Difference Between Decree & Order


Law is the legally binding set of rules a nation uses to control its citizens' actions. It is divided into two categories: substantive laws that outline the rights of individuals and procedural or adjective laws that outline the protocols, methods, and mechanisms for the enforcement of those rights and responsibilities.

Many complicated terminologies, some of which look extremely similar, are used in various legal disciplines. Among them are "Order" and "Decree".  It can be difficult to tell if these phrases refer to the same thing or not because of how similar their meanings are. It raises doubt about their differences as well.

What is a Decree?

The term decree represents the decision made by the court. In simple terms, a "decree" is the court's declaration that it has decided in favor of one or more parties in a lawsuit. Which party won in the lawsuit is made clear by the decree.

We must comprehend the definition of the term "judgment" to fully understand what a "decree" implies. A "judgment" is defined by Section 2(9) of the CPC as the declaration made by the judge based on a decree or order. It indicates that the foundation of a ruling is included in a judgment.

A judgment is the source of a decree. Therefore, a judgment comes before any decree. A decree is ultimately the official expression or representation of the judge's decision.

A decree must include these 5 elements:

Adjudication: A judge decides on a contentious case through the adjudication procedure. Consequently, in cases when a judgment has administrative implications, it is not considered a decree. It is necessary to settle all of the points raised for discussion in the case. The court must independently decide how to resolve the contentious issue regarding the unique facts and circumstances of the case.

Suit: As per the CPC Section 2(2), a decree must be in a suit. In other words, a decree becomes operative only upon the filing of a suit. Even though the CPC does not define the term "suit," in general, a suit is a civil procedure that commences by presenting a plaintiff (Section 26(1) of the CPC). It serves to protect parties' civil rights.

Identifying the Rights of Parties: A civil lawsuit involves two parties: the defendant, who is the target of the lawsuit, and the plaintiff, who initiates the lawsuit. The plaintiff files it only when he believes the defendant is violating his civil rights.

It's also important to remember that, according to the Supreme Court's ruling in Dattatraya v. Radhabai (1997), a civil complaint determines the parties' substantive rights rather than their procedural rights. Therefore, a decree can only be issued under Section 2(2) of the CPC if a civil matter in which the parties' rights are in dispute.

Final Decision: According to CPC Section 2(2), a decree must have a conclusive character. It should resolve the parties' rights and obligations definitively, leaving the court with no more decisions to make. For this reason, provisional rulings such as interlocutory orders are not considered to be "decrees" under the CPC. Likewise, an order that makes certain decisions and transfers others to the trial court for further consideration is not a decree.

Formal Expression: It is necessary to explain the adjudication procedure formally. A decree must be in the format of the official expression of the court's judgment prescribed by law. A judge's remark alone cannot be deemed a decree. The decree needs to be drafted independently and comes after the verdict. If a decree fails to specify the decision, there is no opportunity for an appeal from the judgment; that is, no appeal lies against the judgment.

What is Order?

An “order” is the formal announcement of any civil court judgment that isn't a decree, as per Section 2(14) of the CPC.

Orders are different from decrees, even though they are usually the same. This is because an order is inherently final, whereas a decree might be either preliminary, final, or partially both.

It is important to remember that in this context, "final" refers to an order's ability to execute conclusively; that is, it must be performed both substantively and procedurally.

The procedural rights of the parties are determined by an order. In a civil matter, the court has the authority to issue orders at any point. One or more orders generally follow a decree.

As per Section 2(14), an order must include the following components:

  • There needs to be a formal declaration.
  • There must not be a decree in the formal declaration.
  • The civil court has to make the decision.

Difference Between Decree & Order

The following points make it easy to know the difference between an order and a decree:

Interpretation: A decree is an official decision by a court of law that specifies the parties' rights and renders a judgment. An order is a formal statement that the court makes to describe the parties' relationship and its decision during the justice process.

Pass: In a suit where the plaintiff starts presenting themselves, a decree is given. On the other hand, in a suit that commences with the plaintiff's presentation of an application or petition, an order is given.

Deals With: A decree addresses the substantive legal rights of the disputing parties, while Orders consider the procedural rights of the involved parties.

Defined In: Section 2 (2) of the Act defines a decree whereas Section 2 (14) of the Code of Civil Procedure Act defines an order.

Ascertainments of Rights: The rights of both the plaintiff and the defendant are made clear in a decree. In contrast, an order may or may not disclose the plaintiff's and defendant's rights.

Number: While there is only one decree in a suit, there may be numerous orders.

Type: A decree might be either preliminary, final, or partially preliminary and final whereas an order is always final.

Appeal: Unless specifically forbidden by law, a decree is typically appealable. On the other hand, an order has both appealable and non-appealing status.

Examples of Decree

Some instances of the decree are:

Divorce Decree: A formal family law judgment that ends a marriage legally.

Decree of Specific Performance: A court order directing a party to carry out a certain contractual duty.

Property Rights Decree: A judgment that establishes and defines each party's rights in a property dispute.

Examples of Order

Some instances of the order are:

Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): A court-issued injunction that prohibits a party from operating in a particular manner until the hearing is over.

Document Production Order: A court order compelling a party to provide a particular document or proof in a legal dispute.

Hearing Date Order: An order establishing a date for a hearing in court to discuss particular problems in a case.