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Jurisdiction and Types of Jurisdiction of Civil Courts in CPC

Updated: May 5


Jurisdiction and Types of Jurisdiction of Civil Courts in CPC


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Jurisdiction of civil courts CPC

Jurisdiction refers to the authority or power vested in a court to hear, decide, and adjudicate upon a legal matter. It encompasses the court's ability to exercise judicial power in relation to a particular case.


In simpler terms, jurisdiction signifies the court's capacity to resolve disputes brought before it or to address matters formally presented for its consideration.


Thus, jurisdiction of a court means the extent of the authority of  a court to administer justice prescribed with reference to the subject-matter, pecuniary value and local limits.


The determination of whether a court has jurisdiction must be made based on its initial assumption of jurisdiction, not at the conclusion of the legal proceedings.


When the jurisdiction of a court is challenged, it inherently possesses the authority to decide the matter. Each court or tribunal is not only entitled but obligated to ascertain whether it has jurisdiction over the matter at hand.


In the case of M.S. Hasnuddin v. State of Maharashtra (AIR 1979 SC 404), the Supreme Court emphasised that when a tribunal with limited jurisdiction assumes jurisdiction and decides a dispute conclusively, it is the responsibility of the court to determine whether the tribunal correctly exercised its jurisdiction within its prescribed limits.


Furthermore, it is established that the court's jurisdiction is determined based on the allegations presented by the plaintiff in the complaint, rather than those made by the defendant in their written statement (Abdulla Bin Ali v. Galappa AIR 1985 SC 577).


The substance of the matter holds more significance than its form when deciding questions of jurisdiction.


When a plaintiff files a suit, they choose the forum in which to pursue their case. If the plaintiff substantiates their claims, they will receive relief from the chosen forum.


However, if the suit is not framed in accordance with the facts and relief is sought from a court lacking the authority to grant it, the suit will be dismissed.


In cases where jurisdiction is limited by territorial or pecuniary constraints, the court may order the plaintiff to present their case before the appropriate court (Ananti v. Channu AIR 1930 All 193).

 
 

Types of Jurisdiction

Broader Sense

In a broader sense, jurisdiction refers to the scope of authority vested in a court to adjudicate on suits, appeals, and applications. It pertains to the "subject-matter" of the legal matter brought before the court.


For example, a consumer court/forum is empowered to handle complaints concerning consumer issues, while a civil court lacks jurisdiction over criminal complaints. Similarly, Causes Court does not have jurisdiction over suits involving specific performance of contracts or dissolution of partnerships.


Testamentary matters, divorce cases, probate proceedings, and insolvency proceedings fall under the jurisdiction of the District or Civil Judge. Various courts are assigned specific types of suits, with some courts restricted from hearing certain types of cases.


To address the increasing complexities of the law, special courts such as Electricity Courts, Corporation Courts, and Consumer Courts have been established.


In cases where a court of limited jurisdiction, such as a Rent Controller, has authority over a specific dispute (e.g., fixation of standard rent), its jurisdiction to address collateral issues (e.g., title of the landlord to the property) is only prima facie, and the jurisdiction of a Civil Court to conclusively decide such matters remains intact (L/C v India Automobiles AIR 1991 SC 884).


Jurisdiction can also be categorised into original and appellate jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction pertains to a court's authority to hear and decide suits for the first time after their initiation, while appellate jurisdiction involves hearing and deciding appeals.


Courts like Munsif's Courts and Courts of Civil Judges possess original jurisdiction only, whereas District Courts and High Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction.


The Supreme Court primarily functions as a forum for appellate jurisdiction, with original jurisdiction exercised only in specified or exceptional cases.


Additionally, when a High Court or the Supreme Court adjudicates on writs under the Constitution for their intended purposes, it is referred to as exercising writ jurisdiction.


Technical Sense


In its technical sense, jurisdiction encompasses not only the authority of a court to adjudicate on the subject matter of a suit but also its jurisdictional limits concerning locality and pecuniary matters.


Territorial or local jurisdiction refers to the geographic boundaries within which a court is empowered to operate. Each court is assigned specific territorial limits determined by the government.


For instance, a District Judge presides over a designated district and cannot extend their authority beyond those boundaries. The jurisdiction of a High Court extends to the entire territory of the state in which it is situated, while the Supreme Court's jurisdiction covers the entirety of India.


Furthermore, a court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on a suit involving immovable property situated beyond its local limits.

 
 
Sections 16-20 of CPC
  1. Court in which suits to be instituted: Every suit must be initiated in the court of the lowest grade competent to try it.

  2. Suits to be instituted where subject-matter situate: Subject to any monetary or other constraints outlined by law, suits concerning the following matters must be initiated in the court within whose local jurisdiction the property in question is situated:

  • Recovery of immovable property with or without rent or profits

  • Partition of immovable property

  • Foreclosure, sale, or redemption in mortgage or charge cases involving immovable property

  • Determination of any right or interest in immovable property

  • Compensation for wrong to immovable property

  • Recovery of movable property under distraint or attachment


However, a suit regarding immovable property held by or on behalf of the defendant may be instituted in the court where the property is situated or where the defendant resides, carries on business, or personally works for gain, provided the relief sought can be obtained through the defendant's personal obedience.


  1. Suits for immovable property situate within jurisdiction of different Courts: If a suit involves immovable property located within the jurisdictions of different courts, it may be instituted in any court where any portion of the property is situated, provided that court is competent to hear the entire claim.

  2. Place of Institution of suit where local limits of jurisdiction of Courts are uncertain: If uncertainty arises regarding the local jurisdiction of two or more courts over immovable property, any of those courts may entertain and dispose of the suit upon recording a statement about the alleged uncertainty. The decree issued by the court in such a suit holds the same effect as if the property were situated within its local limits of jurisdiction.

  3. Suits for compensation for wrongs to person or movables: If a suit involves compensation for wrongs done to a person or movable property, and the wrong occurred within the jurisdiction of one court while the defendant resides, carries on business, or works for gain within the jurisdiction of another court, the plaintiff may choose to institute the suit in either of the said courts.

  4. Other suits to be instituted where defendants reside or cause of action arises: Subject to certain limitations, every suit must be instituted in a court within whose local jurisdiction:

  5. The defendant resides, carries on business, or works for gain

  6. Any of the defendants reside, carry on business, or work for gain, provided the leave of the court is obtained, or the defendants who do not meet these criteria acquiesce in the institution of the suit

  7. The cause of action arises, wholly or in part.


Pecuniary jurisdiction pertains to the monetary limits within which a court is authorised to hear and decide suits or appeals. Civil courts across India are categorised into various grades, each with jurisdiction over suits or appeals of different monetary values.


The law stipulates that a court can exercise jurisdiction only over suits whose subject matter falls within the pecuniary limits specified for that court (Sec. 6).


Certain courts, such as High Courts and District Courts, have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction, meaning they can adjudicate on matters of any value.


However, other courts have jurisdiction restricted to suits below a specified monetary threshold. Therefore, if a court is empowered to handle suits up to a certain amount, it cannot entertain suits exceeding that pecuniary limit.


Adjudication beyond the prescribed limit would render the decision void.




Jurisdiction and Consent


The principle remains firmly established that consent holds no authority to grant or remove the jurisdiction of a court. In the prominent case of A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, as articulated by Mukharji, J. (at that time), it was emphasised that the directives of this Court could not bestow jurisdiction upon the High Court of Bombay to adjudicate on any matter beyond its existing purview.


Expanding on this notion, it was further affirmed that the authority to establish or broaden jurisdiction is inherently legislative, as is the prerogative to grant or revoke the right of appeal.

 
 

Only Parliament possesses the authority to enact such changes through legislation. No court, whether superior, inferior, or a combination of both, holds the power to extend a court's jurisdiction or strip an individual of their rights to review and appeal.


In the case of Kiran Singh v. Chaman Paswan, the Supreme Court underscored a fundamental principle: a decree issued by a court lacking jurisdiction is deemed null and void.


Its invalidity can be contested whenever and wherever it is invoked, even during execution proceedings or in collateral matters.


A jurisdictional deficiency undermines the very authority of the court to issue any decree, and such a flaw cannot be remedied even through the parties' consent.


Conversely, when a court possesses jurisdiction to adjudicate a dispute, parties cannot relinquish or invalidate it through consent.


Any attempt to completely exclude the court's jurisdiction would be unlawful and unenforceable, as it contravenes public policy (ex dolo malo non oritur actio).


However, if multiple courts have jurisdiction over a case, parties can mutually agree to select a specific forum and exclude others.


In such instances, where no inherent lack of jurisdiction exists, such agreements are lawful, valid, and enforceable.


Basis to Determine Jurisdiction


The foundation for determining the jurisdiction of a civil court is firmly established: the assertions made in the plaintiff's plaint are pivotal.


In other words, the court's jurisdiction is typically determined based on the case presented by the plaintiff in the plaint, rather than by the defendant in their written statement.


Illustratively, in Abdulla Bin Ali v. Galappa, the plaintiff initiated a lawsuit in the civil court seeking a declaration of title, possession, and mesne profits, treating the defendants as trespassers.


Despite the defendants' argument that the civil court lacked jurisdiction because of their status as tenants, the Supreme Court dismissed this contention. It emphasised that the allegations in the plaint determine the appropriate forum, independent of the defences raised by the defendants.


The suit, characterised by the plaintiffs as against trespassers, was deemed cognizable by the civil court based on the plaint's assertions.


However, it's imperative to note that a plaintiff cannot manipulate the drafting of their plaint to evade legal provisions and confer jurisdiction upon a civil court where it doesn't inherently exist. Furthermore, in jurisdictional matters, substance prevails over form.


In Bank of Baroda v. Moti Bhai, despite the defendant's argument that the civil court lacked jurisdiction due to collateral securities governed by the Tenancy Act, the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.


It clarified that the bank's primary business was lending money, and seeking recovery based on a promissory note fell within the civil court's jurisdiction, irrespective of collateral securities.


The substance of the matter, centred on debt recovery, dictated the court's jurisdiction, rather than the form of collateral securities.

 
 







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