Civil Courts and their Jurisdiction
By Arunesh Bhardwaj July 29, 2016
Jurisdiction of Courts with respect to Civil Cases
The nature of the offence determines whether court of Civil Judicature or Criminal Judicature will be the one who will have jurisdiction over the matter. If the offence is of civil nature it will follow the hierarchy of the Civil Courts. When it comes to Civil Judicature, the jurisdiction of the Court is divided on the basis of their Pecuniary Jurisdiction and Territorial Jurisdiction.
Section 3 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred as CPC); determines the subordination of the Civil Courts. The District Court are subordinate to the High Court and all the other Civil Courts are inferior to the District Court and all the Court of Small Causes are subordinate to the High Court and District Court.
As per Section 6 of CPC, every Court will have jurisdiction over those disputes which are within its pecuniary limit and every suit has to be filed in the lowest grade competent to try it.[i] This pecuniary jurisdiction is decided on the basis of the value of the suit. After valuation, the Court having pecuniary jurisdiction as well as the territorial jurisdiction over the matter can try the suit.
A dispute between A and B took place in a certain village of Agra. The value of the suit is 2 crore. Then, it has to be seen that in this case the pecuniary jurisdiction lies with the District Court of Agra which also has territorial jurisdiction in that particular village; and hence in this case the court of lowest grade competent to try this suit will be District Court of Agra.
The plaintiff needs to mention in its plaint the facts which show that the court has jurisdiction over the matter in hand. [Order VII Rule 1(f)] These facts will include the valuation of suit as the pecuniary jurisdiction of any court is decided by the value of the suit.
Court of Small Cause
The Court of Small Causes are established under The Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887. The object of this Act is to consolidate all the laws related to Small Cause Court. In this Act, under Section 15 (2) it has been directed that all suits of civil nature whose value is not more than five hundred rupees will be cognizable by a Court of Small Causes, subject to local Rules and Order issued by the High Court.
The pecuniary limit of the District Court is decided by the High Court. In case of Delhi, the pecuniary limit of District Court was Rs. 20 Lakh which after the amendment is increased to Rs. 2 crore.[ii]
The original pecuniary jurisdiction of a High Court is for the suits wherein the value of the matter involved is more than 2 crore.
Objection to Pecuniary Jurisdiction
The pecuniary jurisdiction is determined by the value of the suit which the plaintiff determines and mentions in his plaint. In case of an objection regarding pecuniary jurisdiction of Court, the trial court will inquire into that and will pass an appropriate order. In case, the objection is being raised by defendant in an appellate court or a revisional court, there are three conditions given in Section 21 that needs to be fulfilled and they are:
- The objection was taken in the court of first instance,
- At the earliest possible opportunity and in case the issues are settled, before settlement of issues, and
- There has to be a consequent failure of justice.
In the case of Pathumma v Kuntalan Kutty AIR 1981 SC 1683, it was held that, it is necessary that the above mentioned three conditions must co-exist.
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.
Section 16 of the Code gives us five kinds of suits related to immovable property, wherein the suit can be instituted in the Court within whose jurisdiction the property is situated, subject to the pecuniary jurisdiction. The five kinds are, suits:
- For the recovery of immovable property.
- For the partition of property.
- For foreclosure, sale, or redemption (mortgage), or charge upon the property.
- For determining any other right to or interest in immovable property.
- For compensation for wrong to immovable property.
In case, the suit is being filed to obtain relief or compensation for wrong to immovable property, it can be instituted at the option of the plaintiff either in the Court
- Within whose local limit the property is situated, or
- Within whose local limit defendant
- Actually and voluntarily resides
- Carries on business
- Personally works for gains
Provided that the following conditions are satisfied:
- Property is held by or on behalf of the defendant.
- Relief sought can be entirely obtained through the personal obedience of the defendant.
- Property is situated in India.
In case, the property in dispute is situated in the jurisdiction of different courts, as per Section 17, the suit can be instituted in any of the Courts within whose jurisdiction any portion of property is situated. The only condition is that the entire claim must be cognizable by such Court.
If there is uncertainty about the jurisdiction of Court with respect to the disputed property, the suit can be instituted in any of the Court, after recording a statement about the uncertainty. [Section 18]
If the suit is for recovery of movable property which is under attachment, the suit can be filed in the Court within whose local limit such property is situated. [Section 16 (f)]. As per Section 19, if the suit is regarding compensation for wrongs to person or to any movable property the plaintiff will have the option to file the suit either in the court within whose local limit
- the wrong was committed or
- the defendant
- resides or
- carries on business or
- personally works for gain
All other suits, subject to above mentioned conditions, can be instituted in any of the following courts at the option of the plaintiff:
- The Court within whose jurisdiction the cause of action arises.
- The Court within whose jurisdiction, the defendant resides, or carries on business or personally works for gain.
- In case there is more than one defendant, the Court of the place where any of the defendants resides or carries on business or personally works for gain. This is with the condition that either, the leave of the Court is taken or there is acceptance by the other defendant for instituting the suit at such place. [Section 20]
[i] Section 15 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
[ii] http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=129974 last visited on June 23, 2016.
- Takwani, C.K.; “Civil Procedure (CPC) with Limitation Act, 1963”; 7th Edition Eastern Book Company
- Jain, M.P.; “The Code of Civil Procedure”; 2nd Edition; Wadhwa and Company
- http://www.burdwanbarassociation.in/files/THE%20PROVINCIAL%20SMALL%20CAUSE%20COURTS%20ACT,%201887.pdf last visited on June 24, 2016
- http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/jurisdiction-of-civil-court-and-place-of-suing-1780-1.html last visited on June 24, 2016
- http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/jurisdiction-of-civil-court-under-civil-procedure-code-508-1.html last visited on June 24, 2016
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