In the 1800s, the High Courts of the three presidency towns, namely Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, were overburdened with civil cases. The High Courts had Original Civil Jurisdiction over all matters except those that the Presidency Small Cause Court had cognisance over. The establishment of the City Civil Courts disrupted the ordinary civil jurisdiction of the apex courts in the Presidencies.
The City Civil Court was established in Madras in 1892. Initially, the Court had jurisdiction to try cases only up to Rs. 2500. Between 1950 and 1951, the limit was gradually raised to Rs. 10000. Subsequently, the limit was raised to Rs. 50000 by the Madras Act X of 1955. Thus, only matters exceeding Rs. 50000 were within the purview of the Original Jurisdiction of the Madras High Court.
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Constitution of the city civil court
The Madras City Civil Court has the jurisdiction to try, dispose, and receive any legal proceedings that are civil in nature, including all suits. The cases should not extend a monetary valuation of Rs. 2500. Additionally, disputes must arise within the City of Madras itself. The Court does not have the jurisdiction to hear cases that are cognizable by the following courts:
- The Court for the relief of insolvent debtors.
- The small cause court.
- A court of Admiralty, Vice-Admiralty, or a Colonial Court of Admiralty.
- The Madras High Court.
- A court having interstate, matrimonial, or testamentary jurisdiction.
The Madras City Civil Court was established by notification in the Official Gazette by the Local Government according to Section 3 of the Madras City Civil Court Act.
Appointment, suspension, and removal of judges
The appointment of Judges to the City Civil Court is at the discretion of the Local Government. The Local Government can appoint as many persons to the Court as it thinks fits. If the appointed judges partake in any misconduct, then they are removed or suspended. A judge violating the code of conduct and ethics is given a chance to be heard before any decision is made. An inquiry procedure is performed, and if the Judge is found guilty of the accusations against him, strict action is initiated. The Local Government shall notify the appointment, removal, and suspension of any judge in the Official Gazette according to Section 4 of the Madras City Civil Court Act.
Judge of city court to be Judge of small cause court
The cases cognizable by the Small Cause Court shall be tried by a Judge appointed to the City Civil Court because all City Civil Court Judges shall be the Small Cause Court judges by virtue of their office. All such judges can perform any duties of a Small Cause Court Judge. The power is bestowed upon them by the Chief Justice of the High Court according to Section 5 of the Madras City Civil Court Act.
Powers of judges when city court consists of more than one Judge
During tenures in which the City Civil Court consists of more than a Judge, the Local Government appoints one of the judges as the Principal Judge. All judges appointed to the Court have the jurisdiction to exercise powers conferred by the Madras City Civil Court Act. The Court’s business distribution is determined by the Principal Judge, who segregates work among the various judges. The Principal Judge makes these arrangements from time to time according to Section 6 of the Act.
Appointment, powers, duties, and punishment of ministerial officers
As per Section 7 of the Madras City Civil Court Act, as many bailiffs, clerks, and other ministerial officers, according to necessity, may be appointed by the Principal Judge or the single Judge of the City Civil Court. Such appointments are to be made with the sanction of the Local Government. The officers are appointed to perform duties and powers conferred on them by the Madras City Civil Court Act or any other Act in force for the time being.
Any officer found guilty of neglect or misconduct during the performance of his/sher duties shall be fined by the appointing Judge. The fine shall be deducted from the salary of the officer. Based on the gravity of the offence committed, the judge may also remove or suspend the officer from his/her office. The High Court has control over the aforementioned powers of the Judge of the City Court. The Judge also has the power to direct the ministerial officers regarding duties and powers to be discharged.
Valuation of immovable property for jurisdictional purposes
In cases in which the subject matter of the suit is a house, a garden, or land, its valuation is performed according to Section 7 (v) of the Court-fees Act of 1870, accurate valuation of the property should be performed to ensure that the jurisdiction conferred by this Act to the City Civil Court is fulfilled. Any valuation so determined shall be subject to all existing provisions of the Madras City Civil Court Act. This is according to Section 9 of the Act.
Fees under the Madras City Civil Court Act
As per Section 10 of the Madras City Civil Court Act, a certain fee is chargeable for the execution of all processes issued by the City Court. The fee is also applicable in cases of processes executed or served under the control or direction of the Court. The fee to be paid is prescribed with the sanction of the Governor General in Council.
Half the fees paid by the plaintiff shall be returned to him/her by the Court if the suit is settled between him and the defendant. The settlement must be arrived at before any evidence is recorded or issues are legally settled. This provision is according to Section 13 of the Act. If the High Court removes any case from the City court for trial, then the plaintiff must re-deposit court fees per the High Court Rules. However, when such a fee is due, the fee paid at the City Court as per the Court Fees Act shall be deducted.
Saving of original civil jurisdiction of the High Court
According to Section 16 of the Madras City Civil Court Act, the original Civil Jurisdiction of the High Court cannot be altered by anything contained in the Act. When a suit is brought before the High Court, if the presiding Judge is of the opinion that such a case falls within the jurisdiction of the City Court, then it shall be transferred. The transfer can be performed at any stage of a civil proceeding in the High Court. However, if the apex court in the State decides the case, then no costs shall be allowed to the successful plaintiff. However, a successful defendant shall be allowed costs by the Court. The court fees Act shall be applicable to transferred cases, but the fees paid at the High Court shall be deducted.
Seal to be used and holidays of the Court
A list of vacations and holidays applicable to the Court shall be drawn up by the Principal Judge or the Single Judge of the City Civil Court at the commencement of each year. The list should be submitted to the Local Government for approval. Once approved, the list is published in the official Gazette. All holidays mentioned in the published list shall be observed.
As per Section 17 of the Madras City Civil Court Act, the local Government will prescribe the seal used by the Court. The dimensions and form of the seal used are specified.
A key topic of debate since the establishment of the City Civil Court was whether the original Civil jurisdiction of the High Court should remain unchanged and unrestricted. Sharply contrasting opinions have existed within the legal fraternity. Some legal scholars argued that the original jurisdiction of the High Court must continue, as it was necessary in the interest of the commercial and trading community. These communities formed a bulk of the litigants in cities, and thus, maintaining high standards of judicial administration was necessary. By contrast, some scholars speculated that the original jurisdiction of the High Court was not useful anymore and, thus, should be abolished. After examining all arguments, a decision to not completely abolish the High Court’s jurisdiction was undertaken.
FAQs on the Madras City Civil Court Act
What is the fee payable as per the Madras City Civil Court Act?
As per Section 10 of the Madras City Civil Court Act, a certain fee is chargeable for the execution of all processes issued by the City Court. The fee to be paid is prescribed with the sanction of the Governor General in Council.
When was the Madras City Civil Court established?
The City Civil Court was established in Madras in 1892.
Who shall be appointed Judge of the Small Cause Court?
The cases cognisable by the Small Cause Court shall be tried by a Judge appointed to the City Civil Court because all City Civil Court Judges shall be the Small Cause Court judges by virtue of their office.
Who appoints judges to the City Civil Court?
The appointment of Judges to the City Civil Court is at the discretion of the Local Government. The Local Government can appoint as many persons to the Court as it thinks fits.
What is the jurisdiction of the Madras City Civil Court?
The Madras City Civil Court can try, dispose, and receive any legal proceedings that are civil in nature, including all suits. Such cases should not extend a monetary valuation of Rs. 2500.