part of the statute. The Supreme Court of India has held a vital verdict recently regarding the Amendment of Pleadings in the case of Pandit Malhari Mhale v. Mohika Pandit Mhale & Ors. [SLP(C) No.(s) 1588/2019; 2020 SCC OnLine SC 586]. It said that once a trial has begun, an amendment application cannot be allowed unless the Court is satisfied that the plaintiff couldn’t have raised the issues in the amendment application at the stage prior to the commencement of the trial, despite due diligence.