Whether Civil Courts Jurisdiction could be Barred?

Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (`Code’ for short) provides that courts have to try all civil suits unless barred. The relevant portion of the said section is extracted below :

“The Courts shall (subject to the provisions herein contained) have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.”

Scope of Section 9 of the Code

In Vankamamidi Venkata Subba Rao v. Chatlapalli Seetharamaratna Ranganayakamma, (1997) 5 SCC 460 the Apex Court explained the scope of section 9 thus :

“When a legal right is infringed, a suit would lie unless there is a bar against entertainment of such civil suit and the civil Court would take cognizance of it. Therefore, the normal rule of law is that Civil Courts have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature except those of which cognizance is either expressly or by necessary implication excluded.

Courts generally construe the provisions strictly when jurisdiction of the civil courts is claimed to be excluded. However, in the development of civil adjudication of civil disputes, due to pendency of adjudication and abnormal delay at hierarchical stages, statutes intervene and provide alternative mode of resolution of disputes with less expensive but expeditious disposal.

It is also an equally settled legal position that where a statute gives finality to the orders of the special tribunal, the civil court’s jurisdiction must be held to be excluded, if there is adequate remedy to do what the civil court would normally do in a suit. Where there is no express exclusion, the examination of the remedies and the scheme of the particular Act to find out the intendment becomes necessary and the result of the inquiry may be decisive.

In the latter case, it is necessary that the statute creates a special right or liability and provides procedure for the determination of the right or liability and further lays down that all questions about the said right or liability shall be determined by the Tribunal so constituted and whether remedies is normally associated with the action in civil Courts or prescribed by the statutes or not.

Therefore, each case requires examination whether the statute provides right and remedies and whether the scheme of the Act is that the procedure provided will be conclusive and thereby excludes the jurisdiction of the civil Court in respect thereof.”

Scope of section 9 of the Code was again explained by the Apex Court in Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation v. Bal Mukund Bairwa, (2009) 4 SCC 299 as under:

“Section 9 of the Code is in enforcement of the fundamental principles of law laid down in the maxim Ubi jus ibi remedium. A litigant, thus, having a grievance of a civil nature has a right to institute a civil suit in a competent civil court unless its cognizance is either expressly or  impliedly barred by any statute. Ex facie, in terms of Section 9 of the Code, civil courts can try all suits, unless barred by statute, either expressly or by necessary implication.”

Circumstances wherein civil court jurisdiction could be be excluded

In Dhulabai v. State of M.P., (1968) 3 SCR 662 the Apex Court enumerated the circumstances wherein civil court jurisdiction could be held to be excluded. They are:

1. Where the statute gives a finality to the orders of the special tribunals, the Civil Court’s jurisdiction must be held to be excluded if there is adequate remedy to do what the Civil Courts would normally do in a suit. Such provision, however, does not exclude those cases where the provisions of the particular Act have not been complied with or the statutory tribunal has not acted in conformity with the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.

2. Where there is an express bar of the jurisdiction of the court, an examination of the scheme of the particular Act to find the adequacy or the sufficiency of the remedies provided may be relevant but is not decisive to sustain the jurisdiction of the civil court.

It is therefore clear that the jurisdiction of the civil court to entertain any suit of a civil nature arising under a statute can be excluded only when cognizance is expressly or impliedly barred by the statute which gives rise to such suits.  The principle underlying section 9 is that cognizance of any category of suits arising under a statute, can be barred (either expressly or impliedly) by that Statute. Section 9 of the Code and plethora of decisions which considered it, state that the civil court will have jurisdiction except where the cognizance of suits of civil nature is either expressly or impliedly barred.

See Also: Dayaram v. Sudhir Batham, (2012) 1 SCC 333 : 2011 (11) SCALE 448 : JT 2011 (12) SC 174 : 2011 (6) AWC 6161 : 2012 (2) BomCR 684 : 2011 (6) CTC 192 : 2012 (2) JCR 20 : 2012 (1) JLJ 43 : 2011 (4) KLT (SN) 117 : 2011 (6) MahLJ 414 : 2011 (IV) MPJR 247 : 2012 (1) SLJ 91 : 2011 (6) UJ 3938

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