What are interrogatories?

It is well known that when a civil suit is instituted in a court of appropriate jurisdiction by the presentation of plaint, Summons are sent to defendant about the same along with the copy of a plaint. After the written statement by defendant, and summons being sent to both parties for first hearing, there comes the process of settlement of issues. Issues are basically set out by those facts which are asserted by one party and denied by other. But there are some questions which arise after settlement of issues based on some information which one party knows and other might not. There comes the importance of interrogatories.

Therefore, that information as to facts or documents which is in possession of the adverse party is requested to be produced provided if it is relevant to the issue in dispute. Such information required may be based on the certain fact or otherwise certain document or documents. In case of facts, a party is allowed to put a series of questions to his adversary and then such questions will be examined by judge to consider them proper or improper. If found proper, the judge will compel the other party to answer those questions, which are called interrogatories. In simple words, it means to ask questions or make inquiry closely or thoroughly.

The intent of the legislature for availing the provisions of interrogatories is two-fold. The primary objective is to narrow the points in issue by saving expenses and enabling a party to obtain from his adversary all information as to material facts and secondary objective is to get his admission on any matter in question in the suit which otherwise have to be proved  by evidence.[1]

So it is quite clear that any party to the suit may administer interrogatories against the opponent that is, plaintiff against the defendant and vice versa. But it has also been observed that in exceptional circumstances, even co-plaintiff may administer interrogatories against each other and co-defendants as well.[2] In a suit, an order of interrogatories was obtain against principal on behalf of his agent since in substance and in reality, he was the party.[3] In fat, such an order may be made against the Government[4] and in case if the party is minor or lunatic then such an order shall be made to the guardian of such minor or lunatic or to his next friend whosoever.

Since interrogatories bearing a formal element in them being an order from the court shall be in the prescribed form provided in Order XI Rule 4 and 9 provided in Form No. 1 and Form No. 2 of Appendix C with necessary variations and modifications as the circumstances may require. And if non compliance thereto occurs in answering to these interrogatories, such person administering the interrogatories may obtain an order from the court requiring him to answer by affidavit or by oral examination as provided in Rule 11. Such an affidavit as provided under Rule 4, 9 should be in Form No. 3 of Appendix C. When made this way, such interrogatories shall be answered by affidavit to be filed within ten days after the service or within such period as the court may allow.

 But in cases where the content or intent behind the interrogatories are scandalous, mala fide or immaterial such an objection can be raised by the party to whom such an order is made.[5] They can even be struck off by the court on the grounds that they are polix or unnecessary. Even interrogatories seeking privileged information which means the ones which are themselves an exclusive evidence of party’s own title or which provides for confidential communications between a client and his legal advisor[6] or which relates to the affairs of the state and confidential official communications whose revelation would be injurious to public interest[7], etc is considered privileged information for which too an objection can be made.

There are certain conditions precedent as to administration of interrogatories that such shall be made in writing with the leave of the court along with complying with any such condition or limitation made by the court which the court shall decide within seven days. It has also been observed that on in exceptional circumstances a party can deliver more than one set of interrogatories to the same party.[8] In fact the non compliance to answer interrogatories has adverse effect, in case of plaintiff the dismissal of the suit and in case of the defendant, his name being struck off from the suit.

There is as such not any prescribed questions which may be allowed or not. But there is an umbrella which provides that all those questions which either prove the case of person making them or destroy the case of his adversary forms the interrogatories provided they form such questions with any matter in issue. Such a right has been considered a valuable one and deprivation of the same is not acceptable unless such questions involve which are of privileged character as mentioned before. Even interrogatories which are in nature of cross examination are not allowed.[9]

It is to be further kept in mind that in case of interrogatories it is an order which is made by the court for granting or rejecting such prayer therefore the same is not appealable. The same is not usually revised by the High Court too unless it is clearly wrong or illegal[10] since at the risk of repetition, it is the discretion of the court to allow or disallow the interrogatories.


[1] P. Balan v. Central Bank of India AIR 2000 Ker 24

[2] Anandrao v. Budra Malla ILR (1892) 16 Bom 384

[3] Roop Chand v. Church Missionary AIR 1923 Lah 282

[4] Mohd. Mehdi v Governor General  in Council AIR 1948 Sind 100 (FB)

[5] Order XI Rule 6

[6] Section 126 and 129 of the Indian Evidence Act.

[7] State of Punjab v. Sodhi Sukhdev Singh AIR 1961 SC 493

[8] Union Bank of London v. Manby (1879) 13 ChD 239

[9] Raj Narain v. Indira Gandhi (1972) 3 SCC 850

[10] Shyamal Kumar v. Godavari Devi AIR 1977 NOC 120

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