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Objection as to Jurisdiction in CPC

Updated: May 5


Objection as to Jurisdiction in CPC

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It is a fundamental principle that a decree issued by a court lacking jurisdiction is deemed null and void. Halsbury aptly articulates this notion, stating:


"Where a court is without jurisdiction to entertain a particular action or matter due to limitations imposed by statute, charter, or commission, neither the acquiescence nor the express consent of the parties can confer jurisdiction upon the court.


Additionally, consent cannot grant jurisdiction to a court if a condition essential to jurisdiction has not been met. When a court assumes jurisdiction it does not possess, its decision holds no legal weight."


However, this principle does not extend to territorial or pecuniary jurisdiction. Objections to such jurisdiction are deemed technical by the Code, and unless raised promptly, they will not be considered in appeal or revision for the first time.


The purpose of Section 21 is to safeguard sincere litigants and prevent unnecessary harassment to plaintiffs who have initiated legal proceedings in good faith, only to later discover that the court lacks jurisdiction.


This provision aims to shield honest litigants from the consequences of unwittingly choosing a court lacking jurisdiction. It's important to note that dishonest litigants cannot exploit this provision for their own benefit.

 
 

Objection as to territorial jurisdiction


It is firmly established that the objection regarding the local or territorial jurisdiction of a court (referred to as the place of suing) differs from the court's competence to adjudicate the case. The competence of a court to hear a case is fundamental to its jurisdiction, and its absence constitutes an inherent lack of jurisdiction.


In contrast, an objection to the local jurisdiction of a court can be waived, and Section 21 of the Code acknowledges this principle.


In the case of Hira Lal v. Kali Nath, where a suit that should have been filed in an Agra court was instead filed in the Bombay High Court with the court's permission, it was determined that the objection to such jurisdiction falls under the purview of Section 21.


According to Section 21(1), an appellate or revisional court will not entertain objections regarding the place of suing unless three conditions are met:


1) The objection was raised in the court of first instance.


2) It was raised at the earliest possible opportunity, including cases where issues are settled at or before the settlement of issues.


3) There has been a consequent failure of justice.


All three conditions must be satisfied simultaneously for the objection to be considered valid.


The rationale is clear. It's established that neither consent, waiver, nor acquiescence can grant jurisdiction to a court incapable of adjudicating a suit.


However, the objection regarding the local jurisdiction of a court differs from the objection to the court's competence to try a case. The competence of a court to hear a case is fundamental to its jurisdiction, and its absence constitutes an inherent lack of jurisdiction.


Conversely, an objection regarding the local jurisdiction of a court can be waived.

Section 21 codifies this principle, recognizing that defects regarding the place of suing under Sections 15 to 20 may be waived.


If the defendant allows the trial court to proceed with the case without raising an objection regarding the place of suing and opts for the chance of a favourable verdict, they effectively waive the objection and cannot subsequently raise it.


In some cases, prolonged and uninterrupted participation by the defendant in the proceedings without protest may also constitute a waiver of the objection.


The rationale behind Section 21 has been succinctly elucidated by the Supreme Court in Kiran Singh v. Chaman Paswan, where their Lordships remarked:


"When a case has been tried by a court and judgement rendered, it should not be subject to reversal purely on technical grounds unless it has led to a miscarriage of justice.


The legislature's policy is to regard objections to both territorial and pecuniary jurisdictions as technical and not subject to consideration by an appellate court unless there has been prejudice on the merits."


However, it's important to note that Section 21 does not preclude objections regarding the place of suing from being raised in appellate or revisional courts if the trial court has not rendered a judgement on the merits.

 
 

Objection as to pecuniary jurisdiction


As a general principle, the jurisdiction of the court is determined by the valuation provided by the plaintiff in the plaint, rather than the eventual amount for which the court may issue a decree.


However, if the defendant contests the plaintiff's valuation, it becomes the duty of the trial court to investigate the matter and make an appropriate determination.


Yet, objections regarding overvaluation or undervaluation will not be entertained by any appellate or revisional court unless three conditions are met:


1) The objection was raised in the court of first instance.


2) It was raised at the earliest possible opportunity, including cases where issues are settled, at or before the settlement of issues.


3) There has been a resulting failure of justice.


All three conditions must be met concurrently for the objection to be considered valid.


In Kiran Singh v. Chaman Paswan, the Supreme Court rejected the appellant's argument that a mere change of forum could be deemed prejudicial to him. The Court aptly remarked:


"If the mere fact of an appeal being heard by a Subordinate Court or District Court instead of the High Court due to incorrect valuation is considered prejudicial, then decrees passed by the Subordinate Court would automatically be set aside without further consideration.


This interpretation would render the clause 'unless the overvaluation or undervaluation thereof has prejudicially affected the disposal of the suit or appeal on its merits' meaningless.


These words clearly indicate that decrees passed in such cases are subject to review by an appellate court only if prejudice, as defined in the section, results. Therefore, the prejudice contemplated by the section must go beyond the mere change in forum for an appeal."



Objection as to subject-matter


The objection concerning the subject-matter of jurisdiction is crucial, as it pertains to whether prejudice has occurred, a determination left to the discretion of the court. A court cannot rightfully adjudicate upon a subject-matter that falls outside the scope defined by law.


Jurisdiction over the subject-matter of a suit is deemed essential, serving as a prerequisite or sine qua non for acquiring authority over both the parties and the matter at hand. If a court lacks jurisdiction over the subject-matter, any judgement, order, or decree issued is inherently null and void.


Such a decision may be overturned in appeal, review, or revision, and its validity can be challenged even in collateral proceedings.

 
 

Execution Proceedings


Objections in execution proceedings are addressed under subsection (3) of Section 21, which clarifies that the principles outlined in this section also apply to execution proceedings.


(a) Position prior to Amendment Act, 1976


Originally, Section 21 of the Code did not explicitly extend to execution proceedings. Consequently, there was uncertainty regarding whether the principles of Section 21 would govern execution proceedings.


However, in the case of Hira Lal v. Kali Naths, the Supreme Court applied the principles of Section 21 to execution proceedings.


(b) Position after Amendment Act, 1976


To expedite execution proceedings and minimise delays, the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1976, introduced a specific provision in the Code.


This provision stipulates that objections regarding the territorial jurisdiction of a court executing a decree should not be entertained unless certain conditions specified therein are fulfilled.


Bar of Suit

As per Section 21, objections regarding the place of suing cannot be raised at the appellate or revisional stage of proceedings. However, can such a decision be challenged by initiating a new suit? There have been conflicting opinions on this matter.


Section 21-A, introduced by the Amendment Act of 1976, explicitly states that no substantive suit can be instituted to overturn a decree issued by a court due to an objection concerning the place of suing.


However, this provision is considered ambiguous, defective, and incomplete. It solely addresses territorial limits and does not cover pecuniary limits or other defects.


Nonetheless, it is argued that the principles applicable to territorial defects may also be applied, to some extent, to pecuniary defects.

 
 


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