Decree: Meaning and Types

We are all very familiar with the term "judgment," “decree,” and “order.” In all cases, whether civil or criminal, adjudicated by the court, a judgment is pronounced by the judge at the end of the case. In civil cases, however, in addition to the judgment, the court prepares a concise written order that precisely states the overall effects of the judgment on the parties to the suit and, more specifically, what the winning party achieves.

What is Decree?

A decree is a document prepared by the court at the end of a civil suit after judgment has been passed. It is signed by the judge and bears the seal of the court. A decree is likely to be prepared within 15 days of the judgment being issued. In general, the proceedings of a civil suit conclude when the court renders judgment in a specific matter.

The requirement for a court decision to become a decree is that there must have been adjudication in a civil suit, and such adjudication must have determined the rights of parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit, and such a determination must be of a conclusive nature.

Types of Decree

The term "decree" is defined under Section 2 (2) of the Code of Civil Procedure (1908), as it is the formal expression of an adjudication of dispute by the civil court that conclusively determines the rights of parties with regard to all or any matters in controversy in the civil suit. According to the definition given in Section 2(2), decrees are of two types: preliminary decrees and final decrees. However, a decree may be partly preliminary and partly final.

  • Preliminary Decree − a decree is a preliminary decree when further proceedings have to be taken before the suit can be completely disposed of.

  • Final Decree − a decree is final when such adjudication completely disposes of the suit.

Execution of the Decree

A decree is ultimate result, ‘the fruit’ of civil litigation. The execution of a decree is the realization of the fruits of the litigation in which a decree was passed in favor of the plaintiff.

Legal provisions for Execution of Decree

Order 21 read with Sections 36 to 74 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908 contains legal provisions dealing with the execution of a civil court decree. Various provisions under Order 21 can be categorized in 10 parts, namely

  • Payment under decree

  • Court executing decree

  • Application for execution

  • Process for execution

  • Stay of execution

  • Mode of execution

  • Arrest and detention in civil prison

  • Attachment of property

  • Adjudication of claim and objection of attached property

  • Sale of property

Which court has the power to execute a decree?

  • The court of first instance, which actually passed the decree;

  • The court of first instance in the case of an appellate passes a decree in appeal;

  • Where the court of first instance has ceased to have jurisdiction to execute the decree, the court that had jurisdiction at the time of execution will have jurisdiction to try the suit.

  • The court to which the decree is transferred for execution

Applications for Execution

The decree holder has to apply by filing a written application for execution of the decree in the court that has the power to execute such a decree as per the provisions of Rule 10 of Order 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In addition, as per Rule 11 of Order 21, the decree holder is required to provide detailed information about the suit and decree in tabular form in the said application. Further, a certified copy of the decree and judgment is required to be attached along with the said application for execution.

Parties to the Application for Execution

In every litigation there are at least two parties namely plaintiff and defendant. In execution proceedings of a decree the parties are called as decree holder (plaintiff) and judgment debtor (defendant).

Mode of Execution of the Decree

 A decree of a civil court may be executed in any of the following modes, namely

  • By delivery of possession of any property, such as moveable property such as jewellery or any antique article, this is specifically decreed.

  • By payment of money to the plaintiff (decree holder).

  • By transfer of possession of the immovable property to the plaintiff.

  • By sale, without attachment of any property.

  • By attachment of property and sale.

  • By appointment of a receiver to take possession of immovable property or an estate and manage it for beneficiaries.

  • By arrest and detention of the judgment-debtor.

  • In such other manner as the nature of the relief may require.

 Execution of Decree by Payment in Court

A money decree is executed by making payment of the amount due under the decree by the judgment debtor (defendant) to the decree holder (plaintiff). All money payable under a decree shall be paid as follows, namely

  • Payment may be deposit in cash into the Court in which the execution of decree is pending. Or it may be sent to the court by postal money order or through a bank;

  • Further, if the payment is made out of court to the decree holder, it should be made through any mode wherein payment is evidenced in writing, such as by postal money order or through a bank.

  • If the payment is made in cash in court, the judgment debtor shall give notice thereof to the decree-holder either through the court or directly to him by registered mail.

However, if the decree holder refuses to accept the postal money order or payment through a bank, interest shall cease to run from the date on which the money was tendered to him.

Execution of the Decree; Delivery of Possession

Rule 35 of Order 21 provides that a decree for immovable property may be executed by delivering possession of the said immovable property to the decree holder or to his agent duly appointed to receive the possession. Further, if the immovable property is a building in the possession of a person bound by the decree to vacate and deliver the possession to the decree holder, if such a person refuses to vacate it, the court shall issue a warrant, directing its officers to remove that person from the building, or if the building is locked, open any lock, break open any door, or do other acts necessary for putting the decree holder in possession.

Execution of the Decree by Arrest and Detention in Civil Prison

If the judgment debtor fails to comply with the court's direction in the execution of the decree, the court may order his arrest and detention in civil prison to compel him to do what is necessary to satisfy the execution of the decree. For example, if the decree is for the payment of money and the judgment debtor is avoiding the payment under the decree. In that situation, the executing court may direct his arrest and detention in civil prison as per the provisions of Section 51(c) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Execution of the Decree Through Attachment and Sale

If a decree is for specific movable property, such as any antique article, or for specific immovable property, and the judgment debtor is either denying or delaying the delivery of possession of such property, the court, as per the provisions of Section 51(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure, may order execution of the decree by attachment and sale if the property to be attached is situated within the local limits of the court's jurisdiction.

Execution of the Decree Through the Appointment of a Receiver

The execution of a decree by the appointment of a receiver is an exceptional remedy. It depends upon the discretion of the court, and a very strong case must be made out to satisfy the judge for the receiver to be appointed for the execution of a decree as per the provision of Section 51(d) of Code of Civil Procedure.  For example: A decree which is determining rights of trustees or the beneficiaries of the trust, is required to be executed by appointment of receiver.

Limitation Period for Execution of the Decree

The limitation period for applying for execution of a decree depends on the type of decree to be executed. For example, a decree granting a mandatory injunction is to be executed for a period of three years. And twelve years’ limitation period is provided for the execution of any other decree or order of a civil court.


A decree is the final outcome of civil litigation. However, the plight of the litigant does not end here. The decree holder has to bear another round of litigation before getting the fruits of the decree. This litigation is called execution proceedings. It is filed as an application for execution of the decree. But the procedure provided under the Code of Civil Procedure for the execution of a decree is such a complex one that it sometimes takes more time than the trial of the suit. This delay in the completion of the execution proceedings is against the principles of a fair trial. As a result, it is urgently necessary to simplify the process of executing a decree by establishing liability and imposing severe punishment on those who obstruct the administration of justice by delaying the execution process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the maximum time period for the execution of a decree?

Ans. As per article 136 of the Limitation Act 1963, the maximum period for the execution of a decree is 12 years.

Q2. What are the different types of decrees as provided by the definition under Section 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure?

Ans.Section 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure defines a decree and its types. According to this provision, there are three types of decrees: preliminary decrees, final decrees, and partly preliminary and partly final decrees.

Q3. Which court has the power to execute a decree?

Ans. The execution of a decree is a separate legal proceeding that is to be filed in the court of first instance that actually passed the decree; however, if the decree is passed by the appellate court, even then the execution proceedings are to be filed in the court of first instance that actually passed the decree.