(a) The court, and any party to an action, or his counsel of record shall be allowed, in selecting the jury, to make direct oral inquiry of any prospective juror as to the fitness and competency of any person to serve as a juror, without having such inquiry treated as a challenge of such person, and it shall not be considered by the court that any person is challenged as a juror until the party shall formally state that such person is so challenged.
(b) It shall not be a valid cause for challenge that any juror, regular or supplemental, is not a freeholder or has not paid the taxes assessed against him.
(c) In civil cases if any juror has a suit pending and at issue in the court in which he is serving, he may be challenged for cause, and he shall be withdrawn from the trial panel, and may be withdrawn from the venire in the discretion of the presiding judge. In criminal cases challenges are governed by Article 72, Selecting and Impaneling the Jury, of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes. (1806, c. 694, P.R.; 1868-9, c. 9, s. 7; Code, s. 1728; Rev., s. 1960; 1913, c. 31, ss. 5, 6, 7; C.S., ss. 2316, 2325, 2326; 1933, c. 130; 1967, c. 218, s. 1; 1973, c. 95; 1977, c. 711, s. 11.)