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Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 prescribes that civil courts shall have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting the suits of which their cognizance is barred either expressly or impliedly. In many statutes one section is provided which excludes the jurisdiction of the civil courts and confers jurisdiction upon a specially created tribunal or certain officer or quasi judicial body. When a suit is filed under such a statute, one of the main defences comes in the form of jurisdiction of the civil court. Interpretation of the jurisdiction exclusion clause has to be adopted the court to ascertain the real meaning of the clause.

Certain basic matters relating to exclusion of jurisdiction clause


Firstly, there is a strong presumption that the civil courts have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature. This presumption has to be rebutted on a very strict construction of the jurisdiction exclusion clause. The burden of proof clearly rests on the person alleging the jurisdictional facts.

Secondly, the exclusion of jurisdiction of civil court must be clearly expressed. The exclusion is only with regard to the matters mentioned in the clause. In deciding whether the matter in the suit is excluded from the jurisdiction of civil court, the matters mentioned in the exclusion clause is to be strictly construed. By analogy or comparison, the exclusion cannot be extended.

Thirdly, the exclusion may be implied from reading the clause in the context in which it appears. In case the statute in question has created machinery for enforcement of the matters in question as well as an appeal procedure, then there is a clear implication that the jurisdiction of civil courts is excluded. Bhimsen Vs State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1955 SC 435 case may be seen.

Finally, like any other statutory construction, the case of construction of jurisdiction exclusion clause would arise only when the meaning of the wording when read in the context is in doubt. Clearly worded clause which leads to only one meaning would not be litigated upon as to its proper meaning by resorting to such process. Atiq-ur-Rahman Vs Municipal Corporation of Delhi AIR 1996 SC 956 case may be referred to.  

 Historical Analysis of the interpretation of exclusion clause


Historically, one of the influential judgment in the matter is Wolverhapton New Waterworks Co Vs Hawkesford (1859) 6 CB (NS) 336 case. The ratio of the case is followed by the Supreme Court of India a number of times. The judgment from Justice Wiles in the classical legal analysis of the nature of rights and remedies affords a powerful tool to be used in times to come. In order to examine the context, the rights and remedies in question for whose enforcement the statute confers a procedure are divided into three classes which give rise to three types of result:

First type: There are common law right and liability existing. Remedy also exists at common law. One statute has prescribed certain special procedure for enforcement of that right. No express words are made to state that the jurisdiction of civil courts is excluded. Example- Consumer Protection Act, 1986 which provides that the remedies are in addition to and not in derogation to the existing ones. In this type of situation, the jurisdiction of civil court is not excluded though a special procedure is prescribed.

Second type: There are rights and liabilities created by a statute in question. The statute does not provide the procedure by which the right is to be vindicated. In this situation, the jurisdiction of civil court would extend by virtue of general law.

Third type: There are rights created by statute and not existing in common law. The statute also prescribes the procedure specified in it. In such types of cases, even if the exclusion of jurisdiction is not provided, the jurisdiction of civil courts would stand excluded. Example- Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 which provides rights to workmen and also provides adjudication procedure by specially created tribunals. Jurisdiction of civil courts is excluded impliedly.



The classic Woolverhapton case is a bible to all legal practitioner. The historical analysis of the rights into the three classes would simplify the construction of the exclusion clause. No wonder over the years this ratio guided the bar and bench in case of doubt. The judgment should be read by all persons interested in search of true meaning of jurisdiction exclusion clause.

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Category Civil Law, Other Articles by - Anupam Lahiri