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Civil Court's Jurisdiction Not Ousted Where Procedure Prescribed In Particular Statute Not Followed Order 7 Rule 11 CPC: Bombay HC

Shvena Neendoor ,
  18 August 2022       Share Bookmark

Court :
Manu Babu Patel Vs. Prakash Mohanlal Desai and Ors.
Brief :

Citation :
First Appeal No. 170 of 2022

Case title: 
Manu Babu Patel Vs. Prakash Mohanlal Desai and Ors.

Date of Order: 
28th July 2022

Bench: 
Justice Anuja Prabhudesai

Parties: 
Appellant- Manu Babu Patel
Respondents- Prakash Mohanlal Desai and Ors.

SUBJECT

As per the Bombay High Court, the court's authority to reject a plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) is a serious power that must be employed with caution.

In a property dispute, Justice Anuja Prabhudessai was hearing an appeal against a trial court ruling dismissing the appellant's plaint. The Court overturned the order and instructed the lower court to resume the trial.

The appellant was the plaintiff in the current case. He was attempting to overturn the Collector's ruling in a property dispute concerning his grandparents' land. One of the defendants applied for the plaint to be rejected under Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the CPC, stating that the plaint is precluded by law under Section 12F of the Daman Abolition of Proprietorship of Villages Regulation, 1962. (DAVPR).

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure- The plaint shall be dismissed when the suit appears based on the statement in the plaint to be forbidden by any law, according to Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the CPC. As a result, in order to determine whether the suit is barred by any legislation, the assertion in the plaint must be interpreted.

Section 12F of the Daman Abolition of Proprietorship of Villages Regulation, 1962- According to Section 12(F)(i) of the Regulation of 1962, it is within the authority of the Mamlatdar to settle the matter of occupation rights under the Regulations of 1962, and there is an express bar under Section 12(F)(ii) to adjudicate upon the Mamlatdar's instructions.

OVERVIEW

  • The Appellant argued that their grandparents were property occupiers. The appellants contended that their residence was located on the suit property. The plaintiffs' grandparents were in possession of the suit property on December 20, 1961. 
  • In 1974, Mohanbhai Desai, the Respondent's predecessor, forcefully gained control of the suit property, resulting in the filing of the procedures under the Daman Abolition of Proprietorship of Villages Regulation, 1962.
  • According to the appellants, the learned Mamlatdar recognized the grandparents as the occupiers and returned control of the suit land by an order. Mohanbhai Desai, who was dissatisfied with the ruling, filed an appeal with the Collector. 
  • The Collector denied the appeal and upheld the Mamlatdar's ruling. According to the appellants, the name of one of the grandparents was entered and documented in the survey records and in the record of rights via mutation entry based on the aforementioned order. The Collector's order was contested before the Administrative Tribunal. 
  • The Revision Application was granted in part, and the case was remanded to the Collector. Both grandparents expired during the pendency of the following proceedings.
  • The averments in the plaint show that the grandparents' legal representatives were not named. The Collector ruled that the dead's legal representatives had failed to notify the Collector of their demise within 90 days, and therefore the proceedings against the deceased were halted. 
  • The Collector went on to say that Mohanbhai Desai's claim had gone uncontested, thus he granted the appeal. Respondents Nos. 1–4 applied to change their names in the possessions of dead Mohanlal Desai in 2003. 
  • The Mamlatdar proceeded with the abovementioned Application via mutation entry and certified it, whereby the names of Mohanlal Desai's legal agents were ordered to be mutated.
  • One Navinchandra Desai, claiming to be one of the deceased Mohanlal Desai's legal representatives, applied for mutation in 2007 asserting that the proceedings in respect of the suit property, which were pending at the time of recording mutation entry, had been concluded and requesting that their names be mutated in respect of the suit property. 
  • It is alleged that, without hearing the legal representatives of the grandparents, the Mamlatdar erased the name of the grandparents and wrote the names of Respondents Nos. 1 to 4, Mohanlal Desai's legal representatives, in the Record of Rights of Suit Property.
  • Respondent No.5 asserted that he was in possession of the suit property on the appointed day and requested a declaration that he is an inhabitant of the suit property. The  Mamlatdar deemed Respondent No.5 the occupier of the suit property and ordered that his name be entered in the suit property's survey records. The property was sold by Respondent No.5.
  • The Appellants alleged that Respondent No.5 was not the owner of the suit land and that the sale deed he issued in favour of Respondent No.5 is unlawful, null and invalid. The Appellants argued that in 2014, they discovered that the Respondent claimed to be the owner of the suit property and intended to sell it.
  • The Appellants inquired at the Mamlatdar's office and discovered the change in entries in the survey records. They requested copies of the documents and discovered the Defendants' illegalities after receiving the copies.
  • The Appellants claimed that while the complaint was pending, Respondents 5 and 6 took forceful custody of the suit property, therefore they modified the plaint and requested a mandatory injunction directing Respondents 5 and 6 to hand up vacant control of the suit property.
  • According to the records, Respondent No.6 submitted an application for dismissal of the plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the CPC, primarily on the grounds that the Civil Court's jurisdiction was barred by Section 12F of Regulation 1962. 
  • The trial court determined that the averments in the plaint show that the Mamlatdar and the Collector did not follow essential principles of judicial process, hence the bar under Section 12(F)(ii) was not attracted and the complaint was maintainable in the Civil Court. 
  • Respondent No.5 submitted a new application under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC, arguing that the Civil Court's jurisdiction was barred by section 12(F) of the Regulation of 1962, as well as raising a limitation problem.
  • The Application was granted under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC by recording inconsistent conclusions that the Civil Court's jurisdiction was prohibited. The learned Judge ruled that the date of knowledge of the mutation entry and receipt of the certified copy are immaterial in determining limitation and thus the complaint is precluded by limitation.
  • As a result, the learned Judge granted the application while dismissing the plaint under CPC Order VII Rule 11(d). The Appellants have chosen this Appeal, dissatisfied with the order.

ISSUES RAISED

Whether a plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the CPC can be dismissed primarily on the grounds laid down by Section 12F of the Daman Abolition of Proprietorship of Villages Regulation, 1962?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT

  • The counsel for the appellant contends that because the prior judgement dated 21.03.2016 denying Respondent No.6's application under Order VII Rule 11 CPC has reached finality, the current application is barred by the principles of res judicata.
  • It was claimed that Kashiben Gopal, the sole living grandparent in the appeal before the Collector, died while the appeal was pending. The counsel submitted that notwithstanding the Collector's decision to dismiss the appeal, the Collector approved the appeal filed by Mohanlal Desai and thereby overturned the Mamlatdar's decision. 
  • It was argued that the order is clearly illegitimate and null and void and that it may be contested in Civil Court. 
  • The counsel contended that the Appellants' grandparents were previously determined to be the occupiers of the suit property, that they were given possession, and that Kashiben's name was registered in the Record of Rights under mutation entry.
  • Placing reliance on the case of Dhulabai vs. State of Madhya Pradesh [AIR 1968 SC 78] it was contended that the Civil Court's jurisdiction is not compromised when fundamental rules of judicial procedure are not observed. He stated that the Collector's order is invalid because it is not in accordance with the rules of the Regulation of 1962, and that the Civil Court has jurisdiction to hear the case.
  • He further submitted that the averments in the plaint show that the plaint was filed within the statute of limitations.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT

  • The counsel for the respondent asserted that the appellants's failure to institute the claim on time was egregious. The claim is prohibited by the statute of limitations and is likely to be dismissed under CPC Order VII Rule 11.
  • Furthermore, it was submitted that the Appellants contend that they have contested the directives issued by the relevant authorities under Section 12A of the Regulation of 1962. It was argued that Section 12F of the Regulation, 1962 specifically prohibits the Civil Court from hearing such a challenge.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

  • The court opined that the straightforward language of Section 11(d) makes it apparent that the court can reject the plaint only if the litigation seems to be forbidden by any law based on the allegations in the plaint. 
  • It was stated that it is well established that Order VII Rule 11 causes the action to be terminated prior to trial and has substantial consequences impacting the parties' rights. As a result, the court's severe powers to dismiss a civil case at the threshold must be applied with caution.
  • As a result of the principles established by the Supreme Court in Dhulabi (supra), it was stated that the claim was not precluded by Section 12F of Regulation of 1962. These conclusions are binding in a later application filed on identical grounds.
  • It was noted that nonetheless, the learned Judge heard the following application and issued a conflicting ruling without referring to the earlier order or taking into account the comprehensive reasons expressed therein. The bench opined that said action was a blatant exploitation of the legal system. 
  • The court noted that according to the allegations in the plaint, both the Collector and the Mamlatdar did not follow the statutory provisions and did not operate in accordance with the fundamental norms of the judicial process. As a result, according to the law established by the Supreme Court in Dhulabhai, a provision under Section 12F would not preclude the Civil Court from exercising jurisdiction.
  • Regarding the bar by limitation, the court opined that the requirements precedent to the exercise of authority are strict, especially when the plaint is rejected on the basis of limitation. Therefore, when the Appellants argued that they only learned of the essential facts giving rise to the cause of action at a certain point in time, this must be considered at the stage of reviewing the application under Order VII Rule 11.

CONCLUSION

It was held that the learned Judge of the trial court was not justified in rejecting the plaint on the basis of limitation, which should have been decided on the merits of the case. The challenged order cannot be upheld. As a result, the appeal was granted.

Learn the practical aspects of CrPC HERE, CPC HERE, IPC HERE, Evidence Act HERE, Family Laws HERE, DV Act HERE

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