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When defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff, the plaintiff could be relieved of the burden to begin his evidence first: High Court of Delhi

As per Order XVIII Rule 1 of the CPC, it is the general rule that the plaintiff must lead evidence first, however, when the defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff, the plaintiff could be relieved of such burden. It is for the plaintiff to lead evidence first. It is only when the defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff that the latter would be relieved of this burden, but in the absence of any such admission, asking the defendant to lead evidence first could well be disadvantageous to the defendant and the same was upheld by High Court of Delhi through the learned bench led by Justice Amit Bansal in the case of RAJNISH GUPTA & ANR. vs. MUKESH GARG [CS(OS) 332/2021] on 23.02.2022.

The facts of the case are that the burden to prove is on the applicant/defendant and it was directed that the applicant/defendant would lead the evidence. Therefore, it was stated by the defendant that it is a choice of the defendant to begin the evidence or not and if the defendant chooses not to begin, then in that case plaintiff has to begin his evidence first.

The present application has been filed on behalf of the applicant/defendant under Order XVIII Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 seeking a direction that the non-applicants/plaintiffs be directed to lead the evidence in terms of Order XVIII Rule 1 of the CPC.

The applicant’s counsel submitted that according to Order XVIII Rule 1 of the CPC, it is the choice of the defendant to begin the evidence or not and if the defendant chooses not to begin, the plaintiff has to begin his evidence first. It was further contended that the Court does not have the power to direct the defendant to lead the evidence first.

The defendant’s counsel contended that in the event that the defendant admits the facts alleged by the plaintiff and alleges additional facts on account on which plaintiff is not entitled to the reliefs claimed in the suit, in such an event, the defendant has to begin the evidence.

In the facts and circumstances of this case, the court held that the evidence would be led, at first, by the applicant/defendant because when the defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff, the plaintiff could be relieved of such burden.

The Court observed that “plaintiff has a right to begin and so he must because the burden of proof rests upon one who pleads. It is for the plaintiff to lead evidence first. It is only when the defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff that the latter would be relieved of this burden, but in the absence of any such admission, asking the defendant to lead evidence first could well be disadvantageous to the defendant. As per Order XVIII Rule 1 of the CPC, it is the general rule that the plaintiff must lead evidence first, however, when the defendant admits to the facts pleaded by the plaintiff, the plaintiff could be relieved of such burden.”

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Judgment reviewed by – Shristi Suman

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