Civil Litigation: Some Jurisdictional Aspects

The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, (the “Code”), plays a very important role in Civil Courts and Revenue Courts in India. Many quasi-judicial authorities exercise the powers conferred under the Code. In this Article, we will concentrate our discussion on “Civil Procedure for the issue of Territorial Jurisdiction under the Code.”

Order XIV of the Code deals with issues in disputes. This Order prescribes the procedure for framing and amendments in respect of issues in disputes. We are aware that framing of issues is a very important stage in trial. This Order consists of Rules. Rule 2 provides the procedure for framing preliminary issues and its disposal in the event of objection regarding Jurisdiction and/ or a legal embargo.

At this juncture, it is necessary to refer to Rule 2[1] of the Order XIV of the Code. From the perusal of this statutory provision, it is clear that in the Code, it is the discretionary powers of the Court to decide preliminary issue regarding jurisdiction or if there is any restriction on the suit created by any law. Though, there are several judgements that have held that the issue regarding Territorial Jurisdiction is a mixed question of law and fact and it could not be decided as preliminary issue.  We must refer to the latest judgment of Satti Pardeshi Samadhi & Pillayar Temple v. M. Shakuntala[2], in which it has been held that –

“On a plain consideration of the language employed in sub-section (2) of Order 14 CPC, it can be stated with certitude that when an issue requires an inquiry into facts, it can not be tried as a preliminary issue.”  

The State Assembly of Maharashtra made an important local amendment in the Code and inserted Section 9-A[3] after Section 9. From the perusal of this statutory provision, it is clear that it is mandatory in Maharashtra that if any party raises objection regarding jurisdiction, the Court shall proceed to determine that objection first. This statutory provision is meant to curb the issue of frivolous litigation. If a court has no jurisdiction to hear a suit, then why such suit should be continued in that court? Why the important time of courts and nation should be wasted for the misuse of judicial process?

In this context, in the interest of the nation and the society, the provision inserted in the Code by the Legislature Assembly of Maharashtra must be incorporated by the Indian Parliament also. If the Parliament amends the central legislation, the bona fide litigants of the country shall be benefitted by this proposed amendment. The same will reduce unnecessary burden mounted on the civil courts and revenue courts.

[1] Rule 2. Court to pronounce judgement on all issues.—(1) Notwithstanding that a case many be disposed of on a preliminary issue, the Court shall subject to the provisions of sub-rule (2), pronounce judgement on all issues.

(2) Where issues both of the law and fact arise in the same suit, and the Court is of opinion that the case or any part thereof may be disposed of on an issue of law only, it may try that issue first if that issue relates to—

(a) the jurisdiction of the Court, or

(b) a bar to the suit created by any law for the time being in force, and for that purpose may, if it thinks fit, postpone the settlement of the other issues until after that issue has been determined, and may deal with the suit in accordance with the decision on the issue.

[2] (2015) 5 SCC 674, Para 14

[3] Section 9A inserted by Maharastra Amendments.—Where at the hearing of application relating to interim relief in a suit, objection to jurisdiction is taken, such issue to be decided by the Court as a preliminary issue –

(1) Notwithstanding anything contend in this Code or any other law for the time being in force, if ,at the hearing of any application for granting or setting aside an order or otherwise, made in any suit, an objection to the jurisdiction of the Court to entertain such a suit is taken by any parties to the suit, the Court shall proceed to determine at the hearing of such application the issue as to the jurisdiction as a preliminary issue shall be heard and disposed of by the Court as expeditiously as possible and shall not in any case be adjourned to the hearing of the suit.

(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), at the hearing of any such application, the Court may grant such interim relief as it may consider necessary, pending determination by it the preliminary issue as to the jurisdiction.

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