Jurisdiction Meaning, Types and importance

 · 4 mins read

The hierarchy of judiciary may confuse common man and may lead to conflict as to the type of court where a suit must be filed. This may result in filing of multiple suits at different courts or filing it at the wrong court. In order to avoid all these confusions, jurisdiction is specifically mentioned. The article analysis the different types of jurisdictions which will give a clear picture of where to file a suit.

Jurisdiction in simple words means the power of courts to hear, adjudicate, determine and/ or exercise any other judicial power associated with a particular case. In other words, it is the authority of the court to take cognizance of matters or decide the matters vested with it.1

It is based on the maxim of “Ubi Jus ibi remedium”, which means where there is a right, there is a remedy. There are four kinds of jurisdiction and they are as follows:-

  1. Territorial/ Local jurisdiction- In each state, the State Government determines the territorial jurisdiction of courts. Every court shall exercise it’s power only within that territorial jurisdiction. Here, it’s the geographical extent that determines the jurisdiction. For example, the High Court of Bombay has jurisdiction over the state of Maharashtra only. Similarly, the district court of Nashik can exercise it’s powers only in that particular city.

  2. Pecuniary jurisdiction- ‘Pecuniary’ means money. So, pecuniary jurisdiction is the power of the courts to determine matters on the basis of the monetary extent. A court cannot entertain a matter which is above it’s pecuniary Jurisdiction. The High courts and district courts have unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction. The civil judges of Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh exercise unlimited pecuniary jurisdiction.

  3. Subject matter jurisdiction- Each court hears and adjudicates different matters. The district judge alone has the jurisdiction to hear matters relating to testamentary, matrimonial, divorce cases, insolvency matters etc. Similarly there are separate tribunals which exclusively deals with particular subject matter. For example, the Industrial tribunals and labor courts have jurisdiction to hear only labor suits.

  4. Original and appellate jurisdiction- The district courts and high courts have original and appellate jurisdiction. Whereas courts of small causes/ munsiff courts can hear only original matters.

It is to be noted that parties cannot take away or confer any jurisdiction on courts. If at all two or more courts can hear the matter, then a suit must be brought in one court. Section 9 of civil procedure code, 1908 deals with jurisdiction in civil matters.

According to it, the courts have the power to hear and determine all cases relating to civil nature except when the cognizance of particular cases are expressly or impliedly barred.

Here, the following are suits in civil nature:

  • Suits relating to property
  • Suits relating to right of worship
  • Suits for damages for civil wrongs
  • Suits for specific relief
  • Suits for rent
  • Suits for restitution of conjugal rights
  • Suits for rent
  • Suits for dissolution of partnership firms etc.

The following are suits which does not amount to be of civil nature:

  • A suit of declaration of a member of a caste refrained from invitation to a caste dinner.
  • A suit for expulsion of a member from the caste
  • Suits involving purely religious rites or ceremonies
  • Suits for merely upholding the dignity or honor
  • Suits for recovery of voluntary payments of offerings etc.

A suit is expressly barred when a tribunal is established by a statute for the purposes of dealing with specific kind of matters. In such situations, the civil court is barred. In Dhulabhai v. State of M.P2, the court laid down few grounds where even if jurisdiction is expressly barred, the court can entertain the matters.

  • When the statute establishing the tribunal is ultra vires.
  • When the statute is valid but the provisions establishing the tribunal is void.
  • When the tribunal does not follow the procedure of natural justice.
  • When the tribunal does not provide adequate relief.

The civil court is impliedly barred when the suit brought before it is against public policy or against the public authority discharging it’s functions.

Thus, jurisdiction determines the power of the court to hear and adjudicate a matter before it. All these above mentioned points must be taken into consideration before filing a suit. If filed at a wrong court, it only leads to waste of time of both court and the party and waste of money. It is also to be noted that above mentioned provisions are specifically relating to civil courts and in criminal courts the jurisdiction differs.


1 Gade Veera Reddy, The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, Sujatha Law Books, 36, (2015).

2 AIR 1969 SC 78.

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