A civil court shall have jurisdiction to try all the suits of a civil nature, unless barred

A civil court shall have jurisdiction to try all the suits of a civil nature, unless barred.

Jurisdiction of Civil Courts

According to S. 9, “The Court shall (subject to the provisions hereincontained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.”

Explanation I-A suit in which the right to property or to an office is contested is a suit of a civil nature, notwithstanding that such right may depend entirely on the decision of questions as to religious rites or ceremonies.

Explanation II- For the purposes of this section, it is immaterial whether or not any fees are attached to the office referred to in Explanation- I or whether or not such office is attached to a particular place.

Conditions-A civil court has jurisdiction to try a suit if two conditions are fulfilled-

1. The suit must be of a civil nature; and
2. The cognizance of such a suit should not have been expressly or impliedly

1. Suit of Civil Nature

In order that a civil court may have jurisdiction to try a suit, the first condition which must be satisfied is that the suit must be of a civil nature. But what is a suit of a civil nature? The word “civil” has not been defined in the Code. But according to the dictionary meaning, it pertains to private rights and remedies of a citizen as distinguished from criminal, political, etc. The word ‘nature’ has been defined as ‘the fundamental qualties of a person or thing; identity or essential character; kind, character. It is thus wider in content. The expression ‘civil nature is wider than the expression ‘civil proceeding’. Thus, a suit is of a civil nature if the principal question therein relates to the determination of a civil right and enforcement thereof. It is not the status of the parties to the suit, but the subject-matter of it which determines whether or not the suit is one of a civil nature.

2. Nature and Scope of the Suit of Civil Nature

The expression “suit of a civil nature” will cover private rights and obligations of a citizen. Political and religious questions are not covered by that expression. A,suit in which the principal question relates to caste or religion is not a suit of a civil nature. But if principal question in the suit is of a civil nature (the right to property or to an office) and the adjudication incidentaly involves the determination relating to a caste question or to religious rights and ceremonies, it does not cease to be a suit of a civil nature and the jurisdiction of a civil court is not barred.

Each word and expression casts an obligation on the Court to exercise jurisdiction for enforcement of right. The word “shall” makes it mandatory. No Court can refuse to entertain a suit if it is of description mentioned in the Section. That is amplified by use of expression all-suits of civil nature. The word ‘civil’ according to dictionary means, ‘relating to the citizen as an individual; civil rights. In Black’s Legal Dictionary it is defined as, ‘relating to provide rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceedings. In law it is understood as an antonym of criminal. Historically the two broad classifications were civil and criminal. Revenue, tax and company, etc. were added to it later.

The word ‘nature’ has been defined as ‘the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; identity or essential character, sort; kind; character. It is thus wider in content. The word ‘civil nature is wider than the word civil proceeding. The section would, therefore, be available in every case where the dispute was. the characteristic of affecting one’s rights which are not only civil but of civil nature.”

Examples of Suits of Civil Nature The following are the suits or a civil nature-

(i) Suits relating to right to property;

(ii) Suits relatiitg to right to worship;

(iii) Suits relating to taking out of religious procession;

(iv) Suits relating to right to share in offerings;

(v) Suits for damages for civil wrongs;

(vi) Suits for specific performance of contract or for damages for breach of contract;

(vii) Suits for a specific relief;

(viii) Suits for restitution of conjugal rights;

(ix) Suits for dissolution of marriage;

(x) Suits for rent;

(xi) Suits for accounts;

(xii) Suits for a right of franchise:

(xiii) suits for a right to hereditary office:

(xiv) Suits for a right to yajmanvriti;

(xv) Suits against wrongful dismissal from service and for salary; etc.

Examples of Suits Not of Civil Nature-The following are not suits of a civil nature-

(i) Suits involving principally caste. questions;

(ii) Suits involving purely religious rites or ceremonies;

(iii) Suits for upholding mere dignity or honour:

(iv) Suits for recovery of voluntary payments or offerings;

(v) Suits against expulsion from caste; etc.

2. Cognizance Not Barred-It is to be noted that a litigant having a grievance of a civil nature has a right to institute a civil suit unless its cognizance is barred., either expressly or impliedly.

(i) Suits Expressly Barred-A suit is said to be “expressly barred” when it is barred by any enactment for the time being in force. It is open to a competent legislature to bar jurisdiction of civil courts with respect to a particular class of suits of a civil nature, provided that in doing so, it keeps itself within the field of legislation confined to its charge and does not contravene any provision of the Constitution.

Thus, the matters falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of Revenue Courts or under the Code of Criminal Procedure or the matters dealt with by special, tribunate under the relevant statutes; e.g., by Industrial Tribunal, Election Tribunal. Revenue Tribunal, Rent Tribunal, Cooperative Tribunal, Income Tax Tribunal, Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, etc. or by domestic tribunals; e.g., Bar Council. Medical Council, University, Club etc. are expressly barred from the cognizance of a civil court. But if the remedy provided by a statute is not adequate and all questions cannot be decided by a special tribunal, the jurisdiction of a civil court is not barred. Similarly, when a court of limited jurisdiction prima facie and incidentally states something, the jurisdiction of a civil court to finally decide the time is not ousted.

(ii) Suits Impliedly Barred-A suit is said to be impliedly barred when it is barred by general principles of law. Where, a specific remedy is given by a statute, it thereby deprives the person who insists upon a remedy of any other form than that given by the statute. Where an Act creates an obligation, and enforces the performance in a specified manner, that performance cannot be enforced in any other manner.

Thus, no suit shall lie for recovery of costs incurred in criminal prosecution or for enforcement of right upon a contract hit by S. 23 of the Indian Contract Act 1872; or against any Judge for acts done imhe course of his duties. Likewise, political questions belong to the domain of public administrative law and are outside, the jurisdictitm of civil courts. A civil court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon disputes of political nature.

Kinds of Jurisdiction

A civil court has following four kinds of jurisdiction

1. Jurisdiction over the Subject-Matter-Different Courts have been allotted different types of work. A small Causes Court has authority to try only certain suits of non-contentious types, e.g., suit in respect of loan on promissory notes or bonds, suits for recovery of price of goods supplied or work done but it has no jurisdiction to try suits for partition or for injunction or for immovable properties or for specific performance of a contract. The District Judge alone has jurisdiction in respect of testamentary and cases of guardianship.

2. Local or Territorial Jurisdiction-The territorial limit of the jurisdiction of a Court is fixed by the Government, and beyond that limit it has no jurisdiction.

Thus, the District Judge has jurisdiction within his district. The High Court has jurisdiction over its State only and not beyond. Musifs jurisdiction is also limited to a particular area.

3. Pecuniary Jurisdiction-Some of the Courts are authorised to entertain suits or appeals up to a particular amount. Munsifs are generally authorised to entertain suits up to the value of Rs. 25,000 in Uttar Pradesh, the Civil Judges have jurisdiction for suits above 25,000 Rupees. The High Court has no pecuniary limitations. Some of the Small Causes Judges are empowered up to Rupees, 10,000 and other only up to Rs. 2000.

Where the Government realises any amount from a citizen which it is not entitled to charge, he can file a suit for recovery of that amount in the Civil Court (Munnalal Vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1916 Punj. 59 (60))

4. Original or Appellate Jurisdiction-Some of the Courts exercise only original jurisdiction e.g., the Munsif, and the Judges of the Small Causes Courts. The Civil Judges, District Judges and the High tourts have been conferred appellate

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