Subject Matter in a Civil Suit
Subject matter is the topic of the suit. It is the key to determine the jurisdiction of the court i.e. the court before which the plaint is to be filed. Three ways in which the subject matter affects the jurisdiction of the court:
The place of suing,
Categories of subject matter
Damages to movable property
The rules of subject matter as far as jurisdiction is concerned:
Where the property is situated (movable or immovable).
If the subject matter is not related to property but in relation to any other wrong done, then where the wrong is done is determined.
A suit will be filed at the place where the defendant works or resides. This comes into play when the claim raised may not be related to torts or contract.
Section 16, 17, 19 and 20 of the CPC deal with place of suit.
Section 16 (subject matter based on defendant’s location): Suits related to immovable property shall be instituted in the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the property is situated. Proviso: In case of a suit for damages caused to immovable property held by a defendant and the relief sought is to be obtained by the defendant’s personal obedience, then the suit may be instituted where the property is situated or where the defendant actually resides
Section 17 (Pecuniary Jurisdiction): In case of a suit for damages caused to immovable property situated in jurisdictions of different courts, one can approach a court within whose local jurisdiction a portion of the property is situated. Provided that the court has the authority to grant the entire claim related to the value of subject matter.
Section 18 (territorial Jurisdiction): If there is uncertainty with regards to local limits of the jurisdiction of courts in case of an immovable property, then any one of the courts may record a statement pertaining to the uncertainty, entertain and dispose of a suit related to that property. That is if the court is satisfied that there exists a ground for the alleged uncertainty. The decree passed by the court will have same effect, it would have had if the property was situated within the local limits of its jurisdiction. Provided that the court has the pecuniary jurisdiction and is competent to entertain the subject matter. In case when the court taking the cognisance of the suit does not record the statement and an objection is raised for the first time before the Appellate or Revisional Court, the said courts shall not allow the objection unless it is satisfied that at the time of institution of suit there was no reasonable ground for uncertainty as regards to jurisdiction of Court and there has been a failure of justice. Therefore, it is important that jurisdiction should be raised as a preliminary issue.
Section 19 (suits for compensation for wrongs to person or movables): At the option of plaintiff, the suit can be initiated either where the wrong is done or where the defendant resides.
Section 20: This section talks about suits which deal with a CoA not related to movable or immovable property or wrong done. It deals with suits related to torts and damages or money suits or suits dealing with infringement of IPR.