1. First Appeal No. 80 of 1978 and Second Appeal No. 1167 of 1968 have both come up before this Court on a reference made by Hon'ble Deoki Nandan, J., vide his order of reference dated 23rd August, 1979.
2. In First Appeal No. 80 of 1978 the point before the learned single Judge was about the maintainability of the appeal as it was directed against a decree passed by the Judge, Small Cause Court, Varanasi, while deciding the proceedings under the Hindu Marriage Act. Since the learned single Judge had already referred Second Appeal No. 1167 of 1968 Smt. Mithilesh Kumari v. Ambika Prasad Tiwari for re-consideration by the Division Bench of the decision of Hon'ble Oak, J. in Shesh Narain Dixit v. Smt. Savitri (1966 All LJ 833) : (AIR 1967 All 156) the question involved in First Appeal No. 80 of 1978 was also referred to this Bench.
3. In Second Appeal No. 1167 of 1968 the appellant had filed a petition against her husband in the District Court. Varanasi, for annulment of her marriage by a decree of nullity and in the alternative for a decree of divorce or judicial separation under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. After the matter had remained pending for some time before the District Judge, Varanasi, it was transferred to the court, Judge, Small Causes, Varanasi for decision. The petition was dismissed by the trial court and an appeal against it was also dismissed by the II Addl. District Judge, Varanasi against which Second Appeal No. 1167 of 1968 has been filed by the wife,
4. In appeal before the lower appellate court it was argued on behalf of the respondent that the appeal was not competent as the proceeding had been decided by the Judge, Small Cause Court, Varanasi and only a revision lies against such a decree. The lower appellate court relying upon the decision of Hon'ble Oak, J. in the case of Shesh Narain Dixit v. Smt. Savitri (AIR 1967 All 156) (supra) dismissed the appeal as not maintainable. When the Second Appealcame up for hearing before Hon'ble Deoki Nandan, J., he, for the reasons re corded in the reference order, disagreed with the view. According to him the Judge, Small Cause Court could not decide the proceedings under the Hindu Marriage Act, as a Judge of the Small Cause Court and had decided the same in his capacity as a Civil Judge and, therefore, an appeal before the lower appellate court was legally maintainable. The question that arises before this Bench, therefore, is as to whether an appeal lies against the decision of a petition under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act when such a proceeding was decided by the court of Judge, Small Causes or whether a revision only will lie.
5. Civil courts were re-organised in British India by the Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act, 1887. The preamble of this Act says as under:
'Whereas it is expedient to consolidate and amend laws relating to Civil Courts in Bengal, North Western Provinces and Assam.........'
North Western Provinces of British India at that time included Uttar Pradesh also. This Act was enforced w.e.f. July 1, 1887. With the expansion of the British rule in India the administration of civil law had to be entrusted to the various courts which were then functioning in Bengal, Assam and North-Western provinces, i.e., U.P. etc. In order to consolidate and to lay down the uniform system it was thought necessary that the administration of civil law may be controlled under a Common Act and for this reason the Act in question was passed in 1887, as Act 12 of 1887. Under this Act four kinds of civil courts were recognised namely, 1, the court of District Judge,2. the court of Additional District Judge;3. the court of the Subordinate Judge (Civil Judges in U.P.); and 4, the court of the Munsif. Section 18 of this Act lays down the extent of the jurisdiction of the District Judge and the Civil Judge. Similarly Section 19 prescribes the extent of the jurisdiction of the Munsif. Section 20 provided for appeals from the decree or order passed by the District Judge or an Additional District Judge and Section 21 laid down the forum where appeal from the decree or order of the Civil Judge and Munsif was to lie. Section 25 of the Act provided for the powers of the State Government to confer upon any Civil Judge or aMunsif the jurisdiction of a court of Small Causes under the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887.
6. Simultaneously with the enforcement of Act 12 of 1887, Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 was also passed on 24th February, 1887 and that too was enforced w.e.f. July 1, 1887. This Act, being Act IX of 1887, was passed with a view to consolidate and amend the law relating to the court of Small Causes established beyond the limits of the High Courts in the three presidency towns. Section 5 of this Act provided for the establishment of the Court of Small Causes at any place and Section 15 thereof lays down the restrictions on the powers and jurisdiction of the Court of Small Causes to try certain types of cases except those which are enumerated in Schedule II of the Act. It also provides the pecuniary limit of jurisdiction of a Court of Small Causes. Section 24 of the Act provides for appeals against certain orders referred to in Section 104 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 while Section 25 provides that a decree passed by the court of Small Causes would be revisable by the High Court (in U.P. before the District Judge, in view of the U.P. Act XVII of 1966). Section 31 then provides that a Judge of the Small Cause Court could also be appointed a Judge of any Civil Court. Section 32 deals with the investing of power of Small Cause Court on a civil court and also that in such an event Chaps. 3 and 4 of the Act would apply to the cases decided by such court and; lastly, Section 33 enables the court exercising jurisdiction of a Court of Small Causes to exercise jurisdiction in suits of civil nature also.
7. From the above provisions it is clear that where there is a civil court in existence it could be invested with the powers of the Small Cause Courts also. Similarly if there is Small Cause Court in existence its Judge could be invested with the powers of civil court also. Such a Judge, therefore, would be acting in two capacities, i.e., while deciding the cases cognizable by the court, Small Causes, he would be exercising jurisdiction of Judge of Small Cause Court and while dealing with the civil cases, non-cognizable by the court small causes, a Judge would be dealing with the same as a Judge of the Civil Court.
8. According to the Hindu Marriage Act a petition under the Act could bepresented to the 'District Court' within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the cause of action in the petition arose. The words 'District Court' has been defined in Section 3 (b) as under:
'District court means, in any area for which there is a city civil court, that court, and in any other area the principal civil court of original jurisdiction, and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification in the official gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt within this Act.'
It is undisputed that in U.P. there are no city civil courts and, therefore, the relevant portion of the section as applicable in U.P. would read as under:
'District court means............principalcivil court of original jurisdiction and includes any other civil court which may be specified by the State Government, by notification in the official gazette, as having jurisdiction in respect of the matters dealt with in this Act.'
9. A perusal of the definition of the District court makes it quite apparent that apart from the principal civil court of original jurisdiction, i.e. the court of the District Judge other courts of original civil jurisdiction could also be invested with the jurisdiction to decide the cases under the Hindu Marriage Act provided the State Government notifies its intention in the official gazette. It is not disputed that the court of Small Causes, Varanasi which decided the matter had been so invested with the powers of the 'District Court' within the meaning of Section 3(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act). Therefore, that court while deciding the proceedings under this Act was exercising the jurisdiction both as a court small causes under the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act and also of the Dowers of the 'district court' conferred under Section 3(b) of the Act.
10. The question, however, is as to whether while deciding any petition under the Act the court of small causes acted in its capacity as a court of small causes only or it acted as a civil court also having the powers of a 'district Court' under Section 3(b) of the Act. Before we decide this question it would be necessary to know the powers and jurisdiction of the court of Small Causes. The Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 defines the Court of Small CausesSection 4 thereof gives its defintion as under:
'In this Act, unless there is something repugnant in the subject or context, 'Court of Small Causes' means a Court of Small Causes constituted under this Act, and includes any person exercising jurisdiction under this Act in any such Court.'
11. The powers of the Court of Small Causes, however, are limited both in its extent as well as in regard to its pecuniary limitations. Section 15 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 reads as under:
'(1) A Court of Small Causes shall not take cognizance of the suits specified in the second schedule as suits excepted from the cognizance of a Court of Small Causes.
(2) Subject to the exceptions specified in that schedule and to the provisions of any enactment for the time being in force, all suits of a civil nature of which the value does not exceed five hundred rupees shall be cognizable by a Court of Small Causes.
(3) Subject aforesaid, the State Government may, by order in writing, direct that all suits of a civil nature of which the value does not exceed one thousand rupees shall be cognizable by a Court of Small Causes mentioned in the order.'
It will thus be seen that the cases which are of the nature given in the II Schedule and are of the value more than Rupees 500/- (now Rs. two thousand in the State of U.P.) cannot be taken cognizance of by a Court of Small Causes. According to Entry No. 37 of the II Schedule any suit for restitution of conjugal rights, for the custody of a minor or for divorce are excepted from the cognizance of a Court of Small Causes. We have already mentioned earlier that the petition which had been filed under the Act was one for divorce or for judicial separation and as such would be covered by Entry No. 37 of II Schedule of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887, The Judge of Small Cause Court, could not, therefore, have exercised any jurisdiction in deciding the petition for divorce under the provisions as Court of Small Causes. This power could be exercised only by a civil court having the powers of a 'district court' within the meaning of Section 3(b) of the Act. As we have seen earlier, a Judge of the civil court could also be invested with the powersof a Judge of Small Cause Court and in the same way a Judge of the Court of Small Causes could be invested with the powers of a Civil Judge. The Court of Small Causes at Varanasi was established under the provisions of the Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act, 1887 and the same is mentioned at Serial No. 42 of the Schedule. Similarly the Court of Civil Judge at Varanasi exercising jurisdiction within the District of Varanasi has been established under the same Act and is mentioned at Serial No. 95. The official designation of this court is Civil & Sessions Judge, Varanasi and Gyanpur and Additional Sessions Judge, under the Criminal Procedure Code. It appears that the Civil Judge, Varanasi was not invested with the powers of the District Court under the Hindu Marriage Act while the Judge, Small Causes Court, Varanasi alone was invested with such powers.
12. It appears that by means of the notification A-1104/VII-710-53 dated 12-4-1956 issued by the State Government in supersession of all earlier notifications a Court of Small Causes was established at Varanasi and the same is mentioned at Serial No. 42. The place of the sitting of the court is shown as Varanasi and it has been invested with the powers of Civil Judge and Assistant Sessions Judge. The title of the court, as mentioned in the notification is Small Cause Court Judge, in the same notification at Sl. No. 95 a Court of Civil Judge was established at Varanasi, Gyanpur and it was invested with the powers of Small Cause Court Judge and Assistant Sessions Judge and was to be known as Small Cause Court Judge, Varanasi. It appears that as there was no Court of Civil Judge at Varanasi the powers of the 'district court' under Section 3(h) of the Act were conferred on the Small Cause Court Judge, Varanasi who was already invested with the powers of the Civil Judge under Act XII of 1887. While the court of Small Cause at Varanasi exercised jurisdiction under the Act as the 'District Court' it was not the Small Cause Court Judge who was functioning but on the contrary it was the Civil Judge invested with the powers of the 'District Court' under the Act who was functioning while deciding the proceedings under the Hindu Marriage Act. The Judge of the Court of Small Cause had no jurisdiction to entertain any petition under the Act for divorce etc.
It is, therefore, obvious that the Judge could not have exercised jurisdiction as the Court of Small Cause Judge and must necessarily have exercised the jurisdiction only as a Civil Judge having powers of the 'District Court' under the Act. Appeal from the orders of the 'District Court' both under the Code of Civil Procedure as well 35 under the provisions of the Act have been provided under Section 95 and Section 28 respectively. Section 28 of the Act clearly provides that a decree in any proceedings under the Act would be appealable as a decree of civil courts in exercise of their original jurisdiction and every such appeal shall lie to the court to which the appeal would ordinarily lie from the decision of the civil courts given in exercise of its original jurisdiction. Therefore, under Section 95 of the Code of Civil Procedure an appeal from the Court of Civil Judge lay to the District Judge, the appeal under Section 28 of the Act would He to that court or if the appeal from the order of the civil court lay before the High Court then, in that event, the appeal shall He before the High Court. There is no conflict between Section 28 of the Act and Section 96, C.P.C. The former merely explains and is in the nature of enabling provision and does not, in any manner, abrogate the powers of the civil courts under Section 96 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It is, therefore, apparent that a decree passed by the Court of Small Causes at Varanasi while deciding any proceeding on a petition under the Act must have been decided as a 'District Court' and not as a Court of Small Causes and, therefore, instead of revision an appeal would lie under Section 28 of the Act. In this connection a reference was made to the case of Girwar Singh Nirmal v. Premawati (AIR 1972 All 474) which had taken a contrary view to that taken in Shesh Narain Dixit v. Smt. Savitri (AIR 1967 All 156) (supra) and thus an apparent conflict of views exist. Having given our anxious thought to the entire scheme of the various Acts we are of the opinion that the view taken by Hon'ble Trivedi, J. in the case of Girwar Singh Nirmal v. Smt. Premawati (supra) is the correct view and we respectfully disagree with the view expressed by Hon'ble Oak, J. in the case of Shesh Narain Dixit v. Smt Savitri (supra).
13. Another question that arises for consideration in this matter is as to whether an appeal shall lie to the District Judge or to the High Court in the instant case. The contention of the learned counsel for the appellant was that under the provisions of the Act there is only one District Court and an appeal would lie to the District Judge from the decree passed by another court which also is a 'District Court' within the meaning of the Act. Precisely the same question had arisen in Dal Chand Singh v. Swaran Pratap (AIR 1965 All 46) where a Division Bench of this Court held that there is a vital distinction between the District Judge and the 'District Court'. A District Court as provided in Bengal, Agra and Assam Civil Courts Act provides several categories of courts which are collectively called civil courts which include the court of District Judge, Civil Judge and the Munsif. The words which are used in the Act are the 'District Court' and the same have been defined as a Court of original civil jurisdiction or any other court. The court of original civil jurisdiction of course is a court of the District Judge but if any other court was also invested with the powers under the Act then the same powers can be exercised by a Civil Judge also. There is thus no conflict in the provisions if the decree passed by the Civil Judge exercising jurisdiction as 'District Court' under the Act is appealed against before the District Judge who can decide the matter as an appellate court.
14. The above decision clearly covers the point sought to be raised in this appeal and we need not dilate on this issue any further. Suffice it to say that the petition for divorce had been valued at Rs. 1,000/- in the trial court and as such the appeal would lie only to the District Judge and not to the High Court. Appeal from the decree of the Civil Judge can lie to the High Court only if the valuation of the original suit was more than Rs. 20,000/-. The appellant himself had chosen to give valuation of the petition which he was required to give under Rule 5 of the Rules framed by this Court under the Act. The jurisdiction of the Court will, therefore, be determined on that basis alone. In this case since the petition was valued at Rs. 1,000/-obviously the appeal would lie before the District Judge and not to the High Court.
15. In view of the above, we answer the reference accordingly and direct that F.A. No. 80 of 1978 filed in this Court is not competent and the appeal could be only before the District Judge, Varanasi. The memorandum of appeal shall be returned for presentation to the proper court.
16. As regards S.A. No. 1167 of 1968 it shall now be listed before the learned single Judge who has made the reference for decision on merits.