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Place Of Suing Under Civil Procedure Code

Each court has its territorial jurisdiction notified in the official gazette. Special Acts do define the subject wise jurisdiction as to which court would have jurisdiction to try cases under that specific statue. Jurisdiction of a Court related with the value of the suit or the pecuniary jurisdiction also decides the trial court of a suit having specific value. Jurisdiction of a court to entertain the suit/case should be decided at the entry level/point. In this context, jurisdiction would ordinarily involve four main factors i.e.
  • Territorial jurisdiction,
  • Pecuniary jurisdiction,
  • Subject-wise jurisdiction, and
  • Appellate jurisdiction.

Territorial Jurisdiction: Territorial jurisdiction of the court divides the court on vertical basis. The suit/case must come under the territorial jurisdiction of the court dealing with the suit/case. The territorial jurisdiction of a court will be determined by the territory in which the subject matter related to the suit is situated in and the subject matter can be any property, immovable as well as movable. The point is very well defined in the chapter "Place of suing" i.e. section 15 to 20 of the CPC. The provisions, as far as territorial jurisdiction is concerned, in toto state that:

General Principle:
  • Sec. 15 of the C.P.C. lays down that every suit has to be instituted in the court of the lowest grade.
  • Sec. 16-Suits to be instituted where the subject matter is situate.
    • As per sec. 16 of the C.P.C.:
      Subject to pecuniary and other limitations prescribed by law, suits for recovery of immovable property without rent, suits for partition of immovable property, suits based on mortgage or charge on immovable property, suits for determination of right or interest in immovable property, suits for compensation for wrong to immovable property and suits for recovery of movable property under distrait or attachment, have to be instituted in the court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situate. There is a proviso to Sec.16 of CPC which says that a suit to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for wrong to immovable property held by the defendant, when the relief sought for in the suit can be obtained through personal obedience of the defendant, the same can be filed either in the court in whose jurisdiction the property is situate or in the court, in whose local jurisdiction the defendant resides, carries on business or personally works for gain.
  • Sec. 17-When immovable property is situate in the jurisdiction of different courts.
    • Under Section 17 of the C.P.C.-, when the immovable property is situated within the jurisdiction of different Courts, suit in respect thereof can be filed in any of the courts, but as per the proviso there under, in respect of the value of the subject matter of the suit, the entire claim is cognizable by such court.
  • Sec. 18-When it is uncertain as to in whose local limits of jurisdiction of two or more courts the immovable property is situate.
    • As per Section 18(1) of the C.P.C.,- the suit can be filed in any one of those courts and the only condition is that the court entertaining the suit has to record a statement about the alleged uncertainty, but the proviso there under stipulates that the Court that entertains the suit must be competent as regards the nature and value of the suit to exercise the jurisdiction.
  • Sec.19-Suit relating to compensation for wrongs to persons or movables.
    Sec.19 of the C.P.C. says the suit can be filed either in the Court in whose jurisdiction the alleged wrongs were committed or in the Court in whose jurisdiction the defendant resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain.
  • Sec.20- Suits other than those referred to in Sections 16 to 19 to be instituted.
    As per Sec. 20 of the CPC, such other suits have to be instituted in the Court in whose jurisdiction the defendant resides, or carry some business or personally works for gain or the cause of action wholly or in part arises.

Golden Rule of place of suing:
  1. There are three rules relating to the jurisdiction of the Court:
    1. Every suit must be instituted before the lowest competent court.
    2. No court shall entertain any suit the value of which exceeds the pecuniary limits.
    3. No court shall entertain any suit the cognizance of which is expressly or impliedly barred.
  2. Pecuniary/monetary jurisdiction:
    Pecuniary jurisdiction of the court divides the court on vertical basis. The monetary limit i.e. the suit value that is triable by a particular class of civil court has been provided under the Orissa Civil Courts Act. At present, the pecuniary limit of suit value triable in the courts of Civil judge (Junior Division) is limited to Rs.50,000/- whereas the courts of Senior Civil Judge can try suits involving valuation exceeding Rs.50,000/-. A court cannot entertain a suit exceeding its pecuniary jurisdiction as provided under section 6 of the C.P.C., which reads as: 'Save in so far as is otherwise expressly provided, nothing herein contained shall operate to give any Court jurisdiction over suits the amount or value of the subject-matter of which exceeds the pecuniary limits (if any) of its ordinary jurisdiction.' Regarding jurisdiction, it is to be kept in mind that jurisdiction cannot be conferred by agreement between the parties vide Judgment in the case of Rai Bahadur Basakha Singh & Sons vs Indian Drugs & Pharmaceutical reported in [AIR 1979 DELHI 220], [AIR 1979 DELHI 220].

    In a suit for partition the value of the Plaintiff's share (in case the plaintiff is dispossessed of his share in the joint property) determines the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court but not that of the entire property vide the Judgment in the case of Neelavathi And Ors vs M. Natarajan And Ors [1980 AIR 691], [1980 SCR (2) 307].
  3. Original/subject wise jurisdiction: Original jurisdiction decides whether the court has jurisdiction to entertain a suit/case of that nature on the basis of the statues. Section 9 of CPC deals with the jurisdiction of civil courts in India. It says that the courts shall (subject to the provisions herein contained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. Courts with original jurisdiction can conduct trial of such cases and these courts are called courts of first instance.
To explain it better, a civil Court has jurisdiction to try a suit, if two conditions are fulfilled:
  1. The suit must be of a civil nature; and
  2. The cognizance of such a suit should not have been expressly or impliedly barred.

(a) Suit of civil nature:
  1. Meaning:
    In order that a civil court may have jurisdiction to try a suit, the first condition which must be satisfied is that the suit must be of a civil nature. The word 'civil' has not been defined in the code. But, according to the dictionary meaning, it pertains to private rights and remedies of a citizen as distinguished from criminal, political, etc. The expression 'civil nature' is wider than the expression 'Civil proceedings'. Thus, a suit is of a civil nature if the principal question therein relates to the determination of a civil right and enforcement thereof. It is not the status of the parties to the suit, but the subject matter & relief sought for in the suit, which determines whether or not the suit is of a civil nature.
Special Jurisdiction:
under certain enactments. Courts of Subordinate Judges have no jurisdiction at all to take cognizance of proceedings under those enactments. For example suits under the Special Marriage Act, under the Companies Act, 1956, the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, etc., are triable by the District Judge. There are proceedings under certain other enactments of which subordinate Judges can take cognizance only if specifically empowered in that behalf (see e.g., Section 4-A of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, Section 388 of the Indian Succession Act etc.)

The Orissa High Court in its notification dated 14.11.1961 has notified that the Munsifs/Principal, Civil Judges can entertain cases under chapter X of the Indian Succession Act for issue of Successions Certificate. Similar notification has also been made in respect of Insolvency Petitions. One more provision noteworthy is that when a Family Court is established under the Family Courts Act, 1984, under section 8 of the Act, the jurisdiction of the District Judge, Senior Civil Judge and the Judicial magistrate working in that particular area upon all such cases as defined to be triable by the Family Court, shall cease.

Very often it so happens that a party files a suit with a prayer to enforce his right but which is guaranteed under the constitution. Such a petition would come under the writ jurisdiction of the High Court/Supreme Court only. Therefore, it is very important to differentiate between the suits which relate to a civil nature and that relate to writ jurisdiction of the High Court/Supreme Court under the constitutional power. Some examples where the civil court does have jurisdiction as is barred under some special statues:
  1. Disputes relating to service in private colleges are decided by the State Education Tribunal Orissa and Civil Courts shall have no jurisdiction.
  2. Dispute regarding claims of energy charges on reports submitted by Vigilance wing of the electricity distribution authority shall be decided by the Committee formed for the purpose and so Civil Courts would have no jurisdiction.

The specific provision under The Electricity Act, 2003 is: Section 145 of the Electricity Act. (Civil courts not to have jurisdiction): No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any suit or proceeding in respect of any matter which an assessing officer referred to in section 126 or an appellate authority referred to in section 127 or the adjudicating officer appointed under this Act is empowered by or under this Act to determine and no injunction shall be granted by any court or other authority in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance of any power conferred by or under this Act.

Sometimes a confusion may arise as to if a civil court can extend its jurisdiction under the provisions of sec. 151 of the CPC. In K.K. Velusamy v. N. Palaanisamy [2011 AIR SCW 2296] & [2011 (3) AIR JHAR R 545] the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India held that Section 151 does not confer any special jurisdiction on Civil Courts, but only provides for the exercise of discretionary power to secure the ends of justice, in accordance with law. This means that a court cannot pass any such order that may be prohibited under any law in order to secure the ends of Justice.

One more point may be noted that when civil court has jurisdiction to decide one relief, the suit is maintainable (i.e. the court has jurisdiction to try the suit) irrespective of the fact that whether other reliefs can be granted. Regarding industrial disputes, the Supreme Court in the case of "Premier Automobiles Ltd vs Kamlekar Shantaram Wadke [1975 AIR 2238], [1976 SCR (1) 427] decided on 26 August, 1975" laid down the following principles as relevant to the jurisdiction of civil courts in association with industrial disputes:
  1. If a conflict is not an industrial conflict, nor does it correlate to the enforcement of any other right under the Industrial Dispute Act, the remedy lies only in civil court.
  2. If a conflict is an industrial conflict emerging out of a right or liability under the general or public law, the jurisdiction of the court is an alternative left to the person involved to decide his remedy for the support which is sufficient to be given in a particular remedy.
  3. If an industrial dispute relates to the implementation of the right or a duty organized under the act, then the only remedy available is to get adjudication under the act.
  4. Appellate Jurisdiction: Every statute defines its appellate authority. However, there is much more difference between a revisional Court and an Appellate Court.
The territorial jurisdiction of Appellate court/Revisional court are pre defined in terms of the subject as well as area. The concept of the place of suing helps to determine the jurisdiction of each court.

  • Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
Written By: Harihar Prasad Satapathy, Administrative Officer, Family Court, Rayagada

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