DISCOVERY, in law, the revealing or disclosing of any matter. The English common law courts were originally unable to compel a litigant before a trial to disclose the facts and documents on which he relied. In equity, however, a different rule prevailed, there being an absolute right to discovery of all material facts on which a case was founded. Now the practice is regulated by the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1883, Order 31. Discovery is of two kinds, namely, by interrogatories and by affidavit of documents, provision being also made for the production and inspection of documents. Where a party to a suit can make an affidavit stating that in his belief certain specified documents are or have been in the possession of some other party, the court may make an order that such party state on affidavit whether he has or ever had any of those documents in his possession, or if he has parted with them or what has become of them. A further application may then be made by notice to the party who has admitted possession of the documents for production and inspection. Copies also may be taken of the more important documents. There is also discovery of facts obtained by means of interrogatories, i.e. written questions addressed on behalf of one party, before trial, to the other party, who is bound to answer them in writing upon oath. In order to prevent needless expense the party seeking discovery must first secure the cost of it by paying into court a sum of money, generally not less than five pounds. See also Evidence.
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