Know The Jurisdiction of Civil Courts under the Civil Procedure Code
Know The Jurisdiction of Civil Courts under the Civil Procedure Code

 

Introduction

English law recognizes that where there is law, there is a remedy (ubi jus ebi remedium). So anyone having grievance has the right to sue provided under legal provisions. To ensure right to sue the litigant can institute a suit in any court of civil judicature.

Meaning of Jurisdiction

  • The term jurisdiction has been derived from two Latin terms – ‘juris’ meaning law and ‘dicta’ meaning speech. So the term basically means “I speak by the law”.

 

  • Jurisdiction has not been defined under the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter CPC or the Code). Black’s Law Dictionary defines the term as “A court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree.”

 

  • If a case has been decided by a court which does not have jurisdiction to decide that matter, such lack of jurisdiction will go back to the root of matter and authority of the court to decide that matter can be challenged.

 

Jurisdiction and consent

  • Jurisdiction is the power of a court to decide a matter where such power is provided by the statute and cannot be conferred or taken away by mere consent of the parties involved in the suit.

 

  • If a court does not have jurisdiction in a matter, it cannot be acquiesced by mere consent of both parties. So, parties cannot confer jurisdiction upon the court by an agreement in a matter on which such court does not have jurisdiction[i].

 

  • Similarly, if a court has jurisdiction over a matter, parties cannot by mutual consent take away such jurisdiction from the court.

The irregular exercise of jurisdiction and want of jurisdiction-

LACK OF JURISDICTION IRREGULAR EXERCISE OF JURISDICTION
1.      When a court does not have jurisdiction to decide a matter in the first place, it is lack of jurisdiction. 1.      When the court having jurisdiction exercises its power wrongly, it is an irregular exercise of jurisdiction.
2.      So there is no jurisdiction at all. 2.      The court has jurisdiction to decide the matter but it merely exercises its power irregularly.
3.      The decision given in lack of jurisdiction can be declared null. 3.      The judgment pronounced by the irregular exercise of jurisdiction is not null because the power to decide includes the power to decide rightly as well as wrongly.
4.      There cannot be any appeal or revision of such judgment. 5.      The wrongly decided judgment can be appealed for or can be corrected during revision.

Determining factor of Jurisdiction-

  • The declarations made in the plaint by the plaintiff are used to determine the jurisdiction of the court.

 

  • So, plaintiff’s contentions are that decide the jurisdiction of the court and not defendants contentions made in the written statement.

 

  • Such facts in the plaint that decide jurisdiction of a court are known as jurisdictional facts.

 

  • Whether such facts in the plaint are true or not would not affect the jurisdiction of the court as jurisdiction is dependent upon initial assumption by the court that facts stated in the plaint are true.

 

  • If they actually are true or not would be determined only after the completion of proceedings. So it can therefore not determine the jurisdiction which has to be decided in the first place to start with the proceedings.

 

  • Whether a civil court has jurisdiction over a matter or not will basically be decided by that civil court itself only. It has inherent power to decide on the question of its jurisdiction.

 

  • However, if any statute expressly negates its jurisdiction over some specific matter(s), then the statute will prevail and the court if in contravention of that statute confers jurisdiction on that matter to itself, such usurpation of jurisdiction can be challenged through certiorari.

 

Types of Jurisdictions-

CATEGORIES OF JURISDICTION Meaning Example
1.      Civil and criminal jurisdiction Civil jurisdiction is the power of a court to deal with civil matters whereas criminal jurisdiction is the power of the court to hear and decide criminal matters. Family matters, property disputes, tax matters etc. will be decided by civil courts. A matter involving any crime like murder, theft, robbery etc. will be decided by criminal courts.
2.      Territorial or local jurisdiction The territory within which a court can exercise its powers is called its territorial jurisdiction. District court of a region has power to decide matters arising within or related to immovable property situated within that district only. Similarly, High Court of a region for example of Maharashtra will have jurisdiction to decide matters arising within Maharshtra only and not outside.
3.      Pecuniary jurisdiction Means the authority of court to hear and decide matters on the basis of monetary value of subject matter of the suit as pleaded in the plaint. District court and high courts have no limit up to which they can entertain the matters. But monetary limit for civil courts has already been provided.
4.      Subject matter jurisdiction The courts have been divided on the basis of subject matter on which they can entertain a suit. Family matters can dealt by family courts only and not by NCLT that specifically deals with company matters only or by tax tribunals etc.
5.      Original and appellate jurisdiction Original jurisdiction is the power of court to entertain a suit in first instance. When the aggrieved party appeals that judgment given by court of first instance in other court, such court is called the appellate court and its power to entertain that appeal is its appellate jurisdiction. Matters related to disputes between states can only be filed in Supreme Court only under its original jurisdiction and no district court or high court has the power to entertain that suit.
6.      Exclusive and concurrent jurisdiction Exclusive jurisdiction is when there is only one court which can hear and decide a matter. Concurrent jurisdiction is when two or more courts can entertain a matter at the same time. If a suit for divorce can be filed in Delhi or in Haryana, both courts have concurrent jurisdiction but if it was decided by court in Delhi then Delhi High Court has exclusive jurisdiction to entertain appeal arising from it.

 

Section 9 CPC-

Section 9 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (hereinafter CPC) states that unless it is expressly or impliedly barred, civil court will have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature.

This definition, therefore, leads to following points ingredients:

Suit of civil nature-

The CPC does not contain the definition for the term ‘civil nature’ and it carries the ordinary meaning of civil which means anything dealing with private citizen’s rights and remedies.

So, a suit of civil nature would be anything in which the moot question would be the determination of civil rights and remedies thereon.

The subject matter of suit would be the determining factor and not the status of the parties. For example, it would not be relevant that how the party has acquired the right but what the right really is, is what determines if the suit is of civil nature.

Cognizance not barred-

It is also necessary that any statute should not have expressly barred the jurisdiction of that court.

In corollary, if any statute provides exclusive jurisdiction to any court over a matter all other court’s jurisdiction over that matter will be considered to be impliedly barred.

Presumption as to jurisdiction-

If the question as to whether the court has jurisdiction over a matter or not cannot be conclusively determined by any means then it will be presumed that it has jurisdiction over it.

The burden of proof-

If one of the concerned party contends that the court trying the suit does not have jurisdiction to entertain that matter, the burden of proof primarily would lie upon the party who contends that such civil court does not have jurisdiction over that matter.

 

Case Laws-

Secretary of State v. Mask & Co

  • This is a landmark judgment given by privy council where it was held that jurisdiction of a court cannot be merely inferred from somewhere.
  • It needs to be expressly provided in the clear language of any statute that such court has jurisdiction over that matter or that some other court has exclusive jurisdiction over that matter and so the said court’s jurisdiction over that matter has been clearly barred by that statute.
  • Even if the jurisdiction has been expressly or impliedly barred by some statute the court has the power to discuss on the merits of that provision of statute.

Abdul Waheed Khan v. Bhawani

  • The Privy Council decision in Mask case was further affirmed by Hon’ble Supreme Court in this case.

 

  • It was held that the act or statute barring the jurisdiction must not be liberally interpreted but should be construed strictly.

 

Hasham Abbas Sayyad v. Usman Abbas Sayyad

  • The primary question that came before the court for discussion was the status of judgement passed by a court whose jurisdiction has been expressly or impliedly barred by a statute.

 

  • Hon’ble Supreme Court held any decision passed by the court not having jurisdiction would be coram non judice and so such a decision would be a nullity.

 

  • The principles of estoppel, waiver, and acquiescence or even res judicata will not be applicable over such decision passed by the court which did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

 

  • However, the court further made a distinction between types of jurisdiction and stated that if there is lack of territorial or pecuniary jurisdiction, the decision will not be per se null but if there is lack of subject matter jurisdiction, nullity of decision would be applicable.

 

World Sports Group Mauritius Ltd. v MSM Satellite Singapore PTE

  • In this case, Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the court’s jurisdiction cannot be acquiesced by mere consent of parties interested in the suit.

 

  • Hence parties to the suit cannot make an agreement to provide for or oust the jurisdiction of a court.

 

  • Even if parties have chosen a court having concurrent jurisdiction through an agreement even then other concurrent courts having jurisdiction have the power to try that suit.

 

Bhau Ram v. Janak Singh

  • In this case, the question before the court was that whether averments of defendants can be relevant In deciding jurisdiction of the court.

 

  • It was held that It is well-established fact that jurisdiction is decided by contentions of plaintiff made in the plaint.

 

  • Therefore contentions in a written statement or in any other document provided by the defendants cannot decide on the question of jurisdiction of the court.

 

Major S.S. Khanna v. Brig. F.J. Dillon

  • It was held that a court has power to decide on all the issues raised in a suit. If the jurisdiction of court is disputed, the issue relating to jurisdiction will be decided first even though it is based on some facts of the case.

 

  • If an issue is pending before the court related to question regarding facts of a case then issue relation to jurisdiction of court needs to be decided first.

 

Conclusion

Hence it can be concluded that Section 9 of CPC primarily states about the jurisdiction of a court and lays down that subject to any provision of any statute that expressly provides or impliedly bars the jurisdiction of any civil court, it will have jurisdiction to decide to try all matters. Hence, the jurisdiction of a civil court can be ousted only when any statute provides for special courts or tribunals to try some specific matters..

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here