Sunday 29 January 2012

Sec 9 of CPC Jurisdriction of Civil Court

Supreme Court of India
Most. Rev. P.M.A. Metropolitan & ... vs Moran Mar Marthoma & Anr on 20 June, 1995
Equivalent citations: 1995 AIR 2001, 1995 SCC Supl. (4) 286
Author: R Sahai.J.
Bench: Sahai, R.
SEN, S.C. (J)
1995 AIR 2001 1995 SCC Supl. (4) 286
JT 1995 (5) 1 1995 SCALE (4)1
One of the basic principles of law is that every right has a remedy. Ubi jus ibi remediem is the well known maxim. Every civil suit is cognisable unless it is barred, 'there is an inherent right in every person to bring a suit of a civil nature and unless the suit is barred by statute one may, at one's peril, bring a suit of one's choice. It is no answer to a suit, howsoever frivolous the claim, that the law confers no such right to sue' Smt. Ganga Bai vs. Vijay Kumar & Ors., AIR 1974 SC 1126. The expansive nature of the Section is demonstrated by use of phraseology both positive and negative. The earlier part opens the door widely and latter debars entry to only those which are expressly or impliedly barred. The two explanations, one existing from inception and latter added in 1976 bring out clearly the legislative intention of extending operation of the Section to such religious matters where right to property or office is involved irrespective of whether any fee is attached to the office or not. The language used is simple but explicit and clear. It is structured on the basic principle of a civilised jurisprudence that absence of machinery for enforcement of right renders it nugatory. The heading which is normally key to the Section brings out unequivocally that all civil suits are cognizable unless barred. What is meant by it is explained further by widening the ambit of the Section by use of the word `shall' and the expression, `all suits of a civil nature' unless `expressly of impliedly 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. But they too pertain to the larger family of `civil'. There is thus no doubt about the width of the word `civil'. Its width has been stretched further by using the word `nature' along with it. That is even those suits are cognisable which are not only civil but are even of civil nature. In Article 133 of the Constitution an appeal lies to this Court against any judgment, decree or order in a `civil proceeding'. This expression came up for construction in S.A.L. Narayan Row & Anr. etc. etc. v. Ishwarlal Bhagwandas & Anr. etc. etc. AIR 1965 SC 1818. The Constitution Bench held `a proceedings for relief against infringement of civil right of a person is a civil proceedings'. In Arbind Kumar Singh v. Nand Kishore Prasad & Anr. AIR 1968 SC 1227 it was held `to extend to all proceedings which directly affect civil rights'. The dictionary meaning of the word `proceedings' is `the institution of a legal action, `any step taken in a legal action.' In Black's Law Dictionary it is explained as, `In a general sense, the form and manner of conducting juridical business before a court or judicial officer. Regular and orderly progress in form of law, including all possible steps in an action from its commencement to the execution of judgment. Term also refers to administrative proceedings before agencies, tribunals, bureaus, or the like'. 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 has the characteristic of affecting one's rights which are not only civil but of civil nature. Are religious rights, for instance right to worship in a religious place, entry in a temple, administration of religious shrines for instance a temple, mosque or a church are rights of civil nature? Is the suit filed by the respondent bad as the declaration, injunction and prohibition sought are in respect of matters which are not civil in nature? The answer is given by Explanation I. The Civil Procedure Code was enacted during British period. The legislature enacting the law was aware that there were no ecclesiastical courts either in ancient or Medieval India as in England. `The term "ecclesiastical law" may be used both in a general and in a technical sense. In its general sense it means the law relating to any matter concerning the Church of England administered and enforced in any court; in its technical sense it means the law administered by ecclesiastical courts and persons' [Halsbury's Laws of England Vol. 14 para 137]. `The ecclesiastical law of England is as much the law of the land as any other part of the law' [Halsbury's Laws of England Vol.14 para 139]. There was no such law in our country. The ecclesiastical courts are peculiar to England. The Parliament was aware of it. That is why it added Explanation I to Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code. It obviates any ambiguity by making it clear that where even right to an office is contested then it would be a suit of a civil nature even though that right may entirely depend on the decision of a question as to religious rites or ceremonies. Explanation II widens it further to even those offices to which no fees are attached. Therefore, it was visualised from the inception that a suit in which the right to property or religious office was involved it would be a suit of civil nature. Reason for this is both historical and legal. In England ecclesiastical law was accepted as a part of the common law binding on all. But, `the introduction of English Law into a colony does not carry with it English ecclesiastical law'. (Halsbury Laws of England Vol. 14 para 315). In ancient or medieval India the courts were established by King which heard all disputes. No religious institution was so strong and powerful as church in England. The Indian outlook was always secular. Therefore, no parallel can be drawn between the administration of the churches by ecclesiastical courts in England. Religion in India has always been ritualistic. The Muslim rulers were by and large tolerant and understanding. They made India their home. They invaded, ruled and became Indian. But Britishers made it a colony. However, that did not interfere with religion. Disputes pertaining to religious office including performance of rituals were always decided by the courts established by law.
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