What is commonly known as pauper suit is provided by Order 33 CPC. After 1976, the suits laid informa pauparis are known as suits by indigent persons.
Perhaps the name is a misnomer since the person who files a suit as indigent person is not a penniless person. He is not a man of straw. A pauper within Order 33 CPC is one who is not capable of paying requisite court fee.
A typical example is a plaintiff in a partition suit. He has a share in the joint family properties. He is deprived of the same. However, he cannot pay court fees since he has no other means or his means is so limited.
Or it may be that he is not capable of paying full court fees though he is capable of paying court fees in part. Such persons are not barred from invoking the jurisdiction of civil courts. The law provides an exception to them to the general rule that a suit can be instituted by payment of proper court fees.
Order 33 Rule 1 defines an indigent person as one who does not have means to pay court fees or where the list is not provided with court fees, a person who is not entitled to property (cash, movables and/or immovables) worth Rs. 1,000/ – or more.
In computing the means of the person, the property involved in the case is not to be considered.
If the court considers that the person has means or there is no cause of action, court shall reject the application [Order 33 Rule 5]. The rejection of the application is not equivalent to dismissal of the suit. It only means the rejection of plaintiff’s contention that he is an indigent person.
Such a plaintiff can pay requisite court fees and continue the case as a suit. For the purposes of limitation, it is the date of presentation of the case as an indigent person which shall be recorded.
In Andhra Pradesh suits by indigent persons are numbered as Original Petitions (O.P.), if the court permits the party to sue as indigent person, the court registers it as Original suit (O.S).
When the suit is ultimately disposed of, the court decides as to who shall pay court fees. The Government recovers the court fees from so ordered person under Revenue Recovery Act.
The scope of enquiry in pauper proceedings is very limited. The court simply decides whether the plaintiff does not have means to pay court fees and whether the suit reveals a triable cause of action.
The parties are expected to let in evidence only on those points. If the court rejects the petition, the court is duty bound to grant time to the party to pay court fees.