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JURISDICTION

Introduction- Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium- ‘Where there is a right there is a remedy’. The fundamental
principle of English law that where there is a right there is a remedy which is adopted by Indian legal
system. It means whenever the rights of a person is infringed or curtailed or the person is stopped by
anyone in enjoying the rights so guaranteed to him, there must be some judicial forum having
authority to adjudicate on the matter and the rights so guaranteed should be restored or compensated
as per the case. To get the rights restored or claiming compensation or damage sustained, person has
to approach the appropriate forum, which has the authority to adjudicate on the matter and award the
relief so sought. So forum must have the jurisdiction to deal with that matter.

Jurisdiction is power or authority of the court of law to hear and determine a cause or matter. In other
words jurisdiction meant the authority which a court has to decide matter that are litigated before it
or to take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision.

Meaning and Importance-

Jurisdiction is a notion which is the core of any litigation. The term can be understood from both a
general as well as legal perspective. Its significance can be gathered in both a broader as well as
narrower sense from which it is defined. The word originates from the Latin terms ‘juris’ and ‘dicto’
which means “I speak the law”.1 Jurisdiction is also the Latin term for ‘authority to judge or
administer justice’.2.As per Black’s Law Dictionary3the court’s power to decide a case or issue a
decree can be termed as jurisdiction. It also defines a geographical area within which the political or
judicial authority may be exercised.

The term ‘Jurisdiction’ which is always one of the most important questions of law is nowhere
defined under any stature. The procedural law of India i.e. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is also
silent on it. However, in simple terms, Jurisdiction means the power to hear and determine a case. It
also means the extent of power which is conferred upon the court by its constitution to try a
proceeding.4The term ‘Jurisdiction’ is an expression which is used as well as understood in various
senses. Whereas the ‘pure’ theory of jurisdiction would reduce jurisdictional control to a vanishing
point, the adoption of a narrower meaning might result in a more useful legal concept even though
the formal structure of law may lose something of its logical symmetry. As provided in the
Hallsbury’s Law of England, “By jurisdiction is meant the authority by which a court has to decide

1
C K. Takwani Civil Procedure (6th edn, Eastern Book Company 2009) 40.
2
Aiyar Ramanath P, The Law Lexicon (2nd edn, LexisNexis Butterworth’s Wadhwa Nagpur 2008)
3
Black’s Law Dictionary (9th edn, 2009) 927.
4
Raja Soap Factory v. S.P. Shantharaj, AIR 1965 SC 1449.
matters that are litigated before it or to take cognizance of matters presented to it in a formal way for
its decision. The limits of this authority are imposed by statute or chapter or commission under which
the court is constituted and may be extended or restricted by similar means. If no restrictions or
limitations are imposed the jurisdiction is said to be unlimited. A limitation may be either as to the
kind or nature of the actions or the matters of which a particular court has cognizance or as to the
area over which the jurisdiction extends, or it may partake of both these characteristics”. Jurisdiction
hence may be defined to be the power of a court to hear and determine a cause, to adjudicate and
exercise any judicial power in relation to it. It refers to the right of administering justice by means of
law. The notion of jurisdiction is rooted in territoriality from the point of view of both the court which
can properly assert jurisdiction and from the point of view of the law that should be applied while
deciding the dispute.

A 1921 Calcutta High Court judgment in the case of Hriday Nath Roy v. Ram Chandra sought to
explain the meaning of the term ‘jurisdiction’ in a great detail. The bench observed:

‘An examination of the cases in the books discloses numerous attempts to define the term
‘jurisdiction’, which has been stated to be ‘the power to hear and determine issues of law and fact;’
‘the authority by which three judicial officers take cognizance of and decide cause;’ ‘the authority
to hear and decide a legal controversy;’ ‘the power to hear and determine the subject-matter in
controversy between parties to a suit and to adjudicate or exercise any judicial power over them;’‘the
power to hear, determine and pronounce judgment on the issues before the Court;’‘the power or
authority which is conferred upon a Court by the Legislature to hear and determine causes between
parties and to carry the judgments into effect;’ ‘the power to enquire into the facts, to apply the law,
to pronounce the judgment and to carry it into execution.’

Existence Of Jurisdiction And Exercise Of Jurisdiction


One must draw distinction between ‘existence of jurisdiction’ and ‘exercise of jurisdiction’.
Existence of Jurisdiction is a precondition to exercise Jurisdiction. A decree passed by a court without
jurisdiction shall be a nullity. In other words, a decree passed by a court inherently lacking
jurisdiction shall be a nullity. However, if the court has jurisdiction but it is irregularly exercised, the
decree passed does not become a nullity. In the words of Lord Hobheuse5, “a court has jurisdiction
to decide wrong as well as right. If it decides wrong, the wronged party can only take the course

5
Malkarjun v. Narhari (1900) 27 IA 216.
prescribed by law for setting matters right and if that course is not taken, the decision however wrong
cannot be disturbed.”

Section 9 of the CPC reads

“Courts to try all civil suits unless barred- The Court 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.

Explanation 1-

A suit in which the right to property or to an office is contested is a suit of a civil nature,
notwithstanding that such right may depend entirely on the decision of questions as to religious
rites or ceremonies.

Explanation II-

For the purposes of this section, it is immaterial whether or not any fees are attached to the office
referred to in Explanation I or whether or not such office is attached to a particular place.”

The section clearly allows for the legislature by statute to expressly bar the jurisdiction of the Civil
Courts.The general rule however is that the presumption would be made in favour of the existence
of a right to sue in a Civil court, the exclusion of the same being an exception.

Like jurisdiction, there is no definition of a civil suit in any Act. However, Explanation I makes it
clear that the suit in which the principal question relates to a civil right is a civil suit

In Sanker Naryan Potti v K Sreedevi6, the Apex Court held “...it is obvious that in all types of civil
disputes civil courts have inherent jurisdiction as per Section 9 of the CPC unless a part of that
jurisdiction is carved out from such jurisdiction, expressly or by necessary implication, by any
statutory provision and conferred on any other tribunal or authority.”

This in itself means that the Legislature, may, if it so desires, exclude certain portions of any law,
or any law in toto by including a clause or provision in the Act itself. Hence, the current position
regarding the jurisdiction of Civil Courts is that they have inherent jurisdiction to hear into civil
matters unless it is expressly or implied excluded by a statute. The Supreme Court has held that the

6
(1998) 3 SCC 751
burden of proof for the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the court is on the party contending it. This
section is the backbone of CPC. In the case of P.P. Aggarwal v. R.C. Aggarwal it was held that
there are 2 aspects to section 9. The positive being that all civil courts have power to try and
negative being that there is an implied bar which can’t be entertained. The expression ‘suit of civil
nature’covers private obligations and rights of citizen under rights/rules/obligations. The
explanation clause includes right to property(corporeal, incorporeal, intellectual) and right to office
contested is a suit of civil nature.