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This article is written by Deepali Kasrekar, pursuing Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting from LawSikho.com.

Introduction

Do you know your case could be rejected for lack of jurisdiction by the court? Lack of jurisdiction means lacking the right or authority to deal with a particular matter. 

Let’s say you ordered goods from Amazon; however, you find certain issues with the product and now you want to bring an action against Amazon. Under which court will you file the case? What if you wanted to bring an action against one of the social media companies? In which court will you file the case? To understand under which court you shall file your case, let’s first understand the concept of jurisdiction in detail. 

The term “jurisdiction” has not been defined under any Indian law. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “jurisdiction” as “A court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree.” In short, the jurisdiction can be defined as the extent to which a court of law can exercise its authority over any cases filed in India. The Court shall be competent to entertain the proceeding. The Competency is legally termed as jurisdiction. 

In Hirday Nath Ray v. Ramachandra Sarma, AIR 1929 the Calcutta High Court defined the term “jurisdiction” – as “the authority by which a Court has to decide matters that are litigated before it or to take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way its decision”. Further in Official Trustee vs. Sachindra Nath Chatterjee – the three judges bench of Supreme Court relying on the Hirday Nath Ray’s Case held that for a Court to have “jurisdiction” to decide a particular matter – that the Court must not only have jurisdictions to try the suit but must have the authority to pass the order sought for. 

How the jurisdiction of Civil Cases? 

Administration of justice is the most important function of the state. The Court shall be competent to entertain the proceedings. For this purpose, our constitution has set up various classes of courts. Jurisdiction is the authority given to a legal body like a court to administer justice within a defined field of responsibility. Judicial System in India is formed in the form of a pyramid as we can see above in the hierarchy of court in India. This hierarchy is created because all the people right from the remote places to the metropolitan cities can reach the appropriate court to resolve their disputes. 

The Supreme Court is the highest body, followed by 25 High Courts which have been created by the constitution of India, and their jurisdiction and powers are well defined in the constitution itself. Supreme Court and the High Courts have a wide power such as the power under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution. Supreme Court decisions are obligatory on all Courts/ Tribunals in India and act as a superiority of the lower courts. Whereas High Courts can exercise only writ and appellate jurisdiction, but a few High Courts have original jurisdiction and can try suits. High Court decisions are binding on all the lower courts of the State over which it has jurisdiction. 

Similarly, as the lower Courts also are given certain powers and jurisdiction to try and entertain certain cases. Civil and Criminal Courts have different jurisdiction. Criminal Courts jurisdiction is related to the crimes and punishments for offender which is given certain power to the Courts under section 6 to 25 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1793 and with the provisions of criminal jurisdiction. On the other hand, Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code,1908 states the civil court will have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature. Section 3 of CPC is provided for subordinate courts.

Civil Courts have only the jurisdiction to only those cases which are of civil nature. Civil proceeding if related to the private right i.e. jus in personam and remedies of a person are different from those of the criminal proceedings. Supreme Court have elaborated the civil proceeding widely in case of Ramesh and Anr vs. Seth Gendalal Motilal Patni and Ors, AIR 1445, 1966 SCR (3) 198. 

Considering the provision of CPC and other laws in a Civil Court’ jurisdiction can be categorized into 4 types as follows :

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

Section 6 of the CPC defines the Pecuniary Jurisdiction. This jurisdiction is based upon the valuation of a subject matter of the suit. 

For Example: If a dispute arises on the partition of the ancestral property between A and B, the suit property is situated in Shirur, Pune. A (Daughter) file a suit for partition against B (father), C (Brother) and D (sister) as B sold a small portion of the suit property to E (third party). Considering the ancestral property, A seeking for partition, declaration and Injunction in the suit property for her undivided 1/4th share. Following things at the time of calculating the Pecuniary Jurisdiction :

  1. Calculate the undivided 1/4th share valuation from unsold property
  2. Calculate the undivided 1/4th share valuation from sold property 

If we consider that the total valuation of the suit property is above is Rs 30 Lakhs then the suit for partition, declaration and injunction shall be entertained by the District Court of Pune i.e CJSD. Therefore, it in the above case, the District Court shall be the lowest grade competent to try it as it has the pecuniary as well as the territorial jurisdiction. 

Another example: A and B both are residing in Pune. A enter into an agreement with B wherein A gives a friendly loan Rs. 50 Lakhs to B to run his business for a period of 1 year. Thereafter B will repay Rs. 50 Lakhs to B along with the 18% of interest. B fails to repay the loan. Considering the total valuation of the suit i.e. the loan amount + the 18% interest per annum then the suit shall be instituted before Civil Judge Senior Division, Pune. But if the Loan amount would be Rs. 2 Lakh Only then the valuation of the suit will fall under the ambit of Civil Judge Junior Division, Pune. 

If we consider the above-mentioned chart pecuniary jurisdiction in Maharashtra except Mumbai then following points needs to be considered while the institution of the civil suit :

  • If the valuation of the suit is above Rs. 1 Crore – then the suit shall be instituted before High Court. 
  • If the valuation of the suit is above Rs. 5 Lakhs up to Rs. 1 Crore – then the suit shall be instituted before Civil Judge Senior Division.
  • If the valuation of the suit is up to Rs. 5 Lakhs then the suit shall be instituted before Civil Judge Junior Division.
  • If the valuation of the suit is up to Rs. 20,000/- then the suit shall be instituted before Small Cause Court. 

Territorial Jurisdiction

Order 7 Rule 7 states about the territorial or local jurisdiction. Every court has its local area for exercising all rights. 

Territory of a court is decided after taking into account several factors. They are : 

  1. Suits in respect of immovable property: If the suit is with regard to recovery, rent, partition, sale, redemption, determination of right of immovable property, it shall be instituted in the court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated.

And if immovable property situated within the jurisdiction of different courts, then in such a case the suit may be instituted in any court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction any portion of the property is situated.

2. Suits for movable property/civil wrong: Where a wrong has been caused to a person, or any damage has been caused to a movable property, then the suit may be instituted either:

  • In the place, where wrong or damage has been caused, or
  • In the place, where the defendant (the person who caused the loss) resides,
  • Where there is a dispute in business, agreement or any other kind of civil dispute, except matrimonial matter, then the suit may be instituted either,
  • In a place, where the defendant resides or carries on business, or
  • In a place, where the cause of action has arisen, i.e. where the dispute or wrong took place.

For Example, A is a businessman residing in Delhi, India signs a contract in Maharashtra for sale of goods to B. At the time of execution, it was decided between the parties that if any disputes arise then the jurisdiction of the Court in Delhi, India. So, if any dispute arises between A and B then the Delhi Court shall have the territorial jurisdiction to entertain the suit. 

Section 28 of the Indian Contract Act states that when more than one court has territorial jurisdiction, it is open for the parties to agree to confine the jurisdiction to any one or more of such several Courts having territorial jurisdiction.

In New Moga Transport Company v. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. and Ors, The Respondent had purchased certain articles which were booked for transportation to Barnala. The consignment reached Barnala. On account of a fire which took place allegedly due to electric short-circuiting, there was destruction of the whole consignment. A claim was lodged against the defendant for the loss suffered. In the suit, a specific plea inter alia was taken by the Appellant that the Court at Barnala had no jurisdiction to deal with the suit. With reference to the consignment note, it was submitted that the Court at Udaipur alone had jurisdiction to deal with the matter as it was indicated therein that the Court having jurisdiction was the one situated at Udaipur.

The Supreme Court held that – if more than one Court has jurisdiction to try a suit or proceeding, parties by their consent may, limit jurisdiction to one of two courts. It was further explained that the intention of the parties can be discarded out from use of the expressions “only”, “alone”, “exclusive” and the like with reference to a particular Court. But the intention to exclude a Court’s jurisdiction should be reflected in clear, unambiguous, explicit and specific terms. In such a case, only the accepted concepts of contract would bind the parties. Here the first Appellate Court was justified in holding that, it is only the Court at Udaipur which had jurisdiction to try the suit. The High Court did not keep the relevant aspects in view while reversing the judgment of the trial Court and therefore the judgment of the High Court was set aside.

Another Example: A is residing in Bhopal. B’ is residing in Chennai. B publishes a defamatory statement in Chennai against A on a social media. A may sue B in Chennai as well as in Bhopal because both the Court have the concurrent jurisdiction. 

Another Example: A is a tradesman who updates his website in Calcutta; B carries on business in Delhi. B buys goods of A, online and requests A to deliver them to the East Indian Railway Company. A delivers the goods accordingly in Calcutta however B denied to make the payment. A may sue B for the price of the goods either in Calcutta, where the cause of action has arisen or in Delhi, where B carries on business. 

Now if we see the identification of jurisdiction over e-commerce dispute then the traditional approach to jurisdiction invites a court to ask whether it has the territorial, pecuniary, or subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the case brought before it. With the internet, the question of ‘territorial’ jurisdiction gets complicated largely because the internet is borderless. Therefore, while there are no borders between one region and the other within a country there are no borders even between countries.

E-commerce websites operating in India are required to follow many laws of India including the Information Technology Act, 2000. As per the IT Act, 2000 these e-commerce websites operating in India are Internet intermediaries and they are required to comply with cyber law due diligence requirements as well. 

For Example, A is a tradesman who maintains his website from USA. B is a resident of Delhi, India. B decided to order a few goos from A based on the A representation on his website. B order the goods online and requests A to deliver them to his address in India. Further, when A fails to deliver the goods on time, B suffers a heavy loss. B sued A in an American Court, wherein the American Court pass order in favour of B and order A to compensate B for the same. Thereafter, B also filed a petition in Delhi High Court for the enforcement of the same. The Delhi High Court will consider the American Courts Judgment as a conclusive.

If we further analyse the above-mentioned example under the purview of personam jurisdiction then even B has the right to direct sue A before Indian Courts. Because here A even if a resident of America and provides online services to the consumers all over the world. If A commits an offence under the IT Act, 2000, then also he can be sued in Indian Courts. The IT Act 2000 attempts to change outdated laws and provides ways to deal with cybercrimes. Let’s have an overview of the law where it takes a firm stand and has got successful in the reason for which it was framed. 

In Casio India Co. Ltd. v. Ashita Tele Systems Pvt. Ltd. the Plaintiff was aggrieved by the registration of the domain name “www.casioindia.com” by the Defendant having its registered office in Mumbai. The Plaintiff filed a suit for trademark infringement in the Delhi High Court under the relevant provisions of the Trademarks Act, 1999 along with an interim injunction application under Order 39 Rule 1 & 2 CPC, 1908. The Defendant raised issues of territorial jurisdiction, wherein the Defendant contended that the Defendant it carrying out its business in Mumbai only and no cause of action arose in Delhi. The Plaintiff, however, claimed that the website could be accessed from Delhi also.

The plaintiff, on the other hand, claimed to be a 100% subsidiary of Casio Computer Ltd., Japan (Casio Japan), which was the registered owner of the trademark ‘Casio’ in India used for a large number of electronic and other products. The Plaintiff had registered a large number of domain names in India like ‘CasioIndiaCompany.com’, ‘CasioIndia.org’, ‘CasioIndia.net’, etc. Defendant No. 1 had obtained the above domain names during the time when it held a distributorship agreement with the Plaintiff. Justice Sarin observed that “once access to the impugned domain name website could be had from anywhere else, the jurisdiction in such matters cannot be confined to the territorial limits of the residence of the defendants. Since a mere likelihood of deception, whereby an average person is likely to be deceived or confused was sufficient to entertain an action for passing off, it was not at all required to be proved that “any actual deception took place at Delhi. Hence, it was held that the fact that the website of the Defendant can be accessed from Delhi is sufficient to invoke the territorial jurisdiction of this court.’ 

Further in Satya v. Teja Singh, 1975 AIR 105, 1975 SCR (2) 97 the Supreme Court held that “every case which comes before an Indian court must be decided under Indian law. It is another matter that the Indian conflict of laws may require that the law of a foreign country ought to be applied in a given situation for deciding a case, which contains a foreign element. Such recognition is accorded not as an act of courtesy, but on considerations of justice. It is implicit in that process that a foreign law must not offend our public policy.”

3. Other cases: If we consider the Matrimonial Disputes then the territorial jurisdiction of the Court shall be considered on following grounds :

  • The Marriage was solemnized, or
  • The respondent at the time of the presentation of the petition resides, or
  • The parties to the marriage last resided together, or
  • In case wife is the petitioner, where she is residing on the date of presentation of the suit, or
  • The petitioner is residing, in case the respondent is out of the territory of which the Act applies or has not been heard for 7 years.

Most of the matrimonial disputes goes in Family Court, however, even the family court territorial jurisdiction is limited. If any person is residing out of the territorial jurisdiction of the Family Court then the case can be file before the District Court. 

Subject-matter Jurisdiction

Section 9 and 20 explains the subject matter jurisdiction. There are certain statues which provide a specific jurisdiction. This category is, therefore, relating to the subject matter of the suit without its reference to the pecuniary valuation or a territorial jurisdiction of the subject matter. 

For Example, if it is a Rent Act, then under old section 28 and new section 33 of Rent Act the rent jurisdiction is prescribed which is Civil Judge, Junior Division at Taluka and District Court. 

Whereas, in the case of matrimonial disputes, family court are been established. However, the place where family Court is not established then matrimonial disputes are entertained by Civil Judge, Senior Division. 

Same as mentioned above, if the subject matter is related to the company laws then the case shall be filed before NCLT Tribunal or if the subject matter is related to the environment then the case shall be filed before NGT Tribunal. 

Special Jurisdiction

Irrespective of the subject matter, special jurisdiction is conferred upon the Courts because of the nature of the dispute either in the form of original suit or appeal. 

For example – an election dispute arising out of the election of a Local Body such as Gram Panchayats/Samities, Municipal Councils/Corporation are to be contested in a Civil Court by way of filing of an Election Petition. Such election petitions are to be filed in a trial court as provided in the concerned statues. 

Likewise, Section 5 (2) of CPC defines the Revenue Court which deals with the Cases of Land Revenue of the State. The Board of Revenue hears the final appeals against all the lower revenue courts under it. Revenue Courts are not Civil Courts. Revenue Court mainly deals with the adjudication of the disputes regarding non-payment of land revenue, peasants disputes, ceilings of land, tenancy laws, agriculturists, and other facts regarding such issues.

Original and Appellate Jurisdiction

Original Jurisdiction of a court refers to a matter for which the particular court is approached first. In the exercise of Original Jurisdiction, a court of first instance decides suits, petitions, application etc. The original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is covered under Article 131. Also, under Article 32 of Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the High Court for enforcement of Fundamental Right of every citizen in India under various 5 type of Writs known as mandamus, habeas corpus, quo warranto, prohibition and certiorari. The High Court’s hear civil and criminal appeals from subordinate courts under their control. 

Appellate Jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority to review or re-hear the cases that have been already decided in the lower courts by way of any appeal, revision etc. High Court and Supreme Court both have the appellate jurisdiction to take the subjects that are bought in the form of appeals.

Conclusion

Proper administration of justice, being one of the main constitutional goals, has to agree with the expectations of the society and with definite expertise in all fields of law. It is very much clear that accordingly to different procedural laws; different Civil Courts have different jurisdiction in India to try all the suit of civil nature. The Civil Court in India need to consider all the factors governing jurisdiction first and then they should further proceed with the proceeding of the case. 


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