The goal of justice is to reinstate a person’s violated rights. The proper venue for suing should be known to the victim since courts are the agents of law and justice. Since we are discussing civil matters, sections 15 to 21 of the Civil Procedure Code set forth where to sue in civil proceedings. The Latin words Juris, which means “law,” and Dicere, which means “to speak,” are the origin of the word jurisdiction. The term “jurisdiction” relates to the court’s ability to recognize an offence and ascertain the basis for action. The country’s procedural law for all civil matters is provided under the Civil Procedure Code. It is based on the English principle “Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium,” which states that whenever a right exists, a remedy also exists. When someone’s rights have been violated, they might go to court to seek redress or restitution. The subject matter, monetary worth, and local boundaries will be taken into consideration while determining the scope of jurisdiction. As a result, when determining whether a court has jurisdiction, the court’s jurisdictional limitations, the nature of the case, and the suit’s financial significance must all be taken into account. In Official Trustee V. Sachindra Nath, the Supreme Court stated that before a court can be considered to have jurisdiction, it must be competent to grant the relief requested, even if the forum approached may have competency to deal with the subject-matter, the suit is well within the pecuniary limitation and within the local limits assigned to that court as well.
The plaintiff must file a lawsuit at the court of the lowest grade that is qualified to hear it, according to Section 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The provisions for movable property are divided between Sections 16 and 18 of the aforementioned Code. Suits seeking compensation for harms done to people or moving property are specifically covered by Section 19. The well-established idea that flaws as to territorial or financial jurisdiction might be waived is acknowledged in Section 21 of the Code. Section 21-A of the Code specifically forbids a substantive suit to annul a judgement rendered by a court on the grounds of lack of territorial jurisdiction.
Section 9 of CPC: Jurisdiction of Civil Court
Section 9 itself does not define the term “civil.” Civil rights are private rights and remedies that are distinct from criminal and political rights, according to the dictionary. The term “nature” refers to an object or person’s identity or fundamental qualities. As a result, we can infer that a lawsuit of a civil type involves a conflict over private rights and must not be connected to a political or criminal concern.
All lawsuits may be tried in civil court, with the exception of those that are expressly or implausibly excluded. Even while such a right may wholly depend on the outcomes of disputes regarding religious ceremonies or rites, a litigation that is related to the right to property or an action in which office is contested is considered to be of a civil nature. It doesn’t matter if the office’s costs are attached or not, or if this office is connected to a specific location or not. The term “action that is expressly barred” refers to an action that is prohibited by any statute or other law now in effect. The legislature has the opportunity to limit the civil court’s ability to hear a certain type of case while still operating within the bounds of the authority granted to it by the Indian Constitution. The creation of the tribunal has eliminated the civil court’s jurisdiction over the matters that are assigned to it in the first instance; nevertheless, the civil court may still investigate any legal issues or violations of any provision of the act that established the tribunal. The Revenue Court, a court with exclusive jurisdiction under the Code of Criminal Procedure, or a special tribunal dealing with an issue under a special statute have no authority in civil cases. For example, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Cooperative Tribunal etc.
When a lawsuit is impliedly prohibited, it means that the general rule of law or ordinary practice of law prohibits it. The primary goal of implied bar is to prevent the court from dealing with matters that could harm the people or go against their desire. The Supreme Court noted in P.M.A. Metropolitan v. Moran Mar Marthoma that:
- The terms used in section 9 have both a positive and a negative interpretation.
- The earlier portion has a broader meaning since it includes all civil matters; in contrast, the latter portion has a broader meaning because it excludes those that are either openly or implicitly prohibited.
- The legislative goals are expressed in the two justifications listed in Section 9.
- It required the court to exert its authority over the enforcement of private rights.
- No court may choose to reject a case that is covered by this clause.
- Taking cognizance of the subject is required because the word “must” is used, indicating that it is a mandatory part.
According to Section 9 of the CPC, the Civil Court “has inherent jurisdiction in all sorts of civil matter unless the claim is expressly or impliedly excluded,” according to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Shankar Narayanan Potti vs. K. Sreedevi. This means that by including a provision or phrase in any Act itself, the Legislature may limit the civil court’s ability to hear cases.
In the case of State of A.P. VS. Manjeti Laxmikanth Rao, the court concluded that it is necessary to consider the legislature’s intent in order to develop the test to assess the exclusion of civil court. In other words, the test is carried out to see if there is any justification for the exclusion of jurisdiction and, if there is, to further establish whether the justification is justified or not. Despite the fact that justification is not up for judicial review. After the court has satisfied itself as to the cause, it must then decide whether or not the Act excluding the jurisdiction offers an alternative remedy for the same. An alternative remedy must be considered in relation to the duties that a civil court would have to perform in the absence of such an exclusion, and they would have the authority to issue any orders that a civil court would have issued under comparable circumstances.
The High Court of Calcutta ruled in Bar Council of West Bengal v. Austin that the civil court’s jurisdiction cannot be disregarded where the statute that forbids it does not offer a substitute remedy. In the case of Balawwa v. Hasanabi, it is not required that the entire complaint cannot be brought before a civil court if only a portion of it is barred from its jurisdiction. In the case of Shri Panch Nagar Parak v. Purushottam Das, the court must consider the aim, scheme, and pertinent elements of the Act in order to establish whether a civil court’s jurisdiction is impliedly excluded even in the absence of any express prohibitions in any statute.
Place of suing
The topic of where to sue is covered in sections 15 to 20. To choose the location of a lawsuit, there are three different types of jurisdiction. These are as follows:
- Territorial jurisdictions
- Pecuniary jurisdictions
- Subject matter jurisdiction
The first consideration whenever a lawsuit is filed in court is whether the court has the authority to hear the case. Only the court has the authority to handle the case if it has jurisdiction over territory, money, or subject matter. If none of the aforementioned elements apply to the situation, the court will be deemed to lack jurisdiction or to have improperly exercised its jurisdiction. Depending on the specifics of the case and the court’s lack of jurisdiction, a decision made by an ineligible court will either be void or voidable.
Every lawsuit must be filed in the lowest level court that can handle it. The term “competent” means the court must have the authority to hear the case in light of its financial jurisdiction. The lawsuit will be handled in the initial stages by the lowest grade court that has jurisdiction over monetary value. Then the issue arises: Who will decide the suit’s worth?
Ordinarily, the plaintiff values the case in order to establish the court’s financial jurisdiction, unless it initially appears to the court that the valuation was incorrect. The appraisal will be conducted by the Court and the court will instruct the party to approach the proper forum if the court determines that the valuation was either inflated or undervalued. The plaintiff valuation, not the sum for which the decree is granted, determines the court’s jurisdiction. Let’s use an example to better understand this: Suppose the court has a pecuniary jurisdiction of Rs. 15000 and the suit for the recovery of accounts is filed based on the plaintiff’s assessment of the suit. The appraisal was for Rs. 5000. If the courts later determine that Rs 20,000 is owed, the court is still within its rights to issue a judgement for that sum. The plaintiff’s valuation serves as the basis for determining the court’s jurisdiction. However, this does not imply that the plaintiff is free to sue for any amount he pleases and in any court he pleases. The plaintiff may be required to show that the valuation was done correctly if the court determines that it was done improperly in order to evade the jurisdiction of the right court.
A suit must be filed in the court of the lowest grade that is qualified to hear it, according to Section 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Due of this rule’s procedural nature, it has no bearing on the courts’ authority. Therefore, a decision issued by a higher court cannot be said to have been issued without jurisdiction, as the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court noted in the case of Gopal v. Shamrao. Following is a description of Section 15’s dual purpose:
- lower the demands placed on higher courts; provide comfort to the parties and
- witnesses who could be required to testify in such lawsuits.
According to Section 15, a court’s jurisdiction is established by the plaintiff’s valuation in the complaint, not by the amount for which the court would ultimately issue a decision.
In considering the matter of Kiran Singh v. Chaman Paswan, Justices Aiyar and T.L. Venkatarama considered Section 11 of the Suits Valuation Act, 1887. (1954). According to the idea that a case should not be subject to reversal purely on technical grounds unless there has been a failure of justice, Section 11 of the Suits Valuation Act of 1887 and Sections 21 and 99 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908 are founded on. The Legislature has taken the position that territorial and financial jurisdictional challenges are purely technical issues that should only be addressed by an appeal court in cases where there has been actual damage. Depending on the specifics of each situation, it is necessary to determine whether or not there was prejudice. The jurisdiction under Section 11 is an equitable one to be used when a subordinate court erroneously obtains jurisdiction as a result of overvaluation or undervaluation and a resulting failure of justice. It is neither possible nor desirable to clearly define such jurisdiction or to place restrictions on it. “A party who has moved to a platform of his own choice on his own evaluation cannot himself be heard to complain of any discrimination,” the Apex Court stated. The conclusion of the learned Judges that there were no basis for intervention under Section 11 of the Suits Valuation Act, 1887, in this matter was deemed as correct, with the holding that the appeal heard by the District Court in this particular case was fair and warranted.
The goals of Section 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 were established in the pre-independence case of Mazhar Husain and Anr. vs. Nidhi Lal , which was heard by the Allahabad High Court. The following aims have been met:
- To avoid overburdening of the courts of higher grades with suits;
- To afford the convenience of the parties and witnesses who may be examined in such suits.
In Tara Devi v. Sri Thakur Radha Krishna Maharaj, the defendant filed a written statement in which he raised a preliminary objection, alleging that the plaintiff had diminished the value of the case and casting doubt on the court’s jurisdiction. The Trial Court found that the Court Fees Act of 1870’s Section 7(IV)(c) applied to the dispute and that the Plaintiff had accurately identified the lessee’s leasehold interest. Plaintiff had the right to assign his own value to the relief sought, the Trial Court had noted. It was decided that Plaintiff had accurately assessed the claim and that the necessary court fee had been paid because the valuation was not arbitrary nor unreasonable. Putting a value on the relief while neglecting those criteria may be plainly arbitrary and unreasonable, and the Court will be justified in meddling, the Supreme Court of India observed in its order upholding the Trial Court’s decision in this instance.
The four categories of lawsuits that should be taken into consideration when talking about a court’s geographical jurisdiction are:
- Suits in respect of the immovable property;
- Suits in respect of the movable property;
- Suits in respect of compensation for wrongs;
- Other suits.
According to Section 16, the lawsuit involving real estate must be filed in the county where the real estate is located. It discusses the filing of the lawsuit with regard to:
- Recovery of real estate, whether for profit or rent
- Immovable property division
- Foreclosure, sale, or redemption in the event of a charge against or mortgage on real estate
- Restitution for damage done to real property
- Identifying any rights or interests in connection with real estate
- Recovering mobile property that has been the subject of an attachment or restraint for the aforementioned purposes.
Suits may be filed in a court whose local jurisdiction includes: 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 defendant’s behalf, where the relief can be obtained through his personal attendance, then suits may be instituted in that court:
- the location of the property, or
- the defendant lives there freely and in person, either for personal gain or business.
The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, Section 17, makes provisions for disputes involving real estate that is subject to the jurisdiction of several courts. The section states that lawsuits may be brought before several courts, as long as they have pecuniary jurisdiction over the area in which any component of the property is located. Additionally, Section 18 of the Code establishes a procedure for where to file a lawsuit when local court jurisdictional limits are ambiguous. If the court taking cognizance of the case does not record the statement and an objection is brought before the appellate or revisional court, the appellate or revisional court must determine that there was a failure of justice and that there was no reasonable basis for uncertainty regarding the court’s jurisdiction at the time the objection was made.
Where considering the case of Hakam Singh v. Gammon (India) Ltd., the Supreme Court of India had to decide how the trial of the lawsuit should go when two or more courts have jurisdiction to hear the case. Defendant, a company having its principal place of business in Bombay and a company registered under the Indian Companies Act, 2013, entered into a contract with Plaintiff that provided for arbitration of disputes and specified that disputes would only be addressed in Bombay courts. Plaintiff had opposed to the restriction, claiming it violates public policy. The following is a list of the observations made by the Supreme Court:
- Because of Section 41 of the Arbitration Act of 1940, the full Code of Civil Procedure from 1908 is applicable to all actions brought under the same. The courts’ ability to review an arbitration process in order to submit an award under the 1940 Arbitration Act is governed by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. According to Section 20(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure read with explanation 11, the Respondent corporation was eligible to be sued in Bombay because that city served as its principal place of business.
- If jurisdiction over a court has not already been granted by the Code, the parties may not grant it by agreement. An agreement by the parties that their dispute be resolved in one of those courts would not, however, be against public policy if two courts have the authority to try a complaint under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- The parties were bound by their agreement that the courts in Bombay alone would have jurisdiction to hear cases relating to the arbitration since those courts had that jurisdiction under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in this case.
The meaning of Order VII Rule 10-A was construed by the Supreme Court of India differently from the language of Sections 24(2) and 25(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, in the case of M/s. Exl Careers and Another v. Frankfinn Aviation Services Private Limited. The Apex Court noted that the arrangement under Order VII Rule 10 read with Rule 10-A, where no such discretion is granted and the proceeding must start from scratch, differs from the scheme provided by Sections 24(2) and 25(3) in that it grants the Court the discretion to repeat the proceedings or proceed from the point at which such proceeding was transferred or abandoned.
When a claim is made for a person or item harmed by the error, CPC Section o19 is employed. if the wrong was committed within the confines of a single court’s territorial jurisdiction. The plaintiff may choose to file in either court if the defendant willingly resides, maintains a business, or operates for personal gain within the geographical borders of the jurisdiction of the other court. It is applicable whenever a commercial deal or a contract is broken. The conditions for same are as follows:
- If the wrong was committed within the territorial limits of the jurisdiction of one court, then section 19 will apply.
- The plaintiff has the choice of filing at either court if the defendant voluntarily resides, conducts business, or works for personal gain within the local limits of the jurisdiction of another court.
- If the act constituting the breach of the contract or the cause of action occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of one court.
- Plaintiff may choose to bring a lawsuit in either court if the defendant willingly resides, conducts business, or works for personal benefit inside the local confines of the other court’s jurisdiction.
Subject-matter jurisdiction refers to the court’s ability or authority to address issues in accordance with their nature. Given the variety of circumstances, various courts have been given the authority to rule on various types of lawsuits. A court of civil judge of the junior division, for example, cannot rule on cases involving bankruptcy, probate, divorce, or other related issues. The decree or judgement rendered by the court is void if the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter at hand. Following are the five types of lawsuits in which Section 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 may be used:
- Partition of immovable property
- Recovery of immovable property
- Torts to immovable property
- Determine any rights or interests you may have in the property
- Sale, Foreclosure, or Redemption in relation to a mortgage or charge on real estate
In Harshad Chiman Lal Modi v. DLF Universal Ltd., the Supreme Court ruled that an action under Section 16 of the CPC, 1908, which in this case was in Gurgaon, could be brought (Haryana). The Delhi High Court does not have the authority to consider the matter as a result. In such circumstances, it makes no difference where the cause of action originated or where either party resides.
Section 21: Objection to jurisdiction
Section 21 was created with the intention of protecting honourable litigants and preventing harassment of plaintiffs who have filed claims in good faith before a court that is later found to lack jurisdiction. Dishonest plaintiffs are not permitted to use this provision.
Objection as to territorial jurisdiction
In Seth Hiralal Patni v. Sri Kali Nath, the Supreme Court of India considered a lawsuit brought by the Respondent against the Appellant to collect his commission from a number of share transactions in Agra. The Bombay High Court authorized the filing of the plaint after granting authorization in accordance with Letters Patent Clause 12. According to the Appellant’s written declaration, one of his defences was that the complaint was brought outside the geographical jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court Original Side because the entire cause of action, if any, originated in Agra.
The case was ultimately sent to arbitration. The High Court upheld the arbitrator’s decision to award the Respondent in an appeal. The Appellant raised objections that the Bombay High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit and make the award a court decree since no part of the cause of action had ever arisen within that court’s territorial jurisdiction and that all subsequent proceedings were wholly without jurisdiction. The Respondent had additionally filed an execution proceeding.
The Apex Court ruled that a party to a lawsuit is deemed to have waived their objection to the court’s territorial jurisdiction by agreeing to submit the case to arbitration through the court system. This objection was expressed in their written declaration. It continued by stating that the High Court proceedings, and not the execution procedures, are where the validity of the procedure, the decision granting permission pursuant to Clause 12 of the Letters Patent, or the waiver of any objection should be raised. Only if the court that issued the decree lacked inherent jurisdiction over the case’s subject matter or the parties concerned could it be questioned during execution proceedings. It was decided that Section 21 of the Code of 1908 applied to the dispute over such jurisdiction.
Objection as to pecuniary jurisdiction
The following three requirements must be met in order to bring an objection to pecuniary jurisdiction:
- The first instance court accepted the objection;
- there has been an ensuing injustice; and
- the case was heard as soon as it was feasible.
Objection as to subject-matter jurisdiction
A court’s subject-matter jurisdiction is regarded as a precondition or sine qua non to the acquirement of authority over the stakeholders and the case, and if the court lacks jurisdiction, any judgement, order, or decree issued is void. This was stated by the Calcutta High Court in the case of Hriday Nath Roy v. Ram Chandra Barna Sarma.
The fundamental rule of English law, according to which there is a remedy whenever there is a right, has been adopted by the Indian legal system. It means that a judicial forum must have the authority to decide on the matter and the rights thus guaranteed if a person’s rights are violated, restricted, or the person is stopped by someone from enjoying the rights so given to him. The person must go to the proper forum that has the authority to decide on the case and grant the sought remedies in order to recover their rights or demand compensation for any harm they may have suffered. The forum must have the authority to handle that topic. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908’s Sections 15 to 25 control the venue for civil lawsuits and lay forth the fundamental principles governing the civil courts’ jurisdictions. The concept of the place of litigation is important since it aids in determining each court’s jurisdiction. It advises the plaintiff on the proper venue for their lawsuit. It aids in making the most efficient use of the court’s time while deciding on jurisdictions.
Author: Arryan Mohanty,
Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur/Student