Distinction between order, decree and judgment7 min read



Understanding the distinction between the legal terminologies of Order, Decree, and Judgment is essential to a proper understanding of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and, more precisely, the operation of the courts.

Any formal expression of a civil court’s decision that is not a ruling is referred to as an “order.” As a consequence, any adjudication that does not result in a decree is an order. The following are the key distinctions between an order and a decree:

  • A court may only issue a decree when a lawsuit is initiated by the filing of a plaint. In a lawsuit, however, an injunction may be issued after the filing of a plaint or, in cases where the proceedings are initiated by a petition, an appeal.
  • Whereas in the case of an order, definitive determination of rights may or may not occur, a decree specifies the final rights of parties in all or any matters in dispute
  • A preliminary order is not the same as a preliminary decree.
  • Unlike many orders passed in a suit or proceeding, most suits allow only one decree to be issued.
  • Not all orders, such as a ruling, are subject to appeal. Only those orders that are mentioned in the code are appealable.
  • Unlike orders, a second appeal of the decree entered in the first appeal may be obtained from the high court.

The following are the basic elements of a decree:

  1. Adjudication: An administrative order or the dismissal of a suit for lack of merit, either because the party failed to appear or because the prosecution failed to appear because there was no ‘judicial determination of rights in question.’ And a court must make such a decision.
  2. Suit: A lawsuit begins with the filing of a plaint.
  3. Determination of the rights of the parties in dispute: The rights of the parties in dispute must be determined. Plaintiff and Defendant are the names of the two parties.
  4. Conclusive ruling: The decision should be binding in the eyes of the court that makes it.
  5. Formal expression is required: all formal requirements must be met. It must be followed in accordance with the rule.

The essentials of a decree are:

  1. Adjudication: A decision of administrative nature or a suit’s dismissal on want of merit, either because of the party’s default in appearance or an appeal’s dismissal on prosecution’s absence as there is not any ’judicial determination of rights in dispute’. And such determination must be by a court.
  2. Suit: A suit is commenced with the presentation of a plaint.
  3. Rights of parties in controversy: There must be the determination of rights of the parties as far as matters in controversy are concerned. The parties refer to Plaintiff and Defendant.
  4. Conclusive determination: The determination of the decision should be final as far as the court is concerned which passes it.
  5. Expression must be formal: The prerequisites of form should be complied with. It must be followed as per the law.

There are three different types of decrees

  • Preliminary Decree- A preliminary decree is issued when the parties’ rights are determined with respect to all or any of the suit’s contested matters, but the suit is not fully resolved. It is a preliminary stage in adjudicating the parties’ rights that is finally resolved by a final decree. A preliminary decree is one in which the shares of the concerned persons of a joint family are decided but no real division has occurred in the case of a partition suit. After the court conducts a further investigation, a final order of the actual division of property is issued, and the case is dismissed. A suit for the foreclosure of a mortgaged house, a suit for the restitution of a mortgaged property, a suit for pre-emption, and other suits passing preliminary decree are examples.
  • In the case of Phoolchand v. Gopal Lal, the court held that nothing prevents the court from issuing several preliminary decrees based on the facts, circumstances, and requirements of the case. They backed up their argument by saying that their decision only applies to partition suits and no other types of lawsuits.
  • If the preliminary decision is upheld on appeal, the final decree is immediately overturned due to a lack of support. The defendant would not be required to go to the Court that issued the final order to have it set aside.
  • Determination of finality-A decree can be made final in one of two ways:

When no appeal against the order is filed within the time limit or the matter has been resolved by the highest court, and when the court’s decision is final.

For example, in a money-recovery action, the decree becomes final after the decree holder’s outstanding amount, as well as the process for paying that amount, has been announced. A decree announcing past and future mesne income at a specific rate, with no further investigation focused, will be a final decree in the same way.

The decision in Gulusam Bivi v. Ahamadasa Rowther, based on Code of Civil Procedure Rules 12 and 18, Order 20, that there is no provision for more than one preliminary and final decree in a single suit. Having two final decrees in one suit would be a misnomer, as the former would not be final.

These obiter dicta, however, was overruled in the case of Kasi v. Ramanathan Chattiar, in which the same issue was discussed in depth. It was decided that more than one preliminary decree, as well as more than one final decree, should be issued.

  • Decree that is partly provisional and partly final-

A decree could be partially definitive and partly provisional. For example, in a suit for possession of immovable property with mesne income, the court may issue the following decrees:

i. For the possession of property, which is the final decree.

ii. Directing an investigation into mesne profits, which is a preliminary decree because mesne profits can only be drawn after an investigation.

In such cases, there is only one decree, which is made up of parts that are provisional and parts that are final.


In a judgement, the judge states the reasons for an order or decree. It is the formal announcement or transmission of the court’s final ruling to the parties.

Rule 1: Pronouncement of the verdict:

After ensuring notice to either the parties or their pleaders, the judge pronounces the judgement in open court, either on a future day or on one day, after the trial is completed. With the 1976 amendment act, a time limit was placed on pronouncing judgement until the hearings were completed. Simultaneously, the Supreme Court had stated in R.C. Sharma v. Union of India that, while the Civil Procedure Code does not provide for a time limit, an excessive delay in issuing a judgement after a trial, unless justified by unavoidable circumstances, is highly unacceptable.

According to the Joint Committee, the time period for issuing a decision after the hearing should be thirty days in most cases. However, if it becomes impossible to dispose of the judgement within the thirty-day time period due to extraordinary circumstances, the judgement may be rendered within sixty days. This is not necessary for the judge to read the entire judgement; even if the final order is read, it is sufficient. The judgement must be dated and signed in accordance with Rule 2. It also gives the judge the authority to pronounce a decision that was written by a previous judge but not pronounced by him. In a country like India, judges are revered as gods, so it is critical to maintaining the common man’s faith in the judicial system by not delaying the resolution of cases, as this undermines the public’s confidence in the system.

The aim of pronouncing a judgement is to justify it, which is why it must be done in a judicial manner. Any minor variation in the method or mode of delivery will be irrelevant before the drug is present, and there is no room for guesswork. Furthermore, the decision must be based solely on the grounds and points of contention between the disputants. The words used in the judgement should be restrained and not follow sobriety.


Following the preceding debate, a strong distinction between a decree, judgement, and order can now be drawn. The basic features of a decree are that it must be the product of an adjudication, or a suit, involving the interests of parties in dispute and that it must have a formal speech. An order, on the other hand, may or may not decide the party’s rights exclusively. When it comes to judgement, it is the court’s final decision that is officially pronounced. The 1976 amendment to the Code imposed a time limit for when a judgement could be rendered, starting from the date the hearings were completed.

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