caveat

This article has been written by Naveen Talawar, a law student at Karnataka State Law University’s law school. The article discusses about a caveat petition, the scope and objective of a caveat, the rights and duties of the caveator, the applicant, the court and the implications of non-implementation of a caveat, and the form of the caveat in detail.

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar

Introduction

Civil proceedings include numerous procedures and require a variety of legal documents. The caveat petition is one of the legal documents that a person files under the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Before proceeding further, it is important to understand the meaning of the term ‘caveat.’

The caveat is a Latin term that means “let a person be aware” and dates back to the mid-16th century. A caveat petition follows the rule of Audi Alteram Partem and can be filed by anyone who believes that civil litigation has been filed or is about to be filed against him.

A caveat is a precautionary measure taken by a person who is worried that someone will file a case against that person in court. As a result, it is a notice that notifies a person when the court is about to take legal action against that person. It is filed only in civil matters.

Caveat petition

A caveat petition is commonly referred to as a ‘caveat’. The caveat petition gives a person the right to be heard before any decision is made against him. No court can make a decision or issue an order against a person without hearing his or her side.

Meaning and definition of caveat

The Code doesn’t define the word “Caveat.” However, the Court defined the word caveat in the case of Nirmal Chand v. Girindra Narayan, wherein it stated that “The term ‘caveat’ is very common in testamentary proceedings. A caveat is a caution or warning giving notice to the Court not to issue any grant or take any step without notice being given to the party lodging the caveat. It is a precautionary measure taken against the grant of probate or letters of administration, as the case may be, by the person lodging the caveat”.

Example: Assume A owns the land. He builds a house on his land. However, A’s neighbour, Z, claims that he owns a portion of that land. A now anticipated that Z might file an application. As a result, A files a caveat against Z, requesting that the court notify him if Z files any such application.

Legislative history

A person in India has the right to file a caveat petition under Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Originally, a provision for lodging a caveat was used in testamentary proceedings under the scope of the Indian Succession Act 1925, which was only made available for all civil suits in 1976. Prior to 1976, a caveat petition could be filed in the Supreme Court by anyone with knowledge of a suit about to be instituted or already instituted that he could contest. The petition was only valid for 90 days, and the court had no authority to extend it, as is now provided by the CPC. The caveator had to use the postal service to give notice of the caveat and on service of notice for this petition.

Following that, a copy of the application filed by the caveatee and all supplementary documents must be provided to him at his expense. Because of this practice, even if the individual was acting in his best interests, his presence was deemed premature, and he lacked locus standi. As a result, the 54th Law Commission Report recommended that this provision be added to the CPC, allowing a caveat petition to be filed in all lower courts, allowing the individual to contest and appear even at the initial stage of the suit or matter. As a result, Section 148 A was added as part of the 1976 amendment to the code.

Object and scope of section 148 A

The main objective of Section 148 A is to safeguard and protect the interests of the person filing the caveat because he is concerned about a potential case. This is done to avoid any ex parte decision being made against him. The caveator hopes that by filing a caveat, he will be given a fair chance to be heard. This is in accordance with one of the principles of natural justice, Audi Alteram Partem. This is also done to avoid the multiplicity of cases and to save the courts’ expenses and inconvenience.

In G.C Siddalingappa v. G.C Veeranna, the Karnataka High Court highlighted the objective of including this provision in the Code, which is to “give any person who will be affected by an interim order issued on an application that is expected to be made or has been made in a suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted in a court a chance to be heard. As a result, under sub-section (1) of Section 148-A of the Civil Procedure Code, any person who claims a right to be heard before passing an interim order in any suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted in a Court has the right to lodge a caveat in respect of such suit or proceeding”.

Who can lodge a caveat petition

Section 148 A specifies who is eligible to file a caveat petition. This is provided under clause 1 of Section 148 A, which states that a person who claims to have a right to appear in court may file a caveat petition in the following circumstances:

  1. Where there is the apprehension of application. 
  2. Where an application has already been submitted. 
  3. In a suit that is expected to be filed against him. 
  4. In an already instituted suit. 

In the case of Kattil Vayalil Parkkum Koiloth v. Mannil Paadikayil Kadeesa Umma, the court made it clear that a third party or complete stranger, someone who has no interest in the matter, cannot file a caveat application. 

Rights and duties as per Section 148 A

Section 148-A specifies the rights and duties of the following:

Of caveator

A caveator is a person who files the caveat petition. He is required by law to perform certain duties, as specified in clause 2 of Section 148 A of the Code. The caveator must send a notice of the caveat petition to the opposite party (applicant). The opposite party is the person who has filed or may file an application for an interim order against the caveator.

It was observed in K. Rajasekaran v. K. Sakunthala that once a caveat is lodged, the caveator is required to serve a notice of the caveat on his adversary who is expected to file an application or who has already filed an application. This is a mandatory provision that must be followed by the caveator. Once it is established that the adversary was not served with a notice of the caveat, the adversary may petition the Court to revoke the order passed behind his back. A caveator who did not comply with the mandatory provision cannot legally seek to keep the ad interim injunction granted to him.

Of the court 

This section imposes duties on the court as well, as stated in clause 3. It states that if an application is filed after a caveat has been lodged under clause 1, the court shall serve notice of the application on the caveator. 

Of the applicant

Clause 4 of the provision specifies the applicant’s duties. It states that if the applicant receives a notice of any caveat, he is required to provide, at the expense of the caveator 

  1. A copy of his application. 
  2. Copies of any documents or papers he has filed in support of his application.
  3. Copies of papers and documents that he may file in support of his application.

The time limit for the caveat

According to clause (5), a caveat shall be valid for not more than 90 days from the date of filing. After the 90-day period has passed, a fresh caveat may be filed.

Implication of non-serving of notice by the court

The consequence of a situation in which notice was not served by the court was explained in the case of C Seethaiah v. Government of A.P. it was decided that an order issued by the court without giving notice to the caveator is illegal, but not null and void. The legislature’s intent is clear in the provision requiring the caveator to be provided with copies of petitions and documents filed by the opposing party and to be heard before the court issues any order. The legislature imposes a duty on both the court and the applicant for this purpose in subsections (3) and (4). Unless the condition precedent (notifying the caveator) is met, the Court cannot issue the interim order, which may affect the caveator.

In the landmark case of Reserve Bank of India Employees Association and Another v. The Reserve Bank of India and Others, the court was asked to determine whether an order of stay that is made without hearing the caveator is unenforceable or is a nullity.

It was observed by the court that an order that was issued without giving the caveator adequate notice cannot be deemed invalid. It was argued that the legislator could have done so directly rather than indirectly if their intention had been to restrict the ordinary powers of a civil court. A remote implication cannot change, weaken, or even restrict the authority of a Civil Court. In this instance, it was decided that even if the caveator was not informed of the date of the matter’s hearing, the mere filing of a caveat petition would not limit the court’s authority. The caveat is merely the person’s right to be notified, but this cannot prevent the court from making an interim order on the merits of the case.

Where can a caveat petition be filed

When the caveator expects legal proceedings to be filed against him in the future, he can file a caveat petition in any Civil Court of original jurisdiction, Appellate Court, High Court, or Supreme Court. Civil Courts include Small Causes Courts, Tribunals, Forums, and Commissions.

How to file a caveat petition

A prescribed form has been created for the filing of a caveat petition, which consists of

  1. The name of the court where the caveat petition has been filed. 
  2. If a suit, petition, or appeal has been filed, the number of that appeal or suit. 
  3. Name and address of the person filing the caveat petition. 
  4. The name and address of the opposing party.
  5. A complete description of the matter on which the caveat petition is filed.
  6. If a caveat petition is filed in the case of an appeal or writ petition, the person should also attach a copy of the decision against which he believes the opposing party can file an appeal or writ petition. 
  7. The caveat application also includes one copy of a Vakalatnama. 
  8. After filing the caveat petition in court, the caveator must serve the caveat notice to the opposing party through the registered post.
  9. Although the court costs for filing a caveat differ from one court to another, they are generally less than INR 100. 

A sample caveat petition can be accessed here.

Conclusion

The caveat is a petition filed before the court by a party stating that if the opposing party institutes a suit, appeal, or other proceedings against him/her, the court must notify the party filing the caveat. Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure grants a person the right to prevent the court from issuing ex parte orders or judgments in civil matters. If the court does not notify the caveator before passing the order or judgment, the order or judgment becomes void.

A person who is not a party to the proceeding cannot file a caveat. Section 148A of the Code provides the rights and duties of the caveator, applicant, and court in sub-sections (2), (3), and (4). If the rules outlined in these sections are not followed, the purpose of enacting Section 148A is defeated. Before issuing any interim order against the caveator, the court must hear his petition, which is mandatory. The caveat petition is valid for 90 days from the date it is filed. Following that, the caveator may renew the petition.

FAQs

What are the advantages of filing a caveat?

  1. It protects the caveator’s basic right to be heard. 
  2. An ex parte order can be issued against the caveat or from the time he files a caveat petition.
  3. It avoids the multiplicity of cases, as well as the inconvenience to the courts. 
  4. If the interim order is issued ex parte, it is unenforceable.

Can a Caveat be Filed Against a Criminal Case?

No, it was stated in Deepak Khosla v. Union of India & Ors that Section 148A of the Code applies only to civil proceedings and that a caveat cannot be made against petitions filed under the Criminal Procedure Code or petitions filed under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.

Who cannot file a caveat?

It was observed in the case of Kattil Vayalil Parkkum Koiloth v. Mannil Paadikayil Kadeesa Umma that a third party or complete stranger, someone who has no interest in the matter, cannot file a caveat application.

References


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