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Place of Suing in CPC

Updated: May 5


Place of Suing in CPC


Content:-


There exists a myriad of suit classifications, ranging from those pertaining to movable or immovable properties, to those grounded in contracts or torts, even extending to matrimonial proceedings, suits for accounts, and beyond.


The jurisdiction of a court to entertain, adjudicate, and resolve a suit may encounter various limitations, with the initial determination revolving around the locus of litigation. The term "place of suing" merely denotes the trial venue, devoid of any implications regarding the court's competency.


Sections 15 to 20 of the Code of Civil Procedure govern the venue for initiating suits.


Section 15 mandates that the plaintiff must lodge a suit in the court possessing the minimal competency to adjudicate it. Sections 16 to 18 address suits concerning immovable property, while Section 19 pertains to suits seeking compensation for harm to either person or movable property.


Section 20 serves as a catch-all provision, encompassing cases not addressed in Sections 15 to 19. Section 21 acknowledges the longstanding principle that defects regarding territorial or pecuniary jurisdiction can be waived.


It prohibits appellate or revisional courts from entertaining objections regarding the venue of litigation or monetary thresholds. Section 21-A precludes a substantive suit aimed at overturning a decree issued by a court due to a lack of territorial jurisdiction.

 
 

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

Nature and Scope

Section 15 of the Code concerns the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court. It specifies that each suit should be commenced in the court possessing the minimal competency to adjudicate it.


The principle outlined in this section is procedural in nature and does not impinge upon the court's jurisdiction. Consequently, a decree issued by a higher-grade court cannot be deemed as lacking jurisdiction.


Such a scenario is considered merely an irregularity, addressed under Section 99 of the Code, and the decree pronounced by the court remains valid and enforceable, not void.


This provision serves a dual purpose: firstly, to prevent higher-grade courts from being inundated with an excessive number of suits, and secondly, to facilitate convenience for the involved parties and witnesses who may need to testify in such suits.


Mode of Valuation

The mode of valuation hinges primarily on the plaintiff's assessment as stated in the plaint, dictating the jurisdiction of the court, rather than the ultimate amount for which the court may issue a decree.


Consequently, if the pecuniary jurisdiction of the lowest-grade court is, for instance, Rs 10,000, and the plaintiff initiates a suit for accounts, even if the court ultimately determines that Rs 15,000 are owed after examining the accounts, the court retains its jurisdiction to decree that amount.


Territorial Jurisdiction


Immovable Property

Sections 16 to 18 specifically address suits concerning immovable property. Within Section 16, clauses (a) to (e) delineate five categories of suits, namely:


i) Suits for the recovery of immovable property;


ii) Suits for the partition of immovable property;


iii) Suits for foreclosure, sale, or redemption concerning mortgages or charges upon immovable property;


iv) Suits for the determination of any other right to or interest in immovable property; and


v) Suits for torts related to immovable property.


These suits must be initiated in the court within the local jurisdiction where the property is situated, a straightforward directive devoid of complexity. However, complications may arise when the property falls within the jurisdiction of multiple courts.


Section 17 of the Code addresses this scenario, stipulating that if a suit seeks relief regarding or compensation for torts to immovable property situated within the jurisdictions of different courts, it may be filed in the court within whose local limits any portion of the property lies, provided the suit falls within the pecuniary jurisdiction of said court.


This provision is designed to benefit litigants and forestall the proliferation of lawsuits.


Nevertheless, situations may arise where it is uncertain which court's jurisdiction the property falls under definitively. In such instances, if one of the courts is convinced of this uncertainty, it may proceed to entertain and adjudicate the suit after recording a statement to that effect.



Movable Property

It is commonly stated that movables follow the person (Mobilia sequuntur personam). A lawsuit concerning harm to movable property provides the plaintiff with the discretion to initiate it either at the location where the wrongful act occurred or where the defendant resides, conducts business, or engages in gainful employment.


In cases where the wrongful act comprises a series of actions, the plaintiff may file a suit at any location where any of these actions took place.


Similarly, if a wrongful act occurs at one location and its consequences occur elsewhere, the plaintiff may choose to institute the suit where the action originated or where the consequences transpired.

 
 

Compensation

A suit for compensation for wrong (tort) to a person may be instituted at the option of the plaintiff either where such wrong is committed, or where the defendant resides, carries on business or personally works for gain.


Other Suits

Section 20 encompasses all other scenarios not addressed by the preceding provisions. In such cases, the plaintiff has the liberty to file the suit in any of the following courts:


i) Where the cause of action, wholly or partially, arises; or


ii) Where the defendant resides, carries on business, or personally works for gain; or


iii) In cases involving two or more defendants, if any of them resides, carries on business, or personally works for gain, provided that in such instances, either (a) the court's permission is obtained, or (b) the defendants who do not reside, carry on business, or personally work for gain at that location consent to such initiation.


Selection of Forum


It is firmly established in legal doctrine that consent cannot confer or negate the jurisdiction of a competent court. This principle equally extends to the exclusion of jurisdiction of a court.


When a court possesses jurisdiction, neither consent, waiver, estoppel, nor acquiescence can divest it of such jurisdiction.


Any agreement aimed at absolutely ousting the jurisdiction of a competent court is deemed void, as it runs counter to public policy (Ex dolo malo non oritur actio).


However, in scenarios where two or more courts hold jurisdiction over a suit, an agreement between the parties to submit to the jurisdiction of one court to the exclusion of others is valid, binding, and enforceable.


Forum Shopping

The Supreme Court has not only expressed disapproval but has strongly criticised the trend among litigants to approach forums that may accommodate them by entertaining suits or petitions despite lacking jurisdiction over the matter.


In the case of Union of India v. Swar Woollen Mills Ltd., where the registered office of the company was in Ludhiana (Punjab), a petition was filed against it in the High Court of Calcutta, leading to ex parte ad interim relief granted to the petitioner.


The Supreme Court overturned this order, condemning the action as part of manoeuvring a legal battle.


Case Laws

Similarly, in Morgan Stanley Mutual Fund v. Kartick Das, the Supreme Court noted an increasing inclination among litigants to engage in speculative and vexatious litigation, which certain forums readily entertain. The Court emphasised the necessity to curb such tendencies.


In the case of ONGC v. Utpal Kumar Basu, even though no cause of action had arisen in Calcutta, the High Court entertained a writ petition and provided interim relief to the petitioner.


The Supreme Court lamented this trend, describing it as regrettable that a premier High Court had developed a propensity to assume jurisdiction on untenable grounds.


The Supreme Court expressed deep concern, emphasising the importance of deprecating this growing trend to fulfil its duty to the institution and the administration of justice system. It hoped that such situations would not recur in the future.

 
 


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