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This article is written by Richa Goel of Banasthali Vidyapith. In this article, she has discussed the jurisdiction of a civil court and the place of institution of the court under Code of Civil Procedure.

Introduction

“Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium” which means that where there is right there is a remedy, a basic principle of English right which is accepted by the Indian law. When a person right is curtailed or being infringed then he has to approach to the appropriate forum or the appropriate judicial forum for the award of compensation. Such judicial form must have an authority to adjudicate on the matter. the judicial forum must have jurisdiction to deal with the matter. Each Court has a different jurisdiction.

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Meaning of jurisdiction

In general meaning, Jurisdiction is the power of the Court to take the cognizance of an offence and to determine the cause of action.

According to Black’s Law dictionary Jurisdiction means “A court’s power to decide on a case or issue a decree.”

The jurisdiction was defined in the case of Hirday Nath vs  Ram Chandra. The High Court of Calcutta stated that jurisdiction may be defined as judicial power of Court to hear and determine the cause and adjudicate upon it.

Jurisdiction is decided mainly on the basis of:-

  • Pecuniary value
  • Local limits of Court
  • The subject matter of Court

So the Court before taking the cognizance of offence, the following points needs to be taken into consideration:-

  • The pecuniary value of the suit
  • The nature of the case
  • The territorial limits of the court

It is not only sufficient that forum must have an authority to deal with the matter or that the court has a pecuniary jurisdiction or the court has a local jurisdiction but the court must be competent enough to grant the relief in such matter.

In the case of Official Trustee vs Sachindra Nath [1]

The court held that in order to deal with the matter the court must not be enough to decide a particular matter but also the court has the power to pass the order sought for.

Jurisdiction of Civil Court (Section 9)

The word civil is not defined in section 9 itself. According to Dictionary “civil rights is private rights and remedies that are different from the criminal and political”. The word “nature”  indicates the identity or essential character of a person or thing. So, we can draw the definition of suits of civil nature means that the suit in a dispute relating to private rights and the suit must not be related to a political or criminal matter.

The civil court shall have jurisdiction to try all the suits except the suit which is impliedly or expressly barred.

A suit which is related to the right to property or suit in which office is contested is of civil nature suit, notwithstanding that such right may depend entirely on the decisions of questions as to religious ceremonies or rites. It is immaterial whether the fees to the office are attached or not, or whether such an office is attached to a particular place or not.

The suit which is expressly barred means the suit which is barred by any statute or any other law for the time being in force. The legislature has an option to bar the jurisdiction of the civil court with respect to a particular class of suit keeping itself with the ambit of the power conferred on Constitution of India. The establishment of the tribunal has taken away the jurisdiction of the civil court with regard to the subject matter that is allotted to the tribunal on the first instance, however, if any questions related to law raised, or any provision of the act so created the tribunal can be looked into by the civil court.  The civil court has no jurisdiction over the matter in which court under the Code of Criminal Procedure, Revenue Court has exclusive jurisdiction, or matter is dealt with special tribunal dealt under special statutes. example Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Cooperative Tribunal.

A suit is impliedly barred when it is barred by either the general principle of law or general conduct of law. The basic purpose of barred impliedly is that the court should not deal with the matter which causes injurious to the public or which is against the public will.

In the case of P.M.A Metropolitan vs Moran Mar Marthoma [2],

The Supreme Court observed that:-

  • The phrases used in section 9 has a positive and negative meaning
  • The earlier part has a wider sense as it covers all the matter of civil nature; on the other hand, the latter part has a wider sense as it excludes the matter which is impliedly or expressly barred.
  • The two explanations mentioned in Section 9 expresses the legislative intentions.
  • It cast an obligation on the court to exercise the jurisdiction for the enforcement of private rights
  • No court is at discretion to refuse the matter which falls under this section
  • It is mandatory to take the cognizance of matter because the word “shall” is used which means that it is a mandatory section.

In the case of  Shankar Narayanan Potti vs K. Sreedevi

The Supreme Court held that the ‘Civil Court has inherent jurisdiction in all types of civil matter as per Section 9 of CPC unless the suit is expressly or impliedly barred.”

This means that Legislature can exclude the jurisdiction of the civil court by inserting a provision or clause in any Act itself.

In the case of State of A.P VS Manjeti Laxmikanth Rao

The court held that for the purpose of constructing the test to determine the exclusion of civil court it is necessary to look into the intent of the legislature to exclude the jurisdiction. It means that the test is done to determine whether there is any reason for the exclusion of jurisdiction and if there is any reason, to further find out whether the just reason is justified or not. Although justification is not subjected to judicial review. Once the court satisfies itself of the reason, then it needs to determine whether the Act which excludes the jurisdiction provides an alternative remedy for the same or not. An alternative remedy must be in regard to such function which civil court must exercise in absence of such exclusion and would be empowered to pass any order which the civil court in similar circumstances would have passed.

In the case of Bar Council of West Bengal vs A. Austin

The High Court of Calcutta states that when the statute which bars the jurisdiction does not provide an alternative remedy then the jurisdiction of the civil court cannot be excluded.

In the case of Balawwa vs Hasanabi

If a part of the suit is excluded from the jurisdiction of civil court then it is not necessary that the entire suit cannot be instituted in the civil court.

In the case of Shri Panch Nagar Parak vs Purushottam Das

If there are no express provisions in any statute the court needs to look into purpose, scheme and relevant provisions of the Act in order to determine implied exclusion of the jurisdiction of a civil court.

Place of suing

Section 15 to 20 deals with the place of suing

There are three kinds of jurisdiction to determine the place of suing:-

  • Territorial jurisdictions
  • Pecuniary jurisdictions
  • Subject matter jurisdiction

Whenever the suit is brought before the court the first question is to determine is whether the court has a jurisdiction to deal with the matter. If the court has all these (territorial, pecuniary, or subject matter jurisdiction then only the court has the power to deal with the case. In the case, if the court does not have any of the above-mentioned factors then it will be considered as lack of jurisdiction or the irregular exercise of jurisdiction. when the court who does not have jurisdiction decide the case and give decision then such decision will be considered as void or voidable depending upon the different circumstances.

Pecuniary jurisdiction ( Section 15)

Every suit shall be instituted in the court of lowest grade competent to try it. The word competent denotes that the court must have the power to hear the case with regards to pecuniary jurisdiction. The court of lowest grade who has a jurisdiction with regards to pecuniary value shall deal with the case at first instance.

The issue arises:- who will determine the value of the suit?

Ordinarily, the plaintiff makes the valuation of the suit for the purpose of determining the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court unless it prima facie appears to the court that the valuation was not done correctly.  When the court finds that the valuation was either done overvalued or undervalued, then the valuation will be done by the Court and the court will direct the party to approach the appropriate forum.

The jurisdiction of the court is decided by the plaintiff valuation but not the amount for which decree is passed.

Lets us understand from an example, if the court has a pecuniary jurisdiction of Rs 15000 and the suit for recovery of accounts is filed on the valuation of suit done by the plaintiff. The valuation was of Rs 15000. Later the courts find that Rs 20000 is due, in this case, the court is not deprived of its jurisdiction to pass a decree for that amount.

It is the valuation done by the plaintiff to determine the jurisdiction of the court. But this does not mean that the plaintiff is set free to file for any arbitrary value and to choose the court in which he wants to file a suit.

When the court finds that valuation is done improperly for the purpose of avoiding the jurisdiction of the appropriate court, the court may require the plaintiff to prove that valuation was done in a proper manner.

Territorial Jurisdiction (Section 16 to 20)

It is divided into:-

  • Suits related to immovable property ( Section 16 to 18)
  • Suits related to Movable property ( Section 19)
  • Other suits( Section 20)

Section 16 states that the suit related to immovable property shall be instituted where such immovable property is situated.

It talks about the institution of the suit with respect to:-

  • Recovery of immovable property with or without profit or rent
  • Partition of immovable property
  • Foreclosure, sale or redemption in case of charge or mortgage upon immovable property
  • Compensation for a  wrong caused to immovable property
  • Determination of any interest or rights related to immovable property
  • Recovery of movable property under attachment or distraint, for all the above-mentioned purpose.

When the suit is filed for the relief or compensation for wrong caused to immovable property held by a defendant or any other person on the behalf of a defendant where the relief can be obtained through his personal attendance then suits may be instituted in a court within whose local jurisdiction:-

  • the property is situated, or
  • the defendant voluntarily and actually resides or carries on business or personally for gains.

Section 17:-Cases in which the immovable property is situated within the local limits of the jurisdiction of different courts.

When the suit is filed for obtaining the compensation or relief for the wrong caused to immovable property situated within the jurisdiction of two or more courts, the suit may be filed in any court within whose local jurisdiction a portion of the property is situated. But in respect for the value of subject matter of the suit, the entire claim is cognizable by such court.

Section 18– A place of an institution when the jurisdiction of courts is uncertain

When there is uncertainty with regards to the local limits of the jurisdiction of courts, and any of the courts has satisfied that there is a ground for uncertainty, record the statement and may proceed with the case to entertain and dispose of the case. The decree passed by such court will have the same effect as if the property was situated within the local limits of its jurisdiction.

In a case where the court taking the cognizance of case does not record the statement and objection is brought before Appellate or Revisional Court, the Appellate or Revisional court shall not allow the objections unless it is satisfied that at the time of institution of suit there was no reasonable ground for uncertainty as regards to jurisdiction of Court and there has been a failure of justice.

Section 19– Suits with regard to movable property

When Applicable

Where the suit is for the wrong caused to the person or property.

Conditions

  • If the wrong was done within the local limits of the jurisdiction of one court

and

  • The defendant voluntarily resides or carries on his business or works for personal gain within the local limits of the jurisdiction of another court then the plaintiff has an option to file at either court.

Lets us understand through an example

A, residing in Delhi, beats B in  Bangalore. B may institute the suit either in Delhi or Bangalore.

A residing in Bangalore, publishes a defamatory statement of B in Delhi. B may sue A in Bangalore or Delhi.

Other suits to be instituted where defendants reside or cause of action arises (Section 20)

When Applicable

When there is a breach of contract or commercial transactions

Conditions

  • If the breach of contract was done or cause of action arises within the local limits of the jurisdiction of one court

And

  • Defendant voluntarily resides, carries on his business or works for personal gains  within the local limits of the jurisdiction of another court the plaintiff has an option to file at either court

Example

C is a tradesman in Bangalore, D carries on business in Hyderabad. D, by his agent in Bangalore, buys goods from C and requests C to deliver them to Amarchand Company. C delivers the goods in Bangalore accordingly. C may sue for the price of goods either in Bangalore where the cause of action arises or in Hyderabad where D carries on his business.

Objections to jurisdiction( Section 21)

If objection related to the place of suing:-

  • pecuniary limits
  • competence of the executing court with regards to local limits of its jurisdiction

is not brought in the Court at the first instance, before settlement or in a case where the issues are settled, then no objection will be allowed by the Revisional or Appellate Court unless there is a failure of justice.

Non- Applicability

  • Territorial jurisdiction
  • Pecuniary jurisdiction

In the case of Karan Singh vs Chaman Paswan

When the court commits an error in entertaining the suit with regard to pecuniary or territorial jurisdiction then the decision given by such court will not be void but will be considered as the illegal exercise of jurisdiction.

Bars on a suit to set aside a decree on objection as to the place of suing (Section 21A)

No suit shall be brought up challenging the validity of decree passed in a former suit between the same parties or between the parties litigating under the same title on any ground based on an objection as to a place of suing.

Conclusion

The concept of the place of suing is very important as it helps to determine the jurisdiction of each court. It helps to the plaintiff where to file a suit. It saves the time of the court in determining the jurisdiction of the court.

References

1) AIR 1969 SC 823

2)AIR SC 2001

 

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