A brief about Legal Notice in India

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A legal notice is an official written document that indicates upcoming legal proceedings between two parties. It is the most formal form of expressing grievances. Hence, there is a procedure to follow after serving a legal notice. In this article, we will discuss when and how to send a legal notice. Additionally, we will also discuss what to do if you are at the receiving end of it.

What is a legal notice and when to send one?

A legal notice serves as a warning letter for the recipient about the grievances of the sender. The primary purpose of a legal notice is to seek redressal from the receiving party. In the case of failure, the sender initiates litigation. While the legal notice signals legal proceedings, one can also send an informal warning called a pre-legal notice.
A legal notice comes into play in the following situations:

  • Property-related disputes: Issues related to tenant eviction, possession, the partition of the property, mortgage, delay in handing over possession.
  • Consumer Complaints: A consumer can send a legal notice to the manufacturer or a company upon receiving faulty products, services, or false advertising.
  • Employee/Employer Notice: An employee can send the notice to the employer in the case of wrongful termination, ceasing salary, or any other employee’s right violation. Similarly, the employer can initiate a notice to the employee for violating company policies, workplace misbehavior, quitting before the notice period.
  • Contract Breach: A company/individual can send a legal notice to another company/individual if they do not honor their outsourcing contract.
  • Money Recovery: Sending a legal notice to the concerned individual is the first checkpoint in the process.
  • Debt Recovery: As per the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act), the loan defaulters are first sent a legal notice before initiating the legal proceedings.
  • Cheque Bounce: The issuer of a cheque receives a legal notice in a cheque bounce scenario.

A legal notice is usually filled in civil cases and not in criminal cases. Section 80 of The Code of Civil Procedure1908, allows people to send a legal notice to a public officer or the government if they wish to file a civil suit against them. It is mandatory to issue legal notice before a civil suit if the government is receiving it. The same is not applicable in all civil cases, but it is a widespread practice.

Drafting a legal notice:

One can choose to file a legal notice on their own or hire a lawyer to draft one. Either way, the content of a legal notice should include all the material facts of the case. If a lawyer is sending the legal notice on your behalf, they should do so on their letterhead. A legal notice should contain the following:

  • Recipient’s name and address
  • Name and address of the sender
  • Cause of action
  • Mention any previous communication
  • Redressal/Relief Amount claimed by the sender
  • Basis of relief
  • Signature and stamp if sent by a lawyer
  • Signature of both the lawyer and the sender

Also, the notice should clearly mention that the recipient should respond within a certain number of days. The sender must consider allotting a reasonable timeline to solve the matter. The recipient can either address the issues of the aggravated party or negotiate on the subject.

Best practices in sending a legal notice

Like mentioned before, you can draft a legal notice on your own. However, it is always better to engage a lawyer, especially if it’s your first time doing it. If going forward with a lawyer, take care of the following things:

  • The notice should be on the lawyer’s letterhead
  • Make multiple copies of the notice for future references.
  • Always keep one copy with you and make sure there is one with the lawyer
  • Make sure that the photo-copies have visible logos from the lawyer
  • Use an official envelope from the lawyer to send the notice.

How to respond to a legal notice?

If you happen to be an unfortunate recipient of legal notice, there are multitudes of options to pick over a panic. First of all, it is not compulsory to respond to a legal notice but sending an appropriate reply helps resolve the matter faster. Additionally, the aggravated party can use this negligence against the sender during future litigation.
If the claims made are baseless, one can draft a reply notice denying those allegations. It is also essential to check if the claim is time-barred. If yes, the reply would be to mention that the claim/demand stays outside of the limitation period. However, it is always good to consult a lawyer before sending a reply. After proper consultation, the lawyer can send one for you. The notice should be sent via courier or registered post.
Closing remarks
A simple answer to this question is- avoid trials. If there is any chance to resolve the matter outside the court, one should send a legal notice before bringing a lawsuit. A legal notice allows both parties to bypass the litigation hassle and come to a settlement. The sender expresses their grievances, and the receiver gets an option to avoid legal proceedings.

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