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Report No. 14

12. Jurisdiction of Civil Courts

1. Set up of Civil Courts.-

The normal hierarchy of civil court; in any district consists of (1) the court of the district judge (2) the court of the additional or the assistant district judge (3) the court of the subordinate or the senior civil judge and (4) the court of the munsif or the junior civil judge. Besides these regular civil courts, there are also panchayat and village courts constituted under the Village Panchayat Acts of the several States.

2. Types of jurisdiction.-

The civil courts exercise two distinct types of jurisdiction, namely, ordinary civil jurisdiction which is derived under the Civil Courts Acts in force in the various States and special jurisdiction in certain matters conferred under certain Central and State Acts e.g., the Indian Succession Act, the Guardians and Wards Act, the Land Acquisition Act and Acts relating to marriage, divorce and other matters.

3. Transfer of jurisdiction to subordinate courts.-

It appears to us that it will tend to the greater convenience of the parties and less expense to the State if powers, at present exclusively exercised by higher courts, could be entrusted to lower courts access to which will be nearer and easier to the parties. We have already noticed how the highest courts at the district level are overburdened with work and suffer from a congestion of their files which has led to substantial delays. On the whole, the situation in the lower courts is not so difficult. That appears to us to be a cogent reason for the transfer of some of the jurisdictions which are now enjoyed by the higher courts to the lower courts.

The devolution of jurisdiction, both ordinary and special, of the civil courts can conveniently be considered under the following heads:

(1) Enlargement of the pecuniary jurisdiction of the junior judges;

(2) Investing the senior judges with powers and functions of the district judge under certain special Acts so as to give relief to the latter;

(3) Extension of summary procedure and third party procedure to subordinate courts; and

(4) Enlargement of the jurisdiction of the courts of small causes.

We propose to deal with the first three heads in this chapter and the fourth in the succeeding one.

4. Jurisdiction of subordinate judges.-

The accompanying Table shows the ordinary original jurisdiction in regular suits (excluding small cause suits) exercised by the civil courts of different grades under the local Civil Courts Acts in all the States. The pecuniary jurisdiction of the subordinate judge (in the Madras or the West Bengal sense) or officers of corresponding designation in the erstwhile Madras area of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Bombay, Kerala, Madras, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal is unlimited.

In the Punjab, subordinate judges, Class I, exercise unlimited jurisdiction. In Madhya Pradesh, there are no subordinate judges in the West Bengal sense; the district and additional district judges alone exercise unlimited jurisdiction. In Rajasthan, only some of the subordinate judges are invested with unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. In the Telangana area of Andhra Pradesh, the maximum jurisdiction of the subordinate judge is Rs. 20,000 which in the case of selected officers may be increased to Rs. 50,000; only the district and additional district judges exercise unlimited jurisdiction. There are similar variations in some of the areas of the reconstituted States of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh.

Name of the State

Maximum ordinary original jurisdiction in regular suits

Law defining jurisdiction

Subordinate Judges offices of corresponding designation.

Munsifs or officers of corresponding designation





Andhra Pradesh


Rs. 5000

Centrel Act III of 1873 and Madras Act XIV of 1951 as adapted by the Andhra Adaption of Law Order, 1953.



Rs. 100 to Rs. 4000

The Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act (XII of 1887).







Rs. 10,000 (Rs. 15,000 in case of civil judges of not less than ten years' service, if recommended by the High Court)

The Bombay Civil Courts Act (XIV of 1869)



Rs. 5.000

The kerala Civil Courts Act of 1957.

Madhya Pradesh


Upto Rs. 10, 000

The C.P. & Berar Courts Act (I) of 1917;

Madhya Pradesh Courts Act (II) of 1956



Rs. 3,000

Mysore Civil Courts Act, 1833, as amended by the Amending Act XXIII of 1955.



Rs. 5,000

Central Act III of 1873. Madras Act XVI of 1951.



Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 4,000

The Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act (XII of 1887).


Class I: Unlimited

There are no munsifs in Punjab.

The Punjab Courts Act (VI of 1918)

Class II: Rs. 5,000

There is only one class of officers namely subordinate judges, classifiedinto four grades according to the Jurisdiction conferred upon them as shown in the previous column.

The Punjab Courts Act (VI of 1918)


Rs. 10,000 (Unlimited in case of some officers.)

Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5,000

The Rajasthan Civil Courts Ordinance, 1950.

Uttar Pradesh


Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 5,000

The Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act (XII of 1887), as amended by U.P. Act V of 1955.

West Bengal




(I) In Madhya Pradesh all the officers below the carde of district judges are called civil judges. Only the district and additional district judges exercise unlimited jurisdiction

5. Jurisdiction of munsifs.-

There is a greater diversity in regard to the pecuniary jurisdiction exercised by munsifs and officers of corresponding designation in the different States. In the Andhra districts of Andhra Pradesh and Madras, the munsif's jurisdiction is Rs. 5,000. In Assam, Bihar and Orissa, munsifs start with a pecuniary jurisdiction of Rs. 1,000 which may gradually be raised to Rs. 4,000 by the High Court. In Bombay, the civil judges, junior division, exercised pecuniary jurisdiction upto Rs 5,000 since 1860 under the Bombay Civil Courts Act. By an amendment of that Act in 1949, this has been raised to Rs. 10,000 and it may even be raised to Rs. 15,000 in selected cases.

In Kerala, the jurisdiction exercised by a munsif is Rs, 5,000. In Madhya Pradesh where there is only one class of civil judges, their jurisdiction is Rs. 10,000. In the Punjab, there are no munsifs but only subordinate judges of different classes invested with jurisdiction from Rs. 1,000 onwards upto an unlimited amount according to their experience and seniority. In Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the jurisdiction exercised by munsifs is Rs. 2,000 which may be increased to Rs. 5,000.

6. Enhancement of pecuniary jurisdiction (Fall in value of money).-

There are good reasons for the extension of the pecuniary jurisdiction of these courts by conferring upon the senior judges the power to try suits unlimited in value and the junior judges with the power to try suits upto a valuation of at least Rs. 5,000 wherever these powers are below such limits. The limits of the pecuniary jurisdiction of these courts were statutorily fixed a long time ago. Since then, land value and the price index have risen greatly with a corresponding fall in the value of the rupee.

It was for this reason that in Bombay and Madhya Pradesh the jurisdiction of the civil judge, junior division, was raised from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 10,000. On the same ground, the value of the subject-matter of appeals to the Supreme Court has been raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000. The enlargement of the jurisdiction of the junior judges will give much needed relief to senior judges who, in several States, have to carry a heavy burden of civil appeals, sessions cases and other matters besides original civil work.

7. Objections to enhancement.-

The opinion which we have elicited is on the whole in favour of such an increase although doubt and hesitation were expressed in some places. Some witnesses in Kerala put forward the view that it would be inadvisable to increase either the original or the appellate jurisdiction of the subordinate civil courts unless there was in the first place an improvement in the competence and capacity of the judges. Notwithstanding these doubts, the State Government has raised the pecuniary jurisdiction of the munsifs in that State to Rs, 5,000.

On the other hand, a former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court favoured an extension of the munsif's jurisdiction to double the present amount. That view has been echoed by many others. We, therefore, recommend that the senior civil judges should be immediately invested with unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction, while the jurisdiction at the junior civil judges or munsifs should not be less than Rs, 5,000 in the States where it is below this amount. The maximum of the junior judge's jurisdiction should, on the recommendation at the High Court, be eventually raised to Rs. 10,000.

8. Objections not valid (Junior Officer to try suits of smaller value).-

We have considered the objection raised in certain quarters against an increase in the jurisdiction on the ground that raw and inexperienced junior judges will not be able to deal satisfactorily with cases involving stakes of higher value. In fact, as already pointed out by us, the values involved will not be higher, for a jurisdiction of Rs. 2,000 or 3,000 ten years ago, is equivalent to a jurisdiction of Rs. 10,000 today. Moreover, junior civil judges have satisfactorily exercised the higher jurisdiction conferred upon them in the States of Bombay and Madhya Pradesh.

With improved methods of recruitment and training, we are confident that they can be safely trusted to handle cases of higher valuation. We may, however, as a precaution suggest that freshly appointed junior judges should normally be posted to district or sub-divisional head quarters where there are more courts than one, some of which are presided over by senior officers and that during their period of probation they may be entrusted only with suits of a simple nature. This practice has been adopted in Madhya Pradesh where the district judge distributes the work taking into consideration the seniority and experience of the civil judges.

9. Duties of district judge numerous.-

The Court of the district judge is the principal court of original civil jurisdiction, for the district. Under the district judge are a number of subordinate judges and munsifs who among them dispose of practically the entire volume of original civil work in the district. The district judge deals with civil appellate work and in his capacity as the sessions judge has also to try sessions cases and hear criminal appeals. In some States, he is assisted in his civil appellate and criminal work by subordinate judges or additional or assistant district judges who are invested with civil appellate powers and also the powers of the additional or assistant session judge.

The district judge also exercises original jurisdiction in cases arising under a large number of special Acts, both Central and States, such as the Indian Succession Act, the Guardians and Wards Act, the Land Acquisition Act, the Lunacy Act and the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, to mention only a few of them. Further, subject to the High Court's general superintendence, he is the administrative head of the judiciary in the district and, as such, exercises general supervision over the work of the judicial officers subordinate to him, inspects their courts from time to time and also controls the subordinate staff of those courts.

10. Need for relief.-

We have been informed that in many instances the district judges do not find sufficient time to discharge all their manifold duties. They are busy hearing sessions cases and criminal appeals and are unable to devote sufficient time to their civil original and appellate work. In those districts where criminal work is exceptionally heavy, the relief which the district and sessions judges get by transferring criminal work to additional district judges or subordinate judges is not enough to enable them to devote sufficient time to civil work. In a latter Chapter, we propose an increase in the jurisdiction of the district appellate courts to Rs. 10,000.

We have also recommended that in future all civil appeals should be heard only by the district judges or additional district judges and not by subordinate judges. These recommendations must inevitably result in a further increase in the civil appellate work of district judges, which is one more reason why relief should be given to them by investing senior judges with jurisdiction to hear cases under special Acts which has hitherto been exercised exclusively by the district judges. The special jurisdiction under the provisions contained in the following enactments may be considered in this connection:

(1) The Indian Succession Act, 1925.

(2) The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890.

(3) The Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

(4) The Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920.

(5) The Indian Divorce Act, 1869.

(6) The Special Marriage Act, 1954.

(7) The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

(8) Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1988.

(9) Section 18 of the Religious Endowments Act, 1863; and

(10) The Indian Lunacy Act, 1912.

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