What is Summons under CPC?


The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) defines "summons” as a legal document issued by a court to notify a defendant (the person against whom a lawsuit is filed) that a case has been filed against them and to appear before the court on a specified date and time.

According to Section 2(9) of the CPC, a "summons" includes any document used by a court to give notice to a person for his attendance. It can be in the form of a writ, notice, order, or other legal processes.

The purpose of a summons is to ensure that the defendant is given adequate notice of the legal proceedings initiated against him and is given an opportunity to be heard in the matter.

Essentials of Summons 

  • As per Order V Rule 1, the following are the essential conditions for a service of summons under CPC –
  • It should be in writing.
  • It should be in duplicate form.
  • It should be signed by the presiding officer of the court or such other officer authorized by the High Court.
  • It should mention the time and place of the rule directed.
  • It should bear the seal of the court.
  • As per the order of the Gujarat High Court, the issuance of a summons is a condition precedent to the making of an order. The mere making of an order for the issuance of summons is quite different from the issuance of summons.

Types of Summons

Majorly, there are three types of summons that are issued under the law:

Civil Summons

These summons are issued in a civil case under CPC to the defendant to appear in court. It is a way of informing the defendant that a case has been issued against him or her in court. It is mainly served in cases of breach of contract, damage suit, injunction orders, or loss of goods, etc. 

Criminal Summons

A summon issued to a person to appear in the criminal court under the Criminal Procedure Code is called a criminal summons. In the criminal summons, the court will mention the charges and facts based on which the summon has been issued.

Administrative Summons

The administrative bodies send these when we fail to abide by the law. Tax authority or labor court summons is the main administrative summons issued by the law. 

Substituted service of summons

It is an exception to the normal way of giving summons under CPC. To issue a substituted service of summons the court should be satisfied that there is enough evidence to believe that the defendant is intentionally keeping himself away from serving the summons, so there needs to be another way in which summon shall be served. 

Procedure to serve Summons

The procedure to serve a summons is as follows:

  • A summon has to be prepared considering all the essentials;
  • The summons should be served by the persons authorized and if possible, personally;
  • A duplicate copy should be provided to the person summoned;
  • The person summoned shall sign the receipt on the back of the duplicate copy. 

Summons by Post

A summons can also be served by a registered post, even when the postman is serving the summons and the witness refuses to accept, the acknowledgment by the postman would be evidence that the summons is served. 

Summons on Corporate bodies and societies

Corporate persons who are authorized to receive such summons:

  • Secretary
  • Local manager / Principal officer of the corporation
  • The chief officer of the corporation.

Summon on a government servant 

Where the person summoned is in the active service of the Government, the Court shall send it in duplicate to the head of the office in which such person is employed and that head will serve the summon and shall return it to the Court under his signature with the endorsement required by that section.

The procedure of trial of Summons Cases by Magistrates 

  • If the case appears, then the magistrate has the authority to issue a summons.
  • No summons can be filed until the list of prosecution witnesses has been filed.
  • If the complaint has been made in a written format, then a copy should be attached to the summons.
  • The Magistrate also has the power to dispose of the attendance or enforce it if required.
  • Suppose the proceeding is based on a police report. In that case, the magistrate shall provide a copy of that police report, first information report (FIR), witness statements, confessions, and statements (if any), and any other document or relevant extract that was provided to the Magistrate with the police report.

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What is the purpose of a summons under the CPC?

The purpose of a summons is to ensure that the defendant is given adequate notice of the legal proceedings initiated against him and is given an opportunity to be heard in the matter.

Who can issue a summons under the CPC?

These are the people who can serve the summons:

  • Police Officer
  • An officer of the court issued it
  • Other Public Servant

What happens if the defendant fails to appear in response to the summons?

When the person to be summoned cannot be found even by due diligence, then the summons can be delivered to any adult male member who is residing with that person.

Can a summons be challenged?

According to the Supreme Court, a writ petition challenging a summon is not maintainable. it also added that the court can exercise its power to proceed against persons who are not accused but appear to have committed an offense

What is the time limit for serving a summons?

Summons must be served within 30 days after it is sent to you. 

Can a summons be served outside India?

If the summoned individual lives abroad, and has no known contact person in India, it shall be addressed to the individual at the place where he is living and forwarded to him by post. The summons is sent wherever possible and it is sent under “registered acknowledgment due.”

Can a summons be sent to an email address or by WhatsApp?

Summons sent by WhatsApp or Email is not valid according to a registrar court of the SC. 

"As per the affidavit of dasti service, the notice is served on the sole respondent through ‘WhatsApp’, which is not a valid mode of service as per Supreme Court)rules," Registrar Pavanesh D said while ordering fresh notice in a transfer petition at the admission stage.

Can a summons be issued against a company or organization?

Summons can be issued to a limited company at its registered office in line with Section 51 of the Companies Act. If it is not followed in some cases then it is considered a non-service of summons upon the opposite party at the address of its registered office. Also, corporate persons who are authorized to receive summons are:

  • Secretary
  • Local manager / Principal officer of the company
  • The chief officer of the company.