Place of Suing (Section 15-25)

Section 15 : Court in which suits to be instituted—

Every suit shall be instituted in the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it.


Section 16 : Suits to be instituted where subject-matter situate—

Subject to the pecuniary or other limitations prescribed by any law, suits—

(a) for the recovery of immovable property with or without rent or profits,

(b) for the partition of immovable property,

(c) for foreclosure, sale or redemption in the case of a mortgage of or charge upon immovable property,

(d) for the determination of any other right to or interest in immovable property,

(e) for compensation for wrong to immovable property,

(f) 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 situate:

Provided that a suit to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for wrong to, immovable property held by or on behalf of the defendant may, where the relief sought can be entirely obtained through his personal obedience, be instituted either in the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situate, or in the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the defendant actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain.


Section 17: Suits for immovable property situate within jurisdiction of different Courts.—

Where a suit is to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for wrong to, immovable property situate within the jurisdiction of different Courts, the suit may be instituted in any Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction any portion of the property is situate:

Provided that, in respect of the value of the subject-matter of the suit, the entire claim is cognizable by such Court.


Section 18: Place of institution of suit where local limits of jurisdiction of Courts are uncertain.—

(1) Where it is alleged to be uncertain within the local limits of the jurisdiction of which of two or more Courts any immovable property is situate, any one of those Courts may, if satisfied that there is ground for the alleged uncertainty, record a statement to that effect and thereupon proceed to 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 were situate within the local limits of its jurisdiction:

Provided that the suit is one with respect to which the Court is competent as regards the nature and value of the suit to exercise jurisdiction.

(2) Where a statement has not been recorded under sub-section (1), and an objection is taken before an Appellate or Revisional Court that a decree or order in a suit relating to such property was made by a Court not having jurisdiction where the property is situate, the Appellate or Revisional Court shall not allow the objection unless in its opinion there was, at the time of the institution of the suit, no reasonable ground for uncertainty as to the Court having jurisdiction with respect thereto and there has been a consequent failure of justice.


Section 19: Suits for compensation for wrongs to person or movables.—

Where a suit is for compensation for wrong done to the person or to movable property, if the wrong was done within the local limits of the jurisdiction of one Court and the defendant resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain, within the local limits of the jurisdiction of another Court, the suit may be instituted at the option of the plaintiff in either of the said Courts.


Section 20: Other suits to be instituted where defendants reside or cause of action arises.—

Subject to the limitations aforesaid, every suit shall be instituted in a Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction—

(a) the defendant, or each of the defendants where there are more than one, at the time of the commencement of the suit, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain; or

(b) any of the defendants, where there are more than one, at the time of the commencement of the suit, actually and voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain, provided that in such case either the leave of the Court is given, or the defendants who do not reside, or carry on business, or personally work for gain, as aforesaid, acquiesce in such institution; or

(c) the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises.


Section 21: Objections to jurisdiction.—

(1) No objection as to the place of suing shall be allowed by any Appellate or Revisional Court unless such objection was taken in the Court of first instance at the earliest possible opportunity and in all cases where issues are settled at or before such settlement, and unless there has been a consequent failure of justice.

(2) No objection as to the competence of a Court with reference to the pecuniary limits of its jurisdiction shall be allowed by any Appellate or Revisional Court unless such objection was taken in the Court of first instance at the earliest possible opportunity, and, in all cases where issues are settled, at or before such settlement, and unless there has been a consequent failure of justice.

(3) No objection as to the competence of the executing Court with reference to the local limits of its jurisdiction shall be allowed by any Appellate or Revisional Court unless such objection was taken in the executing Court at the earliest possible opportunity, and unless there has been a consequent failure of justice.


Section 21-A: Bar on suit to set aside decree on objection as to place of suing.—

No suit shall lie challenging the validity of a decree passed in a former suit between the same parties, or between the parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title, on any ground based on an objection as to the place of suing.


Section 22: Power to transfer suits which may be instituted in more than one Court.—

Where a suit may be instituted in any one of two or more Courts and is instituted in one of such Courts, any defendant, after notice to the other parties, may, at the earliest possible opportunity and in all cases where issues are settled at or before such settlement, apply to have the suit transferred to another Court, and the Court to which such application is made, after considering the objections of the other parties (if any), shall determine in which of the several Courts having jurisdiction the suit shall proceed.


Section 23: To what Court application lies.—

(1) Where the several Courts having jurisdiction are subordinate to the same Appellate Court, an application under Section 22 shall be made to the Appellate Court.

(2) Where such Courts are subordinate to different Appellate Courts but to the same High Court, the application shall be made to the said High Court.

(3) Where such Courts are subordinate to different High Courts, the application shall be made to the High Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the Court in which the suit is brought is situate.


Section 24: General power of transfer and withdrawal.—

(1) On the application of any of the parties and after notice to the parties and after hearing such of them as desired to be heard, or of its own motion without such notice, the High Court or the District Court may at any stage—

(a) transfer any suit, appeal or other proceeding pending before it for trial or disposal to any Court subordinate to it and competent to try or dispose of the same, or

(b) withdraw any suit, appeal or other proceeding pending in any Court subordinate to it, and

(i) try or dispose of the same; or

(ii) transfer the same for trial or disposal to any Court subordinate to it and competent to try or dispose of the same; or

(iii) retransfer the same for trial or disposal to the Court from which it was withdrawn.

(2) Where any suit or proceeding has been transferred or withdrawn under sub-section(1), the Court which [is thereafter to try or dispose of such suit or proceeding] may, subject to any special directions in the case of an order of transfer, either retry it or proceed from the point at which it was transferred or withdrawn.

(3) For the purposes of this section,—

(a) Courts of Additional and Assistant Judges shall be deemed to be subordinate to the District Court;

(b) “proceeding” includes a proceeding for the execution of a decree or order.

(4) The Court trying any suit transferred or withdrawn under this section from a Court of Small Causes shall, for the purposes of such suit, be deemed to be a Court of Small Causes.

(5) A suit or proceeding may be transferred under this section from a Court which has no jurisdiction to try it.


Section 25: Power of Supreme Court to transfer suits, etc.—

(1) On the application of a party, and after notice to the parties, and after hearing such of them as desire to be heard, the Supreme Court may, at any stage, if satisfied that an order under this section is expedient for the ends of justice, direct that any suit, appeal or other proceeding be transferred from a High Court or other Civil Court in one State to a High Court or other Civil Court in any other State.

(2) Every application under this section shall be made by a motion which shall be supported by an affidavit.

(3) The Court to which such suit, appeal or other proceeding is transferred shall, subject to any special directions in the order of transfer, either retry it or proceed from the stage at which it was transferred to it.

(4) In dismissing any application under this section, the Supreme Court may, if it is of opinion that the application was frivolous or vexatious, order the applicant to pay by way of compensation to any person who has opposed the application such sum, not exceeding two thousand rupees, as it considers appropriate in the circumstances of the case.

(5) The law applicable to any suit, appeal or other proceeding transferred under this section shall be the law which the Court in which the suit, appeal or other proceeding was originally instituted ought to have applied to such suit, appeal or proceeding.


IMPORTANT CASE LAWS

1. Jurisdictional aspects to be considered while instituting a suit

Harshad Chiman Lal Modi v. DLF Universal Ltd., (2005) 7 SCC 791 : Sections 15 to 20 of the Code contain detailed provisions relating to jurisdiction of courts. They regulate forum for institution of suits. They deal with the matters of domestic concern and provide for the multitude of suits which can be brought in different courts. Section 15 requires the suitor to institute a suit in the court of the lowest grade competent to try it. Section 16 enacts that the suits for recovery of immovable property, or for partition of immovable property, or for foreclosure, sale or redemption of mortgage property, or for determination of any other right or interest in immovable property, or for compensation for wrong to immovable property shall be instituted in the court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situate. The proviso to Section 16 declares that where the relief sought can be obtained through the personal obedience of the defendant, the suit can be instituted either in the court within whose jurisdiction the property is situate or in the court where the defendant actually or voluntarily resides, or carries on business, or personally works for gain. Section 17 supplements Section 16 and is virtually another proviso to that section. It deals with those cases where immovable property is situate within the jurisdiction of different courts. Section 18 applies where local limits of jurisdiction of different courts are uncertain. Section 19 is a special provision and applies to suits for compensation for wrongs to a person or to movable property. Section 20 is a residuary section and covers all those cases not dealt with or covered by Sections 15 to 19.


2. Types and Objection to Jurisdiction

Harshad Chiman Lal Modi v. DLF Universal Ltd., (2005) 7 SCC 791 :The jurisdiction of a court may be classified into several categories. The important categories are (i) territorial or local jurisdiction; (ii) pecuniary jurisdiction; and (iii) jurisdiction over the subject-matter. So far as territorial and pecuniary jurisdictions are concerned, objection to such jurisdiction has to be taken at the earliest possible opportunity and in any case at or before settlement of issues. The law is well settled on the point that if such objection is not taken at the earliest, it cannot be allowed to be taken at a subsequent stage. Jurisdiction as to subject-matter, however, is totally distinct and stands on a different footing. Where a court has no jurisdiction over the subject-matter of the suit by reason of any limitation imposed by statute, charter or commission, it cannot take up the cause or matter. An order passed by a court having no jurisdiction is a nullity.


3. Transfer and Withdrawal of suits

Kulwinder Kaur v. Kandi Friends Education Trust, (2008) 3 SCC 659: Reading Sections 24 and 25 of the Code together and keeping in view various judicial pronouncements, certain broad propositions as to what may constitute a ground for transfer have been laid down by courts. They are balance of convenience or inconvenience to the plaintiff or the defendant or witnesses; convenience or inconvenience of a particular place of trial having regard to the nature of evidence on the points involved in the suit; issues raised by the parties; reasonable apprehension in the mind of the litigant that he might not get justice in the court in which the suit is pending; important questions of law involved or a considerable section of public interested in the litigation; “interest of justice” demanding for transfer of suit, appeal or other proceeding, etc. Above are some of the instances which are germane in considering the question of transfer of a suit, appeal or other proceeding. They are, however, illustrative in nature and by no means be treated as exhaustive. If on the above or other relevant considerations, the court feels that the plaintiff or the defendant is not likely to have a “fair trial” in the court from which he seeks to transfer a case, it is not only the power, but the duty of the court to make such order.


CONNECTED ORDERS

ORDER VII – RULE 10 and 10-B

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