1. This is a plaintiff's appeal against an order of the Subordinate Judge of Saharanpur directing that the plaint in the suit in which the order has been passed should be returned to the plaintiff for presentation in the Court of the Munsif.
2. In the plaint the plaintiff prayed for a decree for absolute possession on the dispossession of the defendants and removal of their appropriations in respect of property mentioned in Schedule (B) and for a decree of joint possession in respect of property mentioned in Schedule (C). The plaintiff further claimed a number of minor reliefs. She claimed alternatively:
If for any reason the defendants may consider that they would not get their full half-share by separate possession, then the Haweli mentioned in list (A) may be caused to be partitioned through the Court Amin and separate possession over half the partitioned share may be awarded. This relief is laid at Rs. 10,000.
3. The property in question was at one time the joint property of a Hindu family. It was partitioned some considerable time abo, one-half going to the predecessors of the plaintiff and one-half to the predecessors of the defendants. A certain proportion of the property was retained in common.
4. The plaintiff in the plaint valued the relief in relation to the property in Schedule (B) at Rs. 4,000. The relief in relation to the property in Schedule (C) was valued at Rs. 1,000. The minor reliefs were valued at Rs. 330.
5. The defendants took the preliminary plea that the reliefs had been grossly over-valued by the plaintiff for the purpose of embarrassing the defendants in costs, etc. There was no statement on behalf of the defendants that the plaintiff's object in over-valuing the reliefs claimed was to oust the jurisdiction of the Munsif's Court. At an early stage in the proceedings certain questions between the parties were adjusted which resulted in eliminating certain of the reliefs claimed.
6. The parties then agreed, in view of the plea taken by the defendants, that the reliefs had been over-valued, that there should be an investigation into the question of the true value of the outstanding portions of the property which were claimed by the plaintiff. The Court directed the Amin to value these outstanding portions. The Amin valued the property and reported that the total value of the property still in dispute between the parties was Rs. 3,080. The Amin's report was produced in Court and the plaintiff was given an opportunity of leading evidence in support of her contention that the value of the reliefs claimed was Rs. 5,330.
7. The Court having the Amin's report before it and having considered the evidence led by the plaintiff has come to the conclusion that the value of the property now in dispute is as stated in the Amin's report, namely, Rupees 3,080.
8. The Munsif has jurisdiction in suits upto the value of Rs. 5,000. In the circumstances the Subordinate Judge having held upon the evidence that the true value of the reliefs claimed by the plaintiff was less than Rs. 5,000, namely Rs. 3,080, he made the order complained against, that the plaint should be returned to the plaintiff for presentation in the Munsif's Court.
9. Learned Counsel for the appellant in inviting us to upset this order has contended in the first place that the value of the reliefs claimed by the plaintiff must be taken as the value put upon the alternative relief, namely, Rs. 10,000. We have quoted this relief in full above and we have no hesitation in finding that it discloses no cause of action whatever. The defendants had at no time challenged the old partition of the property which was a private partition and they never had at any time indicated that it was their intention to claim repartition by the Court. In these circumstances we hold that this alternative relief which is valued at Rs. 10,000 is inept and should not be taken into consideration in estimating the true value of the suit. Learned Counsel for the appellant argued however in the second place that inasmuch as the defendants had not taken the plea that the suit had been over-valued for the purpose of ousting the jurisdiction of the Munsif, it was not open to the Subordinate. Judge even although he did hold that the value of the reliefs claimed was less than Rs. 5,000, to refuse to entertain the suit on the ground that he had no jurisdiction. In support of this argument learned Counsel for the plaintiff has referred to Section 15, Civil P.C., and to Order 7, Rule 1. Section 15 enjoins that:
every suit shall be instituted in the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it.
10. Order 7, Rule 1 is to the effect that the plaint shall contain certain particulars and (1):
a statement of the value of the subject-matter of the suit for the purposes of jurisdiction and of court-fees, so far as the case admits.
11. Learned Counsel has contended that in deciding which Court has jurisdiction to entertain a particular suit the plaint and the plaint alone must be looked to. In support of his argument he has referred us to a number of authorities which we shall now consider. The first case is Mahabir Singh v. Behari Lal (1891) 13 All. 320. In that case it was held that:
for the purpose of determining the proper appellate Court in a civil suit what is to be looked to is the value of the original suit, that is to say, the amount or value of the subject-matter of the suit. Such amount or value of the subject-matter of the suit must be taken to be the value assigned by the plaintiff in his plaint and not the value as found by the Court, unless it appears that, either purposely or through gross negligence, the true value of the suit has been altogether misrepresented in the plaint.
12. In the course of that judgment the learned Judges who heard the appeal stated:
Whilst holding that the value of the subject matter of the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction is the value as stated by the plaintiff in his plaint, we entirely agree with the learned Judges in the Bombay case to which we have been referred that the jurisdiction of the Court properly having cognizance of the cause is not to be ousted by unwarrantable additions to the claim, and that an exaggerated claim which cannot be sustained and which there is no reasonable ground for expecting to sustain, brought for the purpose of getting a trial in a different Court from the one intended by the legislature, is substantially a fraud upon the law and must be rejected, whether it arises from mere recklessness or an artful design to get the adjudication of one Judge instead of that of another.
13. Learned Counsel has argued upon the strength of this decision and of the passage quoted from the judgment that unless it be pleaded and shown that the design of the plaintiff in over-valuing her suit was to get the adjudication of one Judge instead of that of another, it is not open to the Court to refuse to entertain the suit even though it be convinced upon the evidence that the suit, for some other, ulterior or dishonest motive has been grossly over-valued by the plaintiff. We do not think that this authority supports the proposition for which the learned Counsel has contended. In the case referred to it may well have been that the intention of the plaintiff was to oust the jurisdiction of one Court and to secure the adjudication of another Judge, but nothing is said in the course of the judgment about the case of a plaintiff who grossly over-values his suit for the purpose of embarrassing the defendant in regard to costs, etc. The next case referred to by learned Counsel for the appellant was Madho Das v. Ramji Patak (1894) 16 All. 286. In this case it was held that:
the pecuniary jurisdiction of a civil Court on its original or appellate side is, ordinarily speaking, governed by the value stated by the plaintiff in his plaint; and if a suit, having regard to the valuation in the plaint, is within the jurisdiction, such jurisdiction is not ousted by the Court finding that a decree for a sum exceeding the limit of its pecuniary jurisdiction should be given to the plaintiff.
14. In the course of their judgment the learned Judges approved of the dictum quoted in Mahabir Singh v. Behari Lal (1891) 13 All. 320. In fact the Court in this case followed the decision of the earlier case. We see however nothing in this decision to support the proposition contended for by learned Counsel for the appellant that unless the defendants specifically attributes to the plaintiff an intention to oust the jurisdiction of a Court, the Court before whom the case is pending has no right to refuse to entertain it. In Dwarka Das v. Kameshar Prasad (1895) 17 All. 69, the learned Judges who tried the case stated in the course of their judgment:
We have indicated what, in our opinion, is for the purposes of jurisdiction, the value of a suit under Section 283, Act 14 of 1882, when the judgment-debtor or his representative is made, and when ho is not made, a party to the suit as a defendant. In either case the value of the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction is the value stated by the plaintiff in his plaint, provided that such value is not understated or overstated with the object of getting the suit admitted in a Court in which, by reason of the true value of the suit and Section 15, Act 14 of 1882, the suit does not lie.
15. Learned Counsel for the plaintiff has argued again upon the basis of this decision that the law is that unless the over-valuation is proved to have been for the purpose of ousting the jurisdiction of one Court the Court, in which the suit is filed has no right to refuse to entertain it upon the basis that the value has been grossly inflated for some other purpose by the plaintiff. We do not think however that this proposition can be deduced from the decision in this case.
16. Learned Counsel for the appellant also referred to Mota Bhai Moti Lal v. Surat City Municipality (1896) 20 Bom. 675. That was a case where the plaint prayed for a declaration that a certain tax was illegal and also for damages for an illegal entry into the plaintiff's house. The plaint was presented in the Court of the First Class Subordinate Judge of Surat. The Judge amended the plaint by striking out the portion regarding the reliefs other than the relief for damages and then held that the claim for damages would lie only in the Small Cause Court. In the result he ordered that the plaint be returned' for presentation in that Court. It was held however on appeal that the Subordinate Judge was not justified in returning the plaint at that stage in the proceedings. The shape in which the suit was originally instituted is the test of jurisdiction. We fail to see however how this authority supports the proposition which learned Counsel for the appellant has advanced. The question as to what was the duty of the Court where it is clearly established before it that a claim has been grossly over-valued, was never raised in that case.
17. Learned Counsel for the respondents has maintained that the law on this point has been correctly stated in the, case of Inayat Husain v. Basliir Ahmad 1932 All. 413. In concluding their judgment in that case the learned Judges stated:
the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put an arbitrary value upon his claim, nor can he be allowed to over-value or under-value his claim with a view to choose his forum.
18. We consider it unnecessary to refer to the other authorities which were quoted to us by learned Counsel for the defendants. In our view the law is perfectly clear. If it is established in the course of a preliminary enquiry that the valuation of the reliefs claimed by the plaintiff has been grossly inflated then it is the duty of the Court to return the plaint for presentation in the Court which has jurisdiction. We can see no reason for accepting the distinction which learned Counsel for the appellant has attempted to draw. His argument appears to be as follows : If the defendants when they object to the valuation by the plaintiff of the reliefs claimed state that the object of the plaintiff is to embarrass the defendants, then the Court cannot refuse to entertain the suit even though it may be proved that there has been a gross inflation of the value of the reliefs claimed. On the other hand, if the defendants state that the reliefs have been inflated by the plaintiff for the purpose of ousting the jurisdiction of one Court and obtaining the jurisdiction of another and it be found that there has been gross inflation, then the Court is entitled to order the plaint to be returned to the plaintiff for presentation in the proper Court. We are of the opinion that there is no foundation in principle or in any authority to which we have been referred for this distinction.
19. It is clear in our view that when the issue as to the value of the reliefs was adjusted between the parties in the present case it was their intention that the question of jurisdiction should be agitated. In any event, we hold that if in the course of a preliminary enquiry in a suit into the value of the reliefs claimed by the plaintiff, whether that enquiry be instituted at the, request of the defendant or of the plaintiff, or whatever be the reason assigned for the over-valuation of the reliefs, it becomes clear to the Court that there has been gross overvaluation, it is the duty of the Court on the motion of either party or ex proprio motu to order that the plaint be returned for presentation in the proper Court if the value be held to be not higher than the figure upto which the Court has jurisdiction.
20. In the present suit the preliminary point was taken by the defendants who alleged that there has been gross overvaluation of the reliefs. Evidence was led as to the true value of the property in dispute. Upon the evidence led the learned Subordinate Judge has come to the conclusion that the value is less than Rs. 5,000. The evidence which was led before him by the plaintiff proved nothing at all. We have been referred to the testimony of the plaintiff's leading witness and although he says that the property is worth more than Rs. 5,000 it is quite clear from his cross-examination that he knows nothing whatever about the real value of the property. In any event we should below to interfere in. this matter with the finding of fact arrived at by the learned Subordinate Judge.
21. In the result the appeal is dismissed with costs.