Analysis Of Provisions For Place Of Suing Under Code Of Civil Procedure
Suits may relate to movable properties, immovable properties or even based on contracts or wrongs and so on. The term ‘place of suing’ connotes the place of trial of the suit. Under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as ‘CPC’), Section 15-20 deals with the provisions for determining the place of suing. Plaintiff even though is the dominus litus i.e., master of the suit, he does not possess the right to act in contradiction of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and institute a suit at any place as he desires to which is as per CPC. According to Section 15 of CPC, the plaintiff shall institute the suit in ‘the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it’. Section 15 of CPC refers to the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Court. In Mohannakumaran Nair vs Vijayakumaran Nair, the Court observed that the determination of jurisdiction is to be done from the date on which the suit is filed and entertained not with reference to a future date.
PLACE OF SUING FOR IMMOVABLE PROPERTY
The provisions of Section 16 of CPC are related to the institution of suits in regard to the immovable property for the following matters-
- recovery of immovable property with or without rent or profits
- partition of immovable property
iii. foreclosure, sale or redemption in the case of mortgage of or charge upon immovable property
- determination of any other right or interest in immovable property
- compensation for wrong caused to immovable property
For the above-mentioned subject matters, the suit shall be instituted in the Court within the territorial limits of whose jurisdiction the immovable property is situated. Additionally, the suit for the purpose of the recovery of movable property under ‘the distraint or attachment’ shall also be instituted in the Court within the territorial limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated. In case of the suit to gain relief or compensation for any wrong done to immovable property held by or on behalf of the defendant where the relief sought is capable of being obtained through the plaintiff’s obedience shall be instituted in the Court-
- within the territorial limits of whose jurisdiction the immovable property is situated
- the defendant resides or carries on business or personally works for gain
When the immovable property is situated within the jurisdiction of more than one Courts then the suit shall be instituted according to Section 17 of CPC within the territorial limits of whose jurisdiction any part of the property is located provided that the Court has cognizance in respect of the entire claim of the subject-matter. In Shivnarayan (D) by LRs v. Maniklal (D) by LRs, the Court stated that the word ‘property’ under Section 17 of CPC also implies the case of more than one property. Hence, it shall also be understood in the context of more than one property situated within the territorial limits of one or more Courts.
PLACE OF SUING FOR WRONGS TO A PERSON OR MOVABLE PROPERTY
Section 19 of CPC is the provision for institution suit for compensation of wrong done to a person or caused to movable property. Such a suit shall be instituted at the option of the plaintiff in the Court within the territorial jurisdiction of which –
- the wrong is done
- the defendant resides or carries on business or personally works for gain
PLACE OF SUING FOR OTHER SUITS
Section 20 of CPC provides the place of institution of suit for matters other than those under Sections 15-19 of CPC. According to Section 20, every suit shall be instituted in the Court within the territorial limits of whose jurisdiction –i. defendant or defendants in the case when there are more than one, resides or carries on business or personally works for gainii. in case of more than one defendant, any of them at time of initiation of the suit resides or carries on business or personally works for gain either with the leave of court or when other defendants who do not reside or carries on business or personally works for gain permitsiii. where the cause of action arises either wholly or partlyIn the case of a corporation, it shall be deemed to conduct business at the place of its principal office situated in India or the case when the cause of action arises at other places then also the place where the subordinate office is situated. The defendant company in Bela Goyal Proprietor of Ispat Sangrah (India) v. VIIPL-MIPL JV (Jaipur) & Ors., has a registered office in Delhi however the contract was entered into at Jaipur and also the invoices have clauses subject to Jaipur jurisdiction. The Delhi High Court observed that for determining the territorial jurisdiction of the Court, the business shall be deemed to be conducted at the place of the principal office and stated, ‘Merely by mentioning on the invoices viz. the disputes shall be subject to the jurisdiction at Jaipur would not snatch away the jurisdiction of this Court as there was no exclusion clause in the invoices.’In M/S. Dhodha House v. S.K. Maingi, the question arose regarding the extent of jurisdiction of a Civil Court for infringement of the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957 and the Trade and Merchandise Marks Act, 1958. The Court explaining the jurisdiction under CPC distinguished the meaning of two phrases, ‘carries on business’ and ‘personally works for gain’. The phrase ‘carries on business’ denotes a place wherein a business is conducted and the individual has an interest, a share in the gain or loss or some control in that business notwithstanding whether the individual is at the place of business or not. It can be done through an agent or a manager or even a servant. On other hand, ‘personally works for gain’ denotes that the presence of the individual is necessary at the place of business.The following conditions must be satisfied to constitute that an individual carries on business at a place-1. The agent on behalf of the principal owner must be a special agent who exclusively carries on the business in the name of the principal owner and not a general agent who carries business for any such person who pays an amount for that purpose. 2. The term ‘agent’ connotes ‘agent’ in a strict sense which means that a manager of the Joint Hindu Family is not an agent under the provision.3. For the purpose of interpretation of the phrase ‘carries on business’ at a certain place, the fundamental portion of such business must occur at that place.
CAUSE OF ACTION
Cause of action are those material facts that arise within the territorial limits of the Court and provides the plaintiff with the right to sue and need to be proved to support his claim.
In Bloom Dekor Ltd. v. Subhash Himatlal Desai and Ors., the Court defined that by ‘cause of action it meant every fact, which, if traversed, it would be necessary for the plaintiff to prove in order to support his right to a judgment of the Court. In other words, a bundle of facts, which the plaintiff must prove to succeed in the suit’.
In ONGC v. Utpal Kumar Basu, the Calcutta High Court entertained a writ petition and granted interim relief even though the cause of action had not arisen within the local limits of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court stated that it is ‘great pity’ that the High Courts exercise jurisdiction and pass orders in matters where it does not possess territorial jurisdiction.
PLACE OF SUING IN TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHTS DISPUTES
In such cases, conflict arises for the applicability of Section 62 of the Copyright Act, 1957 and Section 134 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 with Section 20 of CPC in regards to the place for the institution of the suit. For copyright disputes, Section 62 of the Copyright Act, 1957 provides the District Court within the local limits of which the plaintiff or plaintiffs when there are more than one ‘resides, or carries business or personally works for gain’, the jurisdiction for the matters of –
i. infringement of copyright in any work or
ii. infringement of any right under the Act
For the trade mark disputes, Section 134 of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 provides the District Court within the local limits of which the plaintiff or plaintiffs when there are more than one ‘resides, or carries business or personally works for gain’, the jurisdiction for the matters of –
i. infringement of a registered trade mark or
ii. any right in a registered trade mark or
iii. passing off arising out of use by the defendant about the trade mark identical with or deceptively similar to the trade mark of the plaintiff either registered or unregistered under the Act
In Millennium & Copthorne International Ltd. v. Aryans Plaza Services Pvt. Ltd., the Court observed that in a suit for infringement of trade mark or ancillary reliefs including compensation with respect thereto, the plaintiff shall plead and prove to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court that ‘the wrong happened within the local limits of the jurisdiction of that Court and wherein the cause of action would axiomatically accrue to the plaintiff or cause of action occurred within the Court’s jurisdiction’. In the case M/s. Micro Labs Limited v/s M/s. Eris Life Sciences Pvt. Ltd., the Court explained that the non-obstante clause in Section 62 and Section 134 does not override the application of Section 20 of CPC, 1908 and these provisions are deemed to provide an additional remedy to the plaintiff to file the suit in the District Court having jurisdiction wherein the plaintiff or plaintiffs in case of more than one, resides or carries on business in addition to provisions of Section 20 of CPC. It is clear that provisions of Section 62 and Section 134 are not in derogation of Section 20 of CPC rather they act as an additional forum for the institution of a suit to the plaintiff.
PLACE OF SUING IN E-COMMERCE BUSINESS DISPUTES
The Courts in India though have not adopted any specific manner for adjudication of e-commerce disputes as due to the nature of e-commerce business, a certain place cannot be determined for jurisdiction easily however through precedents, different tests such as purposeful availment, forum convenience test, zippo test and minimum contacts test are available that can be applied to derive the jurisdiction for such matters. In the end, it is at the discretion of the Court to determine which method is correct to determine the jurisdiction in e-commerce disputes.For web-based businesses carrying out businesses electronically rather than the traditional methods of physical shopping and business to clear out the doubt for interpreting ‘place of suing’, the Court in Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited v. A. Murali Krishna Reddy & Anr., observed that the territorial jurisdiction of the Court under Section 20 of CPC does not get attracted merely on grounds of ‘interactivity’ of the website in the State. The plaintiff in such cases to prove the cause of action has arisen in the forum state shall plead and prima facie show that the ‘specific targeting’ of the viewers for commercial transactions of that forum state by the defendant has caused an injury or harm to the plaintiff within the forum state and produce materials to show that certain commercial transaction by the way of the website was entered into by the defendant with the user in the forum state and that resulted in injury or harm to the plaintiff.
In conclusion, Indian Legal System recognises the principle of ‘Ubi jus, ibi remedium’ which states that for every wrong there is a right to remedy. To claim that right to relief or compensation the person wronged shall approach the Court that possesses the power to adjudicate upon such matter and grant the relief or compensation so claimed. Section 15-20 of CPC helps to clear the doubts in the determination of the jurisdiction of the Court and place of trial.
 Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 15, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India)
 C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure- Limitation and Commercial Courts 147 (9th ed. 2022)
 Appeal (civil) 4811 of 2007
 Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 16, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India)
 Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 17, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India)
 Civil Appeal No.1052 of 2019
 Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 19, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India)
 Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, § 20, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India)
 CS (Comm) 1217/2018
 Appeal (civil) 6248 of 1997
 1994 (6) SCC 322
 1994 SCC (4) 711, JT 1994 (5) 1
 Copyright Act, 1957, § 62, No.14, Acts of Parliament, 1957 (India)
 Trade Marks Act, 1999, § 134, No.47, Acts of Parliament, 1999 (India)
 CS(Comm) 774/2016
 O.S.A.Nos. 80 & 81 of 2015
 CS (OS) No.894/2008