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Caveat: Remedy To The Apprehension

"Beware" is the meaning of the Latin term "Caveat". This term is undefined in the Code of Civil Procedure. Dictionary of English law has defined Caveat as "A caveat is an entry made in the books of the offices of a registry or court to prevent a certain step being taken without previous notice to the person entering the caveat".

In precise terms, it is a caution given by a party to the Court to prevent it from taking any action or grant any relief to the applicant without notice or intimation being given to the person entering caveat.

In matters of grant of probate or letters of administration, lodging of caveat is very common2. The person lodging the caveat is addressed as "Caveator". It acts as a precautionary measure.

Right To Lodge A Caveat

Section 148-A inserted through the Amendment act, 1976 allows a person to lodge a caveat in a suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted against the person lodging caveat.
  1. If an application is expected to be made or has been made, in a suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted, the person who has a right to appear before the Court on the hearing of such application may lodge a caveat.

The foremost purpose is to safeguard the interest of a person against the order that can be passed on an application filed by a party in a suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted. The person lodging the caveat may not be a necessary party to the application instituted/which may be instituted. But the order which may be passed on such application may affect the caveator. Therefore Section 148-A provides an opportunity to the caveator to be heard, before he is placed ex-parte.

In addition to this, it also prevents multiplicity of proceedings. In the absences of the provision, the person has to resort to appropriate legal remedy if he is aggrieved by the order. A provision was found in the Supreme Court Rules, 1966. On this footing the Law commission recommended the insertion of Section 148-A.

Scope And Applicability
Even though the concept of Caveat through Section 148-A was common in testamentary proceedings, it applies as well to suits, appeals, revisions, etc. Some High Courts construed Section 148-A in a narrow manner holding that no caveat can be lodged in matters of appeal or execution proceedings.

In Ram Chandra Aggarwal v/s. State Of U.P.5, the expression "Civil Proceedings" in Section 141 of the Code includes all the proceedings which are not original. It was held that "Even though caveat is codified and incorporated, it is based upon sound judicial practice. They apply to writ petitions, Labour and industrial matters also.

Thus, the caveat provision applies to suits, appeals as well as proceedings under the code or other enactments as held in Chandrajit v/s. Ganeshiya 6..

But if the person who lodged caveat is not present at the time of hearing of the application and if the court finds there is a case made out in favor of the applicant, interim relief can be granted without issuing notice to the caveator. Such an order granting interim relief passed cannot be held lacking jurisdiction. It is valid in the eyes of Law until it is set aside in an appropriate proceeding7.

When Can A Caveat Be Lodged?

Normally, a caveat can be lodged after the judgment is pronounced or order is passed. In exceptional circumstances it is can be filed before the pronouncement also. Section 148-A plays a pivotal role only in cases where the caveator is entitled to be heard before an order is made8. Any case for which the code hasn't mentioned notice, a caveat would not lie there.

Serving Of Notice

When a caveat is lodged, a notice is served by the Court of the application filed on the caveator.

The Applicant who has been served with caveat should furnish the caveator a copy of the application along with copies of papers, documents submitted by him in support of the application made by him. This is done at the expense of the caveator.9

Time Limit
A caveat lodged would remain in force for 90 days from the date of its filing. After the said period is over, it can be renewed.

Rights And Duties Of Caveator
Once caveat is lodged, there lies a duty upon him to serve a notice of caveat by regd. Post on the person by whom an application has been made or is expected to be made.10

Where there is an uncertainty of the person likely to institute an application, the court can dispense with the service of notice of caveat.11

Of Applicant
Applicant has a duty to furnish the caveator forthwith a copy of the application along with all the supporting documents, at the expense of the caveator12. The provision is obligatory in nature.

Of Court
Once caveat is lodged, it is the duty of the Court to issue notice on caveator on the application filed. The duty enables the caveator to appear and oppose the granting of an interim relief in favor of the applicant.

The intention of the legislature in enacting Section 148-A is to provide an opportunity to be heard to the caveator. The hearing under this provision is mandatory. It is a condition precedent to serve notice before passing an order and unless this condition is satisfied, it is impermissible for the Court to pass an interim order which would affect the caveator. Passing such orders without complying with the condition would defeat the object of Section 148-A.

  • Ram Chandra Aggarwal vs. State of U.P., 1966 Supp SCR 393
  • Chandrajit vs. Ganeshiya, AIR 1987 All 360
  • Babubhai Nagindas Shah vs. State, (1983) 24 (I) Guj LR 784
  • Madhukantaben vs. Arvindlal Kantilal & Co., 1985 Guj LH 391
  • Akbar Ali vs. Alla Pitchai, 2000 AIHC 115 (Mad)
  • Section 148-A(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
  • State of Karnataka vs. NIL (1999) Kant LJ 637
  • Section 148-A(4) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
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