It is a well-known fact that jurisdiction is a key component in determining whether or not the court has the power to adjudicate the case. Without a clear understanding of the jurisdiction, one cannot proceed with a case. Unless and until it is determined that the court has the power and authority to adjudicate the matter, the case cannot move forward. Jurisdiction means the power or authority conferred by the law upon the court, tribunal or judge to decide or adjudicate any dispute between the parties or pass judgment or order.
Meaning of Jurisdiction
It can be said that Jurisdiction is the limit of a judicial authority. It is the extent to which a court may exercise its authority over suits, cases, appeals, etc. It has not been defined in the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred to as “CPC”). It was derived from two Latin words: juris and dicto. Jurisdiction determines the competency of the court to try the matter. Often people attach a wrong meaning to jurisdiction. They tend to have a false belief that a court’s jurisdiction can only be determined by its geographical limits, but that’s not true. There are different kinds of jurisdiction. Therefore, it would be incorrect to classify jurisdiction into only one kind i.e., territorial jurisdiction.
Kinds of Jurisdiction of Civil Courts
When the court has authority or power to try the matter, decide cases, suits, etc in that court in the first instance would be called its original jurisdiction.
Appellate Jurisdiction is referred to as the power or authority conferred upon a superior court to re-adjudicate a case that has already been adjudicated by a lower court before.
As per Section 2(a) of the Foreign Jurisdiction Act, 1947, Foreign jurisdiction is defined as “any jurisdiction which by treaty, agreement, grant, usage, sufferance or other lawful means the Central Government has for the time being in or in relation to any area outside India”
This bestows power on particularly only one court to decide a case. In case of exclusive jurisdiction, no other court would have the power to try those cases which are being tried by courts having exclusive jurisdiction to try those cases.
In case of concurrent jurisdiction, the party is free to approach any of the courts that have share such concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent Jurisdiction is when various courts have jurisdiction over the same case.
Territorial Jurisdiction is where the geographical boundaries and limits determine the jurisdiction of civil courts. The geographical boundaries are clearly demarcated in the case of such a jurisdiction. Section 16 to Section 20 of the CPC talks about the Territorial jurisdiction civil courts.
According to Section 16 of Civil Procedure Code, where the subject matter is situated or located, the suit must be instituted there. Hence, for the partition of immovable property, suits for the recovery of immovable property with or without rent or profits, sale or redemption in the case of a mortgage of or charge upon immovable property, for foreclosure, or the determination of any other right to or interest in immovable property, for compensation for wrong to immovable property, for the recovery of movable property actually under distraint or attachment shall be instituted in the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated unless it is subject to pecuniary jurisdiction or other limitations in accordance with the law.
Furthermore, it provides that in case of a suit to obtain relief or compensation for wrong with respect to immovable property held by or on behalf of the defendant and where it is possible to obtain relief via their personal obedience, it can be instituted within the Court’s local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated or in the within the jurisdiction of the court where the defendant resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain. Here, the property only refers to property situated in India.
Section 17 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that a suit for relief, compensation for wrong with respect to an immovable property which is situated in jurisdiction of different courts may be instituted in any one of the courts. It is pertinent to note that while determining jurisdiction as per the aforesaid jurisdiction, the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court must be taken into consideration.
According to Section 18 where there lies uncertainty regarding the local limits of jurisdiction of two or more courts on the immovable property, then any one of those courts after providing reason in writing may try entertain and dispose of any suit relating to that property, and its decree in the suit shall have the same effect as if the property would come under its jurisdiction. Nonetheless, what must be established is that such a court must be competent to exercise jurisdiction on a suit keeping in mind the nature and value of the suit.
Furthermore, sub-section 2 of the aforesaid section provides that in a situation where the court has not recorded its statement and an objection has been taken before an Appellate or Revisional Court concerning the jurisdictional competency of the court, the court must not allow the objection unless it has reasonable ground to believe that there was uncertainty regarding the jurisdiction and that there has been a consequent failure of justice.
According to Section 19, if the suit is for compensation to a person or movable property, and the wrong committed is within the jurisdiction of a single court and defendant resides or carries their business in the jurisdiction of some other court, the suit may be instituted at the option of the plaintiff in either of the said Courts.
Section 20 elucidates upon the jurisdiction for the suits that have not been covered by the previous section. It states that a suit shall be instituted in a court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the defendant, or in case of more than one defendant, where these defendants, during the time of the suit reside, or carry on business, or personally work for gain. In cases where the plaintiff wants to institute a suit in a court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction one of the defendant’s resides, carries business or personally works for gain, can do so if the leave of the court is given or the defendants who do not reside, or carry on business, or personally works for gain, as aforesaid, acquiesce in such institution.
As the name suggests, this jurisdiction takes the monetary value of the case or suit into consideration. Only if the court has the authority in terms of the suit’s financial value to try the suit, the suit would be instituted in that court. Section 15 of the CPC talks about the pecuniary jurisdiction of civil courts. It states Every suit shall be instituted in the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it.” This tries to reduce the burden of a court of a higher level.
Jurisdiction as to Subject Matter
The subject matter of the suit is of immense value and importance while deciding the jurisdiction. Certain courts do not possess the Authority to try certain issues pertaining to a particular subject matter. If it is determined that a court does not possess the jurisdiction to try that specific subject matter, no suit can be instituted in that particular court.
Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code
Section 9 of the CPC states that a court has the jurisdiction to try all suits of a “civil nature” except suits on which their cognizance is either “expressly and impliedly barred”. This implies that a civil court unless the suit is of civil nature and the cognizance of which is neither expressly nor impliedly barred, a civil court may not have the jurisdiction to try it.
A suit of civil nature may be one that is concerned with private rights and obligations. For example, suit for dissolution of marriage, suit for rent, etc. It is extremely important to note that although a suit in which the principal question with respect to caste or religion is not a suit of a civil nature, but if the main question in a suit is that of a civil nature and if the adjudication incidentally involves the determination relating to a caste question or to rights relating to religion, it will not cease to be suit of a civil nature and the jurisdiction of a civil court is not barred.
When a suit is barred by an enactment for the time being in force, it is said to be expressly barred. For instance, if the Parliament passes an Act and expressly bars certain courts from dealing with the matter, then those courts would not have the jurisdiction to deal with suits with respect to that particular matter.
Impliedly barred basically refers to when a law suit is barred by general principles of law. This enumerates upon a very valid point that when a statute provides for specific remedy, one cannot insist for a remedy other than that provided in the statute. In the case of Raja Ram Kumar v. Union of India[i], while referring to the “impliedly barred” part of Section 9, the Supreme Court made an observation that in a situation where a common law remedy exists and is recognized by the statute and if a new statutory remedy is added that does not expressly bar the civil court’s jurisdiction, then the common law remedy as well as statutory remedy might be available.
Objections to Jurisdiction
Section 21 of the CPC provides that no objection as to the place of suing or the pecuniary limits of its jurisdiction or the competence of the executing Court with reference to the local limits of its jurisdiction, shall be allowed by Appellate or Revisional Authorities unless objection of such nature was taken in the Court of first instance at the earliest and unless there has been a consequent failure of justice.
Transfer of suit instituted in more than one Court
Section 22 of the CPC provides for the power to transfer suit which may be instituted in more than one Court. When a suit may be instituted in any one of two or more Courts and is instituted in one of such Courts, any defendants may apply to have the suit transferred to another Court, after giving notice to other party. Then if the other party has any objections, the court may consider those objections and determine in which of the several Courts having jurisdiction the suit shall proceed.
Where does Application given in Section 22 lie?
Section 23 of the CPC answers this question. If there arises a situation where various Courts having jurisdiction are subordinate to the same Appellate Court, then an application under section 22 would lie to the Appellate Court. If these courts are subordinate to different Appellate Courts but to the same High Court, the application lies to the said High Court. Lastly, if Courts are subordinate to various other High Courts, then the application would lie to the High Court in whose jurisdiction the Court in which the suit is brought is situated.
General Power of transfer
As per section 24 of the CPC, if either of the parties applies for a transfer, the High Court or District court may after notice and hearing the parties or on its own without such notice transfer a suit, appeal or other proceeding before it for trial or dispose to any court that is competent and subordinate to it, withdraw any suit, appeal or other proceeding pending in any Court subordinate to it, and try or dispose of the same or transfer it for trial or disposal to any Court subordinate to it and competent to try or dispose of the same or retransfer it for trial or disposal to the Court from which it was withdrawn.
Power of Supreme Court to transfer
As per section 25 of the CPC, the supreme court on the application of either parties, providing notice and hearing if desired to be heard, if deems fit that an order under this section is expedient for the ends of justice, direct the suit, appeal or other proceeding be transferred from a High Court or other Civil Court in a State to a High Court or other Civil Court in another State. If the Supreme court while dismissing an application thinks it is frivolous then may order the applicant to pay compensation to the person who opposed.
The jurisdiction of civil courts as given in the CPC is quite vast and therefore, it becomes crucial to study those in detail. It is necessary to understand that unless a suit is of civil or is express or impliedly not barred by law, a civil court cannot try it.
The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.