Sunday, 9 July 2017
COMPOSITE SUIT – A PATH LESS TAKEN
A composite suit essentially refers to a suit wherein different causes of action are joined in order to form a single suit. Order II Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with joinder of causes of action i.e. a suit wherein the plaintiff can unite one or more causes of action against the same defendant. The second part of the rule deals with the case where several plaintiffs can join their causes of actions against the same defendant or defendants.
Typically, a composite suit could be referred to as a class action lawsuit in which one or more group of persons or plaintiffs file a case on behalf of a large number of injured parties, commonly referred to as the ‘class’. Class action suits are also known as multi-district litigation or mass tort litigation. Though class action suit is not understood or interpreted in the strictest sense in India, the Indian judiciary has relaxed the criterion or requirements for locus standi in certain types of suits especially those which are filed under Article 32 or 226 of Indian Constitution. A classic example of such a case was and more popularly known as the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case where the Government of India acting as parens patraie, aggregated all the claims of the victims and initiated a legal proceedings against Union Carbide Corporation (respondent). With the advent of the Companies Act, 2013, class action suits have now been formally recognized in India. In terms of Section 245 of the Companies Act, 2013 the members, depositors of a company can file class action suits against the company, its directors, auditor, expert advisor, consultant etc.
The advantage of such type of suits is that primarily, the multiplicity of litigations is obviated. This, in turn, saves the time of the courts and facilitates accelerated dispensation of justice. Class Action Suits become desirable where the defendant party enjoys a higher status and it becomes impossible for the victim to file a suit against the other party in spite of suffering grave injuries.
However, like all good things, a composite suit also suffers from a number of disadvantages. Firstly for a composite suit to be maintainable, the cause of action has to be under the jurisdiction of the same court where the suit is supposed to be filed. For instance, if A has to file a composite suit against B with respect to matters ‘x’, ‘y’ and ‘z’, then all these three causes of action should come under the court’s jurisdiction to try such matter before which the suit is preferred. This has been highlighted in the case of Dabur India Ltd. v. K.R. Industries, where the Delhi High Court didn’t have the jurisdiction to try ‘passing off’ and hence, inclusion of that, lead to the appeal being dismissed.