18 Dec STATUTORY PROVISIONS FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO RESPOND TO INTERROGATORIES UNDER NIGERIAN AND ENGLISH LAWS. DELIVERED BY CHINENYE IFEOMA NWUNE ESQ., ON THE 14TH DAY OF DECEMBER, 2018 AS PART OF CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION AT THE LAW FIRM OF GRANVILLE ABIBO (SAN) & CO.
STATUTORY PROVISIONS FOR THE CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO RESPOND TO INTERROGATORIES UNDER NIGERIAN AND ENGLISH LAWS.
DELIVERED BY CHINENYE IFEOMA NWUNE ESQ., ON THE 14TH DAY OF DECEMBER, 2018 AS PART OF CONTINUING LEGAL EDUCATION AT THE LAW FIRM OF GRANVILLE ABIBO (SAN) &CO.
The importance and essence of interrogatories in core litigation has been under utilized. Interrogatories are aimed at ensuring that parties have a grasp of what the dispute before them entails. This paper focuses on the failure to respond to interrogatories and when parties can choose to object to interrogatories on good grounds. Interrogatories are provided for under the State High Court Civil Procedure Rules of various States of the federation and Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rule. This paper will be restricted to the provisions of the Rivers State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rule 2010 which is applicable in this jurisdiction. The English Rules of Supreme Court (White Book) which is the latest guidance on Civil Procedure under the English law.
- RELEVANCE OF INTERROGATORIES IN LITIGATION
Interrogatories which are Discovery of facts are required in cases where there are no material documents to be disclosed. It is used in cases where there is certainty of conflict in evidence.Interrogatories often saves trouble and expenses of preparing for trial. ORDER 26 RULE 1 of the Rivers State High Court (Civil Procedure Rules) 2010 provides that:
“In any cause or matter a Claimant or Defendant may deliver interrogatories in writing for the examination of the opposite parties or anyone or more of such parties and such interrogatories when delivered shall have a note at the end of it stating which of the interrogatories each person is required to answer. Interrogatories shall be delivered within 7 days of close of pleadings and shall form part of the agenda for pre- trial conference”
- Interrogatories are aimed at eliciting answers that will either serve to maintain the case of a party administering them or to destroy the case of the adversary. They are served when there are doubts in averments contained in pleadings. A party is always entitled to discovery of everything which will help make out his own case or which shows that he is in the right. MICHEAL OLATUNJI FAMUYIDE V.R.C IRVING & CO. LTD. (1992) 7 NWLR 639 SC also the case of ABUBAKAR V YAR’ADUA (2008) 4 NWLR(Pt 1078) Pg 465.
- Interrogatories are only applicable where the suits are commenced by way of Writ of summons,and not Originating Summons. Interrogatories can only be delivered after close of pleading, and a party who intends to do so must do so within 7 days of close of pleadings. In the event that such delivery is made outside the 7 days, the party seeking to deliver interrogatories must obtain leave of the court to do so by way of an application for extension of time to do so.
3.0 WHEN INTERROGATORIES WILL NOT BE ALLOWED
The party to which an interrogatory is delivered upon has the option to object to the interrogatory by way of affidavit if the interrogatories are:
- FISHING INTERROGATORIES: Fishing interrogatories relates to matters outside the pleadings. Anything not contained in the pleadings is not in issue between the parties, interrogatories which are intended to prove a claim or establish a defence not pleaded is not permitted.
- OPPRESSIVE INTERROGATORIES: Interrogatories are said to be oppressive if they put on the party interrogated an undue burden which is out of all proportion to the benefit to be gained by the interrogating party. If the costs and effect of supplying the answers are not justified by the use to be made of these answers by the applicant, the interrogatories will not be allowed.
- SCANDALOUS INTERROGATORIES: This may be described as an insulting,shocking, reprehensible, indecent and distasteful, or degrading question which is irrelevant or impertinent to the matters in issue. But if the questions are relevant,it is proper and must be answered no matter how embarrassing in nature it maybe. FISHER V.OWEN (1878)8 CH. D 653.
- INADMISSIBLE INTERROGATORIES: When it is clear that no admission can be obtained, interrogatories for such admissions will not be allowed. A party who has particularly denied a fact in his pleadings cannot be interrogated on it with a view to admitting that fact. This is more so where the denial of the fact is material to his case .It is also a waste of time to seek to elicit admission of a fact from a party where the fact is solely within the knowledge of the interrogating party.
- IRRELEVANT OR INSUFFICIENT MATERIAL INTERROGATORIES: Any interrogatories not related to the matters in issue are irrelevant and therefore no useful purpose is served by answering them. For interrogatories to be relevant they should be such that the party administering them could ask the same questions as comprise the interrogatories as questions in examination in chief at the trial if he had called the party interrogated as his own witness.They should therefore support the case of the party administering them or destroy his adversary. AL HUSSEIN Vs. LABOUCHERE (1878) 3 Q. B. D 654.
- INTERROGATORIES ADMINISTERED BONA FIDE: Interrogatories must be put for the purpose of the proceedings in which they are administered. The questions should not be designed to serve other purpose otherwise they are not administered bona fide and may be objected to on that ground.
- CONSEQUENCES OF FAILURE TO RESPOND TO INTERROGATORIES
Interrogatories are provided for under the State High Court and Federal High Court Rules Nigeria and also provided for under the English Rules of Supreme Court (White Book) which regulates civil procedure under the English law. These Rules of Practice and Procedure have spelt out the attendant consequences of failure to answer to Interrogatories.
4.1 Order 26 Rule 12 of the River State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2010 provides that:
“A legal Practitioner upon whom an order against any party for interrogatories or discovery or inspection is served under the last preceding rule, who neglects without reasonable excuse to give notice thereof to his client, shall be liable to attachment”
The purport of this Rule is that, any party who is in violation of the above provision is in contempt of court and an order of attachment will be made against such party
4.1 In the case of ATIKU V YAR’ADUA (supra) the apex court held that
“A party who is entitled to administer interrogatories and is denied that right by the court is denied the right to fair hearing”
4.2 Under the English Law, Order 26 Rule 6 of the English Rules of Supreme Court (White Book) provides that:
“Any party failing to answer interrogatories is liable to the same penalties by way of committal and having his action dismissed or defence struck out.”
Interrogatories are vital and ought not to be ignored in pre -trial and trial proceedings in our legal system.Interrogatories can be manifestly raised during pre – trial conference in our courts as it manifestly prevents the laying of ambush and springing up of surprises during trial. It also aids in speedy and efficient adjudication of cases.
- Practice and procedure of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Courts of Nigeria by T. Akinola Aguda (Second edition).
- Odger’s Principles of Pleadings and Practice in civil actions in the High Court of Justice-21st edition by D.B Casson and I.H Dennis.
- Civil Procedure in Nigeria by Fidelis Nwadialo (Second Edition).
- Rivers State High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2010.
- English Rules of Supreme Court (White Book)