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Critically Analyzing different types of Jurisdiction under The Code Of Civil Procedure, 1908

Through the medium of this article, I would be critically analyzing the provisions with respect to jurisdiction covered under Civil Procedure Code of 1908 and how is it affecting the property which are both movable and immovable in nature. Jurisdiction as a term can be understood both in a general as well as in a legal context. It acts as a belief which is the underlying principle of any litigation. Jurisdiction is the doorway for any grievance which allows different parties to enter the portal of the dispute settlement which subsequently gets transformed into litigation. The legal maxim, Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium meaning Wherever there is a right, there is a remedy has also been adopted by our Indian legal system which is the fundamental principle of English law. Jurisdiction is also a power or right guaranteed by the court of law in order to interpret, hear and determine a cause of action an accordingly pass a judgment on a matter.

This article exclusively focuses on different types of jurisdiction, its meaning, importance and other debatable issues with respect to the field of property and how the provisions of CPC are relevant in todays time with all the technological advancements which is constantly evolving and growing at a lightning fast speed.

Introduction:
Jurisdiction the word is derived from Latin terms juris and dicto which means I speak by the law[1]. As a matter of fact, the term Jurisdiction is always construed as one of the most important terms, yet it is not defined under any statute. Even the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 which is the procedural law of India is also silent on it. In other words, Jurisdiction means the authority or power which a court has in order to decide upon matters that are litigated before it or issue a decree regarding the same. It also means the geographical area within which the legal or judicial authority can be exercised.

In the case of Official Trustee v. Sachindra Nath, the Supreme court ruled out that Jurisdiction must not only include the power to hear but also the authority to hear and decide upon the question at issue presented before it and accordingly take steps to resolve the particular dispute that has arisen between the parties[2]. A court having jurisdiction is said to be a competent court and each country explicitly defines jurisdiction under its legal framework which indirectly or directly plays an important role for the efficient administration and effective litigation management.

Therefore, it could be said that Jurisdiction in a nutshell means authority, power and competency of court to deal with the matters that are placed before it and in order to exercise jurisdiction the existence of jurisdiction is a pre-requisite otherwise the decree passed by a court would be construed as null and void.

Jurisdiction can be broadly classified into three main categories:

  1. Territorial Jurisdiction
  2. Pecuniary Jurisdiction
  3. Jurisdiction as to Subject-Matter.
These three categories are the essential aspects for determining jurisdiction of any court.

Territorial Jurisdiction:

There are certain territorial limits which defines each states boundaries. Therefore, it is the authority or power of the court which can be exercised within such defined territory in order to deal with cases that are arising before the Honorable courts or the people residing within such defined territory is known as Territorial Jurisdiction. These territorial limits are fixed by the government and therefore, a court situated at a particular place cannot entertain a case which goes beyond its territorial limits. These rules are clearly specified and laid down by the legislature. For instance, if an offence is committed in Rajasthan district than the district judge of Rajasthan must exercise jurisdiction within the district and not beyond it.

Pecuniary Jurisdiction:

Section 15 of the Code refers to the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court. Therefore, it directs that every suit must be instituted in the court of the lowest grade which is competent to try it. The underlying objective of this provision is to lessen the burden of higher courts with suits and also to provide convenience to the parties and witnesses who are examined in such suits. Pecuniary literally means related to money and such jurisdiction of the court is determined by the plaintiffs valuation in the plaint and not the amount for which the decree may be passed by the court[3]

A General Illustration:  Let us say the pecuniary jurisdiction of Small Causes Court is Rs. 30000. Hence, a suit for damages of Rs. 4000 for breach of contract can be tried by any of the courts but according to Section 15 of the code, the suit must be filed in the lowest court which is the Small Causes Court. But even if the suit is filed in the City Civil Court and subsequently a decree is passed by that court, it would not amount to nullity and this is irregularity is covered under Section 99 of the code.

If at all the valuation of the plaint is not correct and the plaintiff deliberately overvalues or undervalues the claim for the purpose of avoiding the jurisdiction of the proper court, then it is the duty of the court to return the plaint to be filed in the proper court and may also require the plaintiff to prove that the valuation is proper[4].

Jurisdiction as to Subject- Matter:

It connotes authority or power to the court to decide upon the matters on the basis of its nature. Taking into consideration the variety of issues, different courts have been empowered to decide upon different types of suits. For instance, suits related to insolvency matters, probate proceedings, divorce cases, etc. cannot be adjudicated by a Court of Civil Judge of junior division[5]. This could be termed as Jurisdiction as to Subject-Matter and where a court has no jurisdiction over the subject-matter of a suit then a decree or a judgement passed by the court would amount to a nullity.

Section 16 of the code deals with suits relating to immovable property and these suits must be filed within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated. However, the term immovable property is not defined anywhere within the code but nevertheless a broad definition can be seen under the General Clauses Act, 1897. 


There are following five kinds of suits where Section 16 can be invoked namely:

  • Partition of immovable property
  • Recovery of immovable property
  • Torts to immovable property.
  • Determination of any right or interest in the property
  • Sale, Foreclosure, Redemption with respect to mortgage or charge upon immovable property.
     
In the case of Harshad Chiman Lal Modi vs. DLF Universal Ltd[6]. the Supreme court ruled that As per Section 16 of CPC, a suit can be instituted where the immovable property is situated in this case the property was situated in Gurgaon (Haryana). Delhi Court, therefore, has no jurisdiction to entertain the suit. Issues such as the place where the cause of action arose or place where either party resides are immaterial in nature with respect to such suits.

Also, in the case of Anant Raj Industries Ltd. Vs. Balmer Lawrie and Co. Ltd[7]. the Delhi High court reiterated the same principle as laid down above. In this case, Mr. X sold a plant which was situated at P to Mr. Y through a sale deed which was registered at place Q. Consideration was also paid at place Q. Later Y sued X for damages to immovable property as X did not remove his goods from the plant. As a result, court held that suit could be filed at place P instead of Q, since the property was situated at place P.

Sections 17, 18, 19, and 20:

As far as Sections 17 and 18 of the code are concerned, they both deal with the suits relating to immovable property where the property is located within the jurisdiction of more than one court. It confers powers to both the courts to have jurisdiction over the matter and accordingly, a suit can be filed in any one of them. A General Illustration: Suppose X and Y have disputes related to five properties and all the five properties are not located within the jurisdiction of any one particular court. But the cause of action is of such a nature that several suits cannot be instituted therefore, by invoking Section 17 the plaintiff can file a suit in any one court within whose jurisdiction any of the properties may be situated[8].

Section 19 of the code deals with suits for compensation for wrong to movables or person as it has been rightly said that movables follow the person (Mobilia sequuntur personam). Such suits can be brought at the option of the plaintiff either where the cause of action took place or where the defendant resides or carries on business[9]. A General Illustration: X, residing in Mumbai, beats Y in Delhi. Y may sue X either in Delhi or in Mumbai.

The cause of action as such is not defined anywhere in the code however, in the case of Fry L.J. In Read v. Brown[10] it was held that everything which, if not proved, gives the defendant an immediate right to judgment must be part of the cause of action[11]. Every piece of evidence which is necessary to prove each fact does not comprise of the cause of action. Also, in the case of Ujjal Talukdar v. Netai Chand Koley[12] it was laid down that factual evidence should not be confused with the fact itself. Even the smallest fraction of a cause of action can be enough to confer jurisdiction on a court within the territorial limits of where it occurs[13]

Section 20 of the code deals with respect to such suits which are not covered by the aforementioned sections. Following are the circumstances where the plaintiff can exercise his option of filing a suit in any of the respective courts where:

Cause of action arises wholly or partly.
Defendant resides, carries his business or personally works for gain.

Where there are co-defendants and any of them resides, carries on business or personally works for gain, provided that in such case (a) either the leave of the court is given or (b) defendants does not reside, carries on business or personally works for gain at that place acquiesce in such institution[14].

A General Illustration to explain the section: X is a tradesman in Mumbai, Y carries on business in Delhi. Y, by his agent in Mumbai, buys goods of X and told X to deliver the same at East Indian Railway Company and X delivers the same. Here, X may sue Y for the price of the goods either in Mumbai, where the cause of action arose or in Delhi, where Y carries on his business[15].

Cyber Jurisdiction and Case Laws:

As we know, the most crucial question that is posed in any court of law is that of Jurisdiction. Until and unless the courts have jurisdiction neither the matter would be proceeded in the court of law nor the court would have authority to decide upon any rights and liabilities or impose any kind of penalty. With the advent of internet, the scope of criminal activities in cyber space has also increased.

Although the advanced technologies ensure the government-citizen interface is incorruptible, but the essential nature of the internet is that it has no boundaries, and this poses a serious threat when it comes to the issue of jurisdiction. The underlying problem of cyber law jurisdiction is the presence of various parties around the globe who are virtually connected to each other. As a result, not only the place of suing becomes a problem but also what kind of remedies are available to the individual?

The Supreme Court in the case of SIL Import v. Exim Aides Silk Importers[16] rightly pointed out that interpretation of the statute is necessary by judiciary in the light of technological advancements and until there is a legislation passed with respect to the jurisdiction of the courts with regard to internet disputes till then, the Courts have to give a wide interpretation to the existing statutes for such disputes. However, the suits arising out of the internet disputes are mostly with respect to the issue of Territorial Jurisdiction as Internet does not tend to have any geographical or jurisdictional boundaries.

Also, one of the landmark cases such as Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited v. A. Murali Krishna Reddy[17] was discussed which was referred to the Division Bench in order to resolve the issue of Jurisdiction. The facts of the case were related to copyright infringement and both the plaintiff and the defendant were not residing within their territorial jurisdiction of the court. Therefore, while writing down the judgement the division bench also referred to two cases which were important in this aspect.

First, Casio India Co. Limited v. Ashita Tele Systems Pvt. Limited[18] where the division bench of Delhi High Court completely disregarded the principle laid down by this case and said that merely accessing a website from a location would not be a valid test to resolve the issue of jurisdiction and hence, should not be applicable.

Second, India TV Independent News Service Pvt. Limited v. India Broadcast Live Llc And Ors[19]. where the division bench supported the test of interactivity to resolve the issue of jurisdiction as laid down by the case and even if there was a high degree of interactivity involved then the location of the defendant would be irrelevant, and jurisdiction would occur in that location.

In addition to this, the Division Bench also decided to put forth the test of intention to conclude the transaction to resolve the issue of jurisdiction and this judgement is followed till date with respect to copyright infringement. The Division Bench said, merely having an interactive website was not sufficient to make the defendant amenable to the jurisdiction of the forum court. Applying the principle of intentional targeting, it was held that the plaintiff had to show the intention of the defendant to conclude a commercial transaction with the website user[20].

Prestige Developers v Prestige Estates Projects Pvt. Ltd[21] was a case that involved a passing off action initiated by Prestige Estates against Prestige Property Developers. Banyan Tree was used by the Karnataka HC in this case. The Judge noticed that the defendants construction activity was exclusively conducted in Kerala.

The sale would not take place in Bangalore so that it could make a part of the cause of action in terms passing off. Even if the defendants wanted to pass off their property depending on the reputation of the plaintiff as alleged, it would only take place in Kerala. The activity of providing services was exclusively in Tamil Nadu, in case of the other defendant.

The court held that the test of concluding a commercial transaction should be shown, to establish the level of activity indulged in by the defendants by the use of the website[22]. The single judge, stating that the test was not satisfied by the plaintiff, held that the court at Bangalore would lack jurisdiction.

Critique and Conclusion:
Through the above-mentioned cases I am of the opinion and would like to critique that the existing rules or provisions covered under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 are not conclusive in nature when it comes to online transactions. It is high time that the Parliament should take steps for the implementation of specific legislation in future in order to deal with the disputes of Jurisdiction which would arise via online transactions.

The traditional ways seemed to be ineffective and clearly violates Section 20 and other such provisions as revealed by the cases mentioned above where the defendants reside, or cause of action arose becomes irrelevant and is replaced by tests such as interactivity and concluding a commercial transaction. So far, all the different kinds of jurisdiction connote power or authority to the courts to deal with the cases falling within the jurisdiction with respect to both movable and immovable property as mentioned under the Code.

If the matter is not within the said jurisdiction then the courts are not competent to try and adjudicate upon the same and despite that if decree or judgement is passed, then it would be construed as null and void. However, Section 13 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 helps in tackling with the problem of jurisdiction in cyberspace. It deals with the location of dispatch, time, and receipt of electronic record.

Even though Section 13 of the IT Act, 2000 has an overriding effect on CPC and CrPC, it would not be of much advantage as otherwise also, the general principles of jurisdiction and the courts under CPC and CrPC are empowered to adjudicate upon the matters at the place of the business of the person.

As discussed earlier, the traditional rules and regulations as stated under the Code with respect to jurisdiction would still be governed by the respective states but the same would not be applicable to cyber space. The cyber space needs to be acknowledged as a separate jurisdiction because neither the individual state nor the rules governing the online transactions could be effective in tracing the locality because there are no geographical boundaries when it comes to Internet.

Here, are some of the suggestions which could be taken into consideration while tackling with the problem of jurisdiction:

Formation of an independent body which acts as dispute resolution forum for people who are from different parts of the world to resolve the issue of cyber jurisdiction.
India being a signatory to the convention of cyber crimes which was adopted by the council of Europe in 2001. It deals with the violation of law over the internet and other information technology related issues.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgements in Indian courts which would at least act as an evidence.

At the end, I would like to conclude by saying that since the Modi Government is promoting digitalization in order to ensure transparency it would be important on the contrary to establish an effective structure with respect to Indian legal framework so that the issues relating to jurisdiction especially when we are dealing with online transactions could be resolved at the earliest otherwise, it would continue to threaten the sovereignty of the state.
 
End-Notes:
  1. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 40.
  2. AIR 1969 SC 823.
  3. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 141.
  4. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 142.
  5. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 145.
  6. AIR 2005 SC 4446.
  7. AIR 2003 Delhi 367.
  8. Saba,'s. 17 CPC envisages a suit being instituted in one of the several courts within whose jurisdiction properties may be situated (SCC, 12 February 2018) < https://blog.scconline.com/post/tag/section-17-cpc/> accessed on 20th July, 2020.
  9. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 143.
  10. (1888) 22 QB 128.
  11. Ibid
  12. AIR 1969 Calcutta 224.
  13. Ibid
  14. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure (8th edn, Eastern Book Company 2017) 144.
  15. Ibid.
  16. (1999) 4 SCC 567.
  17. Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited v. A. Murali Krishna Reddy, CS (OS) No. 894/2008.
  18. 106 (2003) DLT 554.
  19. 2007 (35) PTC 177 Del.
  20. Supra note 11.
  21. MFA 4954 & 13696/2006 (High Court of Karnataka, 2nd December 2009) (India).
  22. Ibid.
Written By: Anirudh Agarwal - Final Year Law Student, B.A. LL. B - O.P. Jindal Global University

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