This article is written by Bhavna Arul, a fourth-year law student from Symbiosis Law School.


Jurisdiction is derived from the Latin words Juris which means “law” and Dicere which means “to speak”. Jurisdiction refers to the power of the Court to take the cognizance of an offense and to determine the cause of action. The Civil Procedure Code provides the procedural law for all civil matters in the country. It is based on the English principle of “Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium” which means where there is a right there is a remedy. When the right of a person has been infringed, they can approach the court for a remedy or compensation. The CPC lays down rules about which court can be approached for what matters. A suit needs to be filed in a court having jurisdiction to try the case and pass an order or decree. Which court has the right jurisdiction is a question determined by the CPC. Sections 9-21 cover all aspects relating to the fundamentals of jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction of A Civil Court: Sec-9

Section 9-

On the face of it, S.9 seems to be pretty clear and simple. As per S.9 civil courts have jurisdiction to deal with all matter of civil nature that it is not expressly or impliedly barred. However, this section fails to define the word civil, so when we look at a dictionary definition it refers to the private rights and remedies as distinguished from criminal and political. A suit of civil nature can hence be defined as a suit in which the fundamental question for determination in the case is related to the private rights of citizens. A suit is said to be expressly barred if any enactment that is in force expressly takes away the judicial power of the civil court on certain matters. The legislature can bar the jurisdiction of the civil court with respect to a particular class of suit keeping itself within the ambit of the power conferred on it by the Constitution of India. A suit is impliedly barred when a general principle of law bars jurisdiction. 

The Supreme Court in case of Most Rev. P.M.A. Metropolitan V. Moran Mar Marthoma explained Section 9 as follows-

1. The phraseology used in the section is both positive and negative,

2. The earlier part opens the door widely and the latter debars the entry of those which are expressly or impliedly barred.

3. The two explanation, one from the inception and the second added in 1976 reflects the legislative intentions.

4. That those religious matters in which rights of the property or the office is involved irrespective of the fact whether any fee is attached to the office or not is a matter of civil nature and the civil court is competent to try such suit.

5. Each word and expression casts an obligation on the court to exercise jurisdiction for enforcement of rights.

6. The word ‘shall’ makes it mandatory.

7. No Court can refuse to entertain a suit if it is of the description mentioned in the section.

The jurisdiction in CPC is of 3 types-

1. Pecuniary Jurisdiction

2. Territorial Jurisdictions, and

3.   Subject Matter Jurisdictions

A matter can only be tried by a court if it operates within all three kinds of jurisdictions. When a court with a faulty jurisdiction tries the case, it will be termed as an irregular exercise of jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction which may turn the decision void or voidable depending upon the situations. Sections 15-20 explicitly talk about the types of jurisdiction and Section 21 talks about judgment passed by a court with no jurisdiction. The territorial and pecuniary jurisdiction in civil matters is usually set in concerned state enactments on the subject of civil courts. 

Pecuniary Jurisdiction: Sec.15

Every suit shall be instituted in the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it.

This section states that a suit should be filed in the lowest civil court that is empowered to try matters of the specific pecuniary value. Pecuniary jurisdiction of the court divides the court on a vertical basis. The valuation to decide on jurisdiction for filing a suit is generally done by the plaintiff, however, if the valuation of the plaintiff is prima facie incorrect, then the court valuates and directs the party to approach the right forum. The valuation of the suit cannot be arbitrary, and the plaintiff must not overvalue or undervalue the suit to approach a specific court.

At present the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Delhi courts is as follows:

· Suits amounting to Rs.1 – Rs.20,00,000 lie before district courts.

· Suits over and above Rs. 20,00,000/- lie before High Courts.

It is essential to note that the monetary value to decide the pecuniary jurisdiction is different for all High Courts. This limit is decided by respective High Court Rules. In many states High Courts have no pecuniary jurisdiction. All civil suits go before District Courts, and only appeals lie before the High Court.

Territorial Jurisdiction: Sec.16-20

Territorial Jurisdiction divides jurisdiction of courts on a horizontal basis. All courts that have power to take cognizance of a case have the same powers and no court is considered above the other. Territorial jurisdiction in CPC is further divided into-

  1. Suits related to immovable property (Section 16 to 18)
  2. Suits related to Movable property (Section 19)
  3. Other suits (Section 20)

Immovable Property: Sec- 16-18

Sections 16-

This Section states that when a suit is filed regarding relief or compensation for wrong caused to an immovable property that is held by the defendant or any other person on the behalf of the defendant where the relief can be obtained through his personal attendance then suits may be instituted in a court within whose local jurisdiction of either where the property is located or where the defendant resides or carries out business. 

Section 17-

According to this Section, when an immovable property falls under the jurisdiction of two or more courts, then it is up to the discretion of the plaintiff to decide which court to file the suit at. When a property shares the jurisdiction of multiple courts, the plaintiff can choose as per their convenience. E.g.-If a dispute relating to an immovable property spread over Delhi and Noida arises, then the Plaintiff can file a suit in the court of either Delhi or Noida, both courts have valid jurisdiction.

Section 18-

This section states that when the local limits of the jurisdiction of courts is uncertain, and any of the courts is satisfied that there is a ground of uncertainty, then such court can record the statement and proceed with hearing the case and passing a final decree. The decree passed by such court will have the same effect as if the property was situated within the local limits of the jurisdiction of the said court.

In case the court taking cognizance of the case does not record the statement and an objection is raised before the Appellate or Revisional Court, the Appellate or Revisional court shall not allow the objections unless it is satisfied that at the time of institution of the suit there was no reasonable ground for uncertainty as regards to jurisdiction of Court and there has been a failure of justice. 

Movable Property– Section 19

When the suit filed is regarding a movable property, then the jurisdiction for filing such suit shall be in the court under whose local limits the right was violated or where the defendant resides or carries on business. It is the discretion of the plaintiff to decide which of the above jurisdiction to invoke. E.g.- If the issue relating to the movable property arises in Bangalore and the defendant is a resident of Mumbai, then the plaintiff has the option of either filing the suit in Bangalore or Mumbai.

Other Suits- Section 20

Civil suits under the purview of CPC that aren’t related to property, both movable and immovable, come under the ambit of this section. This includes matters such as breach of contract or commercial transactions. When a suit is filed under this section, the jurisdiction for filing such suit shall be in the court under whose local limits the right was violated or where the defendant resides or carries on business. It is the discretion of the plaintiff to decide which of the above jurisdiction to invoke

Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Different courts are empowered to decide different types of suits. Certain courts have no jurisdiction to entertain certain kinds of suits. For example, the Court of Civil Judge (Junior Division) cannot pass a decree in suits for testamentary succession, divorce cases, probate proceedings, insolvency matters, etc. This is known as subject matter jurisdiction, where only if a court has jurisdiction over a certain class of cases can a case from such a class be approached. Subject matter jurisdiction has been excessively gaining popularity with the recent trend of the Tribunal System. Under the tribunal system, the administrative establishes quasi-judicial bodies that have expertise in the given subject matter. E.g.-Company Law related cases generally is tried by the Company Law Tribunal in the first instance and the judiciary is approached in an appellate stage.

Objections as to Jurisdiction: S.21

This section states that a judgment passed by a court with no jurisdiction is an irregular judgment. The objection regarding judgment is to be brought by the parties in the instance itself. If the error in the jurisdiction is related to the subject matter and irrespective of whether it is objected before the court in the first instance or not, the judgment can be considered null and void, and such an issue can be raised in an appellate or revisional level as well. However, if the error in jurisdiction arises because of a pecuniary or territorial error and is not brought before the court in the first instance, the judgment is held to be irregular but no objection relating to jurisdiction can be raised in an appellate or revisional stage.


Jurisdiction plays an important role in the justice system. Approaching the right court with an appropriate jurisdiction is the first step to justice. A plaintiff must hence keep in mind the importance of approaching the right forum. A defendant must always check for a fault in the jurisdiction as it would greatly affect the case. Jurisdiction plays a major role especially at times of appeal and revision.

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