Change in Pecuniary Jurisdiction of City Civil Courts helps ease burden of Bombay High Court

This article briefly highlights the change in pecuniary jurisdiction that has been attempted in Bombay to ease the workload and backlog of cases. The City Civil Courts and the Bombay HC have had certain changes made to their pecuniary jurisdiction with an attempt to enhance delivery of justice and keep up with the ever-increasing litigation.

Thu May 30 2024 | Civil Litigation and Others

The term Jurisdiction means the authority by which the formally constituted legal body or authority deals with and pronounces judgments on legal matters and administers justice within a definite geographical area of responsibility. The term area could also mean a subject-matter or the claim amount on hand, to which such authority applies. When it more particularly applies to amounts  claimed it comes to be called as pecuniary jurisdiction.

Since the Charter of the Queen of England came into force, the High Court of Bombay has existed and follows a division between the original and appellate side jurisdiction. In or around 1862, the Bombay High Court Original Side Jurisdiction involved entertaining and trying disputes of above Rs 10,000. Later, in the year 1950 when India became a Republic, this pecuniary jurisdiction of the Hon’ble Bombay High Court was raised to Rs 50,000. This legislation came into force and was in effect for time in memoriam when the number of litigants was far less, when  compared to today. Thereafter, over a period of years, litigation has grown manifold to the extent that a huge backlog of cases existed for trial at the Hon’ble High Court. The burden on the Court was so much that it would take years for a matter to come up for hearing after being transferred to the list of long causes.

BCMG Initiative in changing the pecuniary jurisdiction:

On or about 2005, the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa tried to change this age old legislation by their letter to the authorities stating as under:

“In the city of Mumbai, property prices have gone up a few hundred times in the last 20-25 years. A flat in south Mumbai would not cost less than Rs 5 crore. Offices and shops are equally expensive. The story in the suburbs of Mumbai is no different. Considering this, limits of pecuniary jurisdiction of trial courts in Mumbai have been absurdly low.”  

It very clearly sought steps under the City Civil Court and Bombay Court of Small Causes (Enhancement of Jurisdiction) Act, 1986, to change the unlimited jurisdiction of the Bombay High Court. In a landmark judgment that followed, the Apex Court held that the Maharashtra government had the power to abolish the Hon’ble High Court’s original jurisdiction. It had also upheld the transfer of original jurisdiction to the City Civil Court under a law passed by the state legislature way back in 1992.

The verdict very clearly indicated that commercial suits and suits relating to property disputes, defamation or dissolution of partnership firms and arbitration matters must now only be filed in the City Civil Court.

However, after all the infrastructural support and actual administrative procedures in the year 2012 by a notification on 28th August, the change in Pecuniary Jurisdiction of the Hon’ble high Court was passed and notified. The High Court Registrar stated that fresh filing of Suits below a crore will not be accepted in its High Court Registry henceforth. This notification opened the flood gates for matters to be transferred and tried by the Bombay City Civil Courts.

On the other hand, people from interior Maharashtra no longer have to travel to the Bombay High Court to file a civil appeal for a property less than Rs10 lakh. The Bombay Civil Court’s (Amendment) Act, 2011, which has been passed by the state government to reduce the backlog of cases pending in the Bombay High Court, allows the district courts to handle civil appeals on property up to Rs 10 lakh. The cases involving property above Rs 10 lakh would be dealt by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court.

The complete division of the Pecuniary Jurisdiction is as under:

(a) The City civil courts original pecuniary jurisdiction for suit property of upto 1 crore.
(b) The Hon’ble High Court original pecuniary jurisdiction raised to claims above 1 crore.
(c) The District Courts could to hear appeals for value of property upto 10 lakhs.

Effects of the change in Pecuniary Jurisdiction on the Judicial System:

The immediate positive impact of the change in jurisdiction can be seen in many ways:

(i) Speedy listing, hearing and disposal of cases that were long pending to be listed in the Hon’ble High Court.
(ii) Reduction in the burden of the Hon’ble High Court to a large extent inasmuch as the High Court would now be  more of an appeal Court rather than a Court of first inception for a case
(iii) Faster disposal of Justice for the litigants, whose faith in the judicial system has been restored herein.

Concluding Note:

Thus, it’s evident that this change has surely brought in good tidings to the common man, who always felt that approaching a Court would take years for the matter to be even listed, let  alone be tried and disposed off. The only possible impediment could be for the Advocates, who now have to juggle between the Bombay City Civil and the Suburban City Civil in comparison of the one stop shop practice they were use to. But we surely are a determined lot who would pull through this too, as we had even been part of the ancient practice of delayed justice, which ultimately denied Justice to our clients.

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