Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Suits of a Civil Nature
Suit of a Civil Nature: Civil Suits are divided into:
i) Suits of a civil nature and
ii) Suits not of a civil nature.
The Civil courts have jurisdiction to try suits of a civil nature. They have no jurisdiction to try suits not of a Civil-nature. This principle is laid down in Sn.9 of C.RC. It says that the Civil Courts have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting those that are expressly or impliedly barred.
The C.P.C. 1976 has added two explanations.
i) A suit in which the right to property or to an office is contested, is a suit of a civil nature, even Though such a right is connected with a religious right or with religious ceremony,
ii) It is immaterial whether or not any fees had been attached to an office or such an office was attached to a particular place or not, E.g.:
i) Suits of Civil nature: Matters relating to Easement, Adoption, Marriage, title to property, to run a customary bull race, right to burial.
ii) Suits not of a civil nature: Suit for claiming dakshina for worship at a temple by the pujari (worshipper), political questions etc. Suits expressly barred: Remedy of a workman Against termination order, is barred as the remedy is in the Industrial Disputes Act. Suits dealing with Act of State & public policy are barred. The cardinal rule is therefore that the Civil Courts can entertain only suits of a civil nature. But, vexed problems do come before the courts with mixed rights civil & religious.
The courts are guided by certain procedural principles in such circumstances.
i) If the main question or the only question is in respect of caste or religious right or ceremonies it is not of a civil nature but, if the religious right is only a subsidiary question, then it is of a civil nature. Further, if The main question cannot be decided without deciding the religious or caste question then, the matter is of a civil nature and the courts have jurisdiction. Expulsion from caste (Excommunication). This will Deprive a person of his legal right which forms part of his status. Hence, suit will lie. However, excluding a member from invitation to caste dinners or ceremonies will deprive him a social privilege, and hence no civil suit can be filed. Similarly
a) No civil suit can be filed to compel a Pujari to adorn an idol at a certain season.
b) Suit in respect of a mere dignity attached to an office is not of the civil nature. The suit of a swamiji, that he should be carried on the high road in a palanquin is Not a suit of a civil nature as it is .only a religious honour.
ii) If the main question is a civil or a legal right, it is a civil nature. Therefore, a right to an office is a suit of a civil nature. Office may be secular or religious.
A religious office may be of two kinds:
a) Those offices to which fees are attached as of right. E.g. Khaji, Aya of a Mutt, Joshi of a village, or pujari of a temple, Upadayaya of a Caste.
b) Those offices to which no fees is attached. Hence, the officer may be receiving an ex gratia. No civil suit can be filed to recover ex gratia amounts
.The Bombay High Court had maintained a distinction between
(1) an offices attached to a sacred place
(2) office not so attached.
It allowed cases under (1) and not under (2) To override this new C.P.C. provides that whether any fees is attached or not and whether the office is attached to any religious place or not, it is a suit of a civil nature.
iii) Interference with temple properties. E.g.: Removing the name or other religious mark is of civil nature. Right to worship at a certain place is of a civil nature. Right of burial is a civil right. Carrying religious procession on the Highway is a civil right. Hence, a civil suit may be filed. iv) Examples:
1. Right of an elected person to act as such
2. Right to vote or stand for election
3. Suit for dissolution of marriage
4. Right of a club or Association member to continue as member
5. Suit for rent contribution, mesne profits, etc.