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This article has been written by Khyati Mehrotra, pursuing a Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting from LawSikho.

Introduction

Jurisdiction means the judicial authority of the court to try and adjudicate matters. It lays down the extent to which the court can exercise its authority over suits, cases and appeals etc. and defines geographical, political and pecuniary limits of the Court. Jurisdiction of each court is well defined and the court could not go beyond its jurisdiction while adjudicating matters.  

Section 9 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as “the Code”) confers jurisdiction over all civil courts to adjudicate upon matters of civil nature, except expressly or impliedly barred by the law in force. The jurisdiction of the High Court of Delhi has been well defined which allows Delhi High court to only entertain the matters, which come under its authority but also?

The High Court of Delhi was established on 31st October 1966 by enactment of the Delhi High Court Act, 1966. Before independence, the High Court of Judicature at Lahore exercised jurisdiction over the then province of Punjab and Delhi. Post-independence, High court of Punjab was established which exercised jurisdiction over Delhi through a circuit bench till the time Delhi High Court Act, 1966 came into existence. The High Court of Punjab under High Court (Punjab) Order 1947, has the same jurisdiction as exercised by the High Court at Lahore.

The Delhi High Court Act, 1966 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) provides for the constitution of High Court of Delhi, its Jurisdiction, powers of Judges and practice and procedure to be followed in Delhi High Court. Additionally, Section 122 and 129 of the Code confer power to High Courts to make rules from time to time regulating their own practice and procedure. 

Further, Section 7 of the Act provides for the power of the Delhi High Court to make rules regarding Jurisdiction with respect to practice and procedure as it was exercisable by High Court of Punjab in Delhi before the appointed day and also entrust the power to make rules and orders for the exercise of original civil jurisdiction. In exercise of the powers granted under Section 122 and 129 of CPC and Section 7 of the Act, Delhi High Court has time to time framed and amended its Rules and Orders to lay down practice and procedure for the exercise of its Jurisdiction. Volume 5 of Delhi High Court Rules and Order, talks about the Jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court in Chapter 3.

Section 5 of the Act lays down that the High Court of Delhi shall have all such original, appellate and other jurisdiction in respect of territories included in Union Territory of Delhi as it was exercisable in respect of said territories by the High Court of Punjab before the appointed day i.e. 31st October, 1966.

Types of jurisdictions practised by Delhi High Court

Appellate Jurisdiction

Delhi High Courts like other High Courts exercise Appellate Jurisdiction that refers to the authority of a court to review or revisit a case that has been decided by the lower court. These cases come before the court as appeal. The High Court has the authority to overrule the judgement of a lower court or uphold it. Delhi High Court exercises both civil and criminal Appellate Jurisdiction.

Original Jurisdiction

It refers to the Court’s authority to take cognizance of cases, which can be adjudicated by that Court at the first instance. In the appellate Jurisdiction, court has the power to rehear a case already heard by Lower court, however, in the original jurisdiction, that particular court is approached first with respect to the matters specified. It also includes writ jurisdiction.

Supervisory Jurisdiction

Under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution, the High Courts have been provided the power of superintendence over all the subordinate courts and tribunals within its territorial jurisdiction. This power of the high court does not extend to the armed forces tribunal. This enables wide powers to the High Courts to interfere in lower court’s proceedings to prevent grave miscarriage of justice. The power of superintendence is different from the appellate jurisdiction. The power under Article 227 can not be controlled by a statute and can even be exercised when the tribunal’s power is declared to be final and conclusive.

Original Jurisdiction of Delhi High Court

As mentioned above, Delhi High Court Act, 1966 in Section 5 lays down that the Delhi High court (“hereinafter referred to as “Delhi HC”) exercises Original jurisdiction.  

Original Jurisdiction of High Court includes Writ jurisdiction, which is ensured under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. Under Article 226, each High Court has been entrusted with the power to issue directions, orders or writs within its jurisdiction in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, quo warranto, prohibition and certiorari for enforcement of Fundamental rights and for any other purpose. 

Chapter 3 of Volume 5 of Delhi High Court Rules and Order clearly specifies which applications or petitions under Article 226 be entertained by a Single Judge and Division Bench.

Original Civil Jurisdiction

The Delhi High Court is one of the 4 High Courts in India to have original civil side jurisdiction over their territory. Other High courts having original civil side jurisdiction includes Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Himachal Pradesh.

Section 5(2) of the Act empowers the Delhi HC to exercise ordinary original civil jurisdiction with respect to the Union Territory of Delhi, in every suit where the value exceeds Rupees two crores. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court has been amended time to time. By a recent amendment of 2015, the pecuniary jurisdiction of Delhi High Court was increased from Rupees 20 Lakhs to rupees 2 crores. 

While determining its original civil Jurisdiction with respect to Section 92 of CPC, Delhi HC in the case of Bakshi Lochan Singh v. Jatliedar Santokh Singh, interpreted Section 5(2) of the Act and giving effect to the non-obstante clause present in subsection (2) of Section 5 of the Act, i.e “notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force”, held that for purposes of Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the Court of the District Judge, Delhi, will be the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in every suit the value of which does not exceed fifty thousand rupees (now Rupees 2 crore after amendment) but in other suits the value of which exceeds fifty thousand rupees (now Rupees 2 crores after amendment), this High Court will be the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction.

The power to amend the pecuniary limit of the jurisdiction of the High Courts of Union territory lies with the Parliament by the virtue of Article 241 of the Indian Constitution.  Delhi High Court Amendment Act, 2001 which was passed by the legislative assembly of Delhi to raise the pecuniary limit of High Court was declared ultravires by the Court in Geetika Panwar v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi.

The Delhi High Court hears the original civil cases including injunction, partition, recovery suits, commercial disputes, intellectual property rights disputes, arbitration cases etc.

Chapter 3 of Volume 5 of Delhi High Court Rules and Orders (Rule 1 sub-rule xviii) also empowers the single judge of the High Court to hear proceedings of civil nature under Special Act of Central or state legislature coming before it in the exercise of its original jurisdiction, example, under the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, the Companies Act, 1956, the Inventions and Designs Act, the Indian Divorce Act, the Indian Succession Act, the Guardians and Wards Act or the Banking Companies Act, 1949.

Further Article 225 of the Indian Constitution also ensures that the High Courts have original jurisdiction with respect to revenue matters. 

Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 1967 and 2018

In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 129 of the Code and Section 7 of the Delhi High Court Act, 1966 and all the powers enabling it, the Delhi High Court introduced Delhi High Court (Original Side ) Rules, 1967 containing the practice and procedure for exercise of its Original civil Jurisdiction. 

These rules specify that every suit in its ordinary civil jurisdiction shall be tried by a single judge. However, it also lays down that a judge before whom any suit or proceeding is pending, thinks fit, might refer it or any question of law, practice or procedure arising therein to the Chief Justice of High Court for constituting a bench of two or more judges to decide the same. These rules also provide for the court procedures including powers of Registrar, Form of pleadings, the procedure regarding summary suits, commercial suits, execution proceedings, attachment, court deposits, payments and taxation costs etc.

In a Suo Motu writ Petition in Re: Case management of original suits, Supreme Court took cognizance of the delay in disposal of original civil cases by the Delhi High Court and asked Delhi HC to lead by framing new procedural rules for exercising original jurisdiction. The Supreme court directed Delhi HC to work out ways and means for effective disposal of IPR matters sthat an entire model for disposal of civil cases can be framed and act as a basis for a uniform action plan for the entire country. 

Pursuant to the said order, The Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018 were notified by Delhi High Court in supersession of Delhi High Court (Original Side), Rules, 1967 with the objective reducing litigation time, streamlining the procedure for pleadings, appointment of Local Commissioner, interrogatories, limiting unwarranted adjournments and imposing costs for delay etc. These rules came into effect on 1st March, 2018. 

The Delhi HC also exercises original jurisdiction with respect to Election petitions and Arbitration cases. These newly introduced rules provided for incorporation of the extant rules made by the Court regarding election petitions under the representation of Peoples Act, 1951 and also extant rules, notifications, practice directions in relation to arbitration under Arbitration and Conciliation Act and Mediation as contemplated under Section 89 of the Code. These rules also make provisions regarding E-filing of cases and gives the procedure and format regarding filing caveat under Section 148-A of the Code.

Testamentary and Intestate Jurisdiction

 Delhi High Court has Testamentary and Intestate Jurisdiction. However, Section 5 (2) of the Act does not oust the corresponding jurisdiction of the District Judge to hear such matters related to grant of probate and letter of Administration and other connected matters. 

In Mary Assumption Trinidade vs. Vincent Manuel Trinidade and Ors.,  while dealing with issue of jurisdiction for the grant of Letter of Administration under Section 266 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, Delhi HC discussed in detail about its testamentary and intestate jurisdiction. It held that the non-obstante clause in Section 5(2) of the Act operates only in relation to provision contained in any law with regards to original civil jurisdiction of Courts and leaves other jurisdiction such as testamentary and intestate jurisdiction unaffected. It further held that Section 264 of the Indian Succession Act confers power on the District Judge in relation to matter of grant of probate and letters of administration. 

The expression “District Judge” is defined as a Judge of a principal civil court of original jurisdiction. Further, Section 300 of Indian Succession Act, provides for the concurrent jurisdiction of the High Court in exercise of all the powers conferred by that Act upon the District Judge. Therefore, the District Court is not divested of it intestate and testamentary jurisdiction regardless of the value of the suit.

Further in, Devendra Nath Malik vs. State, Delhi High Court, held that the jurisdiction with respect to grant of succession certificate resides with District Judge. The testamentary and non-testamentary jurisdiction of district court has remained unaffected by Section 5(2) of The Delhi High Court, 1966 and thus, whatever the valuation of the property may be, for the grant od succession certificate, the District Court remains the Principal Civil Court of Original Jurisdiction.

Chapter XXIX of Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018 lays down the procedure for filing Application for grant of probate or letters of administration before the Registry. It entails that no such application shall be received by Registry unless it is accompanied by an affidavit of valuation as required under Court Fees Act, 1870 and an affidavit of proof or certificate of death. It further contains the provisions regarding Verification, Notices, Forms, Administration Bond with respect to testamentary and intestate Jurisdiction of Delhi High Court.

Conclusion

As mentioned above, Delhi High Court is one along the 4 High Courts in India which exercises the Original Jurisdiction. The newly introduced Delhi High Court  (Original Side), Rules, 2018 is a welcome step towards faster redressal of cases and reduction in undue delay.  The Central Legislature has increased the pecuniary jurisdiction of the High Court time to time to reduce the burdening of the Court. However, it is seen that the litigants fix a whimsical and arbitrary value of the suit to bring the case under the Jurisdiction of the High Court which tends to overburden the case load. Thousands of cases are already pending on the original Side of the High Court. The Delhi High Court has to be cautious while determining the value of the suit to not go beyond its original jurisdiction and avoid unnecessary overburdening of machinery for rapid disposal of cases. 


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