Civil litigation is distinguished from criminal litigation in that none of the parties are prosecuted for an alleged crime. The parties to civil litigation are normally involved in a dispute and approaches the court for a finding in their favour.
In the event that a party wishes to pursue a cause of action, be it a claim for damages (monies), enforcement of terms of a contract or otherwise, such party can approach a court for relief by either launching an application (application proceedings) or issuing summons (action proceedings). In application proceedings the parties are referred to as either an applicant or a respondent. The matter is in general strictly decided on affidavits filed by the various parties to the dispute and the parties therefore does not, unless exceptional circumstances allow for it, testify in person. This differs from action proceedings wherein summons is issued by one party against one or more other parties. The parties to action proceedings are referred to as a plaintiff or a defendant. In action proceedings the parties must present evidence via testimony by themselves or other witnesses.