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When Statute Provides Cognizance Of Particular Cause Is To Be Taken By A Particular Court, No Other Court Can Take Cognizance Of The Cause: SC [Read Judgment]

‘Legislature never creates or provides for parallel jurisdiction in two different courts for taking cognizance of a cause’

The Supreme Court has observed that when a statute provides that cognizance of particular cause is to be taken by a particular court, no other court can take cognizance of the cause since legislature never creates or provides for parallel jurisdiction in two different courts for taking cognizance of a cause.

The bench comprising Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan though agreed with the high court that the Additional District Judge was not competent to decide the suit, but set aside its judgment after it noted that the tenant did not raise any objection as regards the pecuniary jurisdiction. (Om Prakash Agarwal vs. Vishan Dayal Rajpoot)

Background

Landlord filed an eviction suit before Civil Judge (Senior Division), Small Cause Court, in 2008. As the valuation was beyond Rs. 25, 000, the District Judge transferred the suit to Additional District Judge (ADJ). While the suit was pending, the pecuniary jurisdiction of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Small Cause Court was raised to Rs. 1 lakh vide Uttar Pradesh Civil Laws (Amendment) Act, 2015. But the ADJ proceeded to decide the suit and finally decreed it in 2016. The tenant moved the high court by filing revision petition which was allowed. The matter was remanded back the revision for a fresh decision by Small Causes Court presided over by a Civil Judge (Senior Division). Landlord challenged this judgment before the apex court.

Cognizance Means institution, hearing and decision of the case

The bench observed that the expression ‘cognizance’ used in Section 15 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887, shall mean and include institution hearing and the decision of the case. The bench said: “When statute provides that cognizance of particular cause is to be taken by a particular court, no other court can take cognizance of the cause, since legislature never creates or provides for parallel jurisdiction in two different courts for taking cognizance of a cause. When Section 15 provides that all suits of civil nature of which the value does not exceed Rs.25, 000 “shall be cognizable by the Courts of Small Causes”, the cognizance shall be taken by that very Court and no other Court”.

Do Not Confuse The Litigants, Lawyers And Subordinate Courts By Giving Conflicting Views

The bench also noted that two single benches of the high courts have given conflicting judgment on the above issue. The single judge in Pankaj Hotels case had even noticed an earlier view of the single judge in Shobhit Nigam’s case, but did not follow it. The bench said: “He being of the opinion that judgment does not lay down the correct law, appropriate course open for Single Judge was to refer the matter for consideration by a larger bench. The judgments of the High Court are relied on and followed by all sub-ordinate courts in the State. It is always better to achieve certainty by an authoritative opinion by the High Court instead of giving conflicting views by different learned Single Judges which may confuse the litigants, lawyers and subordinate courts in applying the law.”

Objection As To Jurisdiction Has To Be Taken At Earliest Opportunity

The court also took note of Section 21 of Code of Civil Procedure which states that when the case has been tried by a court on merits and the judgment rendered, it should not be liable to be reversed purely on technical grounds, unless it has resulted in failure of justice. The bench observed: “The tenant did not raise any objection regarding competence of the Court and took a chance to obtain judgments in his favour on merits, he cannot be allowed to turnaround and contend that the court of Additional District Judge had no jurisdiction to try the Small Cause Suit and the judgment is without jurisdiction and nullity. Section 21 has been enacted to thwart any such objection by unsuccessful party who did not raise any objection regarding competence of court and allowed the matter to be heard on merits. Further, in deciding the small cause suit by Additional District Judge, the tenant has not proved that there has been a consequent failure of justice.”

Setting aside the high court judgment, the bench said: “Even when the court of Additional District Judge was not competent to decide the Small Causes Suit in question on the ground that the pecuniary jurisdiction is vested in Court of Small Causes i.e. Civil Judge, Senior Division w.e.f. 07.12.2015, no interference was called in the judgment of Additional District Judge in the exercise of Revisional Jurisdiction by High Court in view of the provisions of Section 21 of Civil Procedure Code.”

Read the Judgment Here

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