1. This is an application for the revision of an order of the Subordinate Judge of Kashipur. One of the issues raised by the pleadings was whether the Court at Kashipur had jurisdiction to try the suit and an application was made by the defendant that this issue should be tried first. The application was rejected in the following words: 'It is not desirable that the case be decided piecemeal. The case will be taken up as a whole,' and it is against this order that the present application is made. A preliminary objection has been taken that this order of the Court does not amount to a 'case decided,' and it must be admitted that the decision of a single issue out of several has generally been held not to amount to a 'case decided' within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P.C. Reliance on behalf of the opposite party is placed on the Full Bench decision in the case of Baddha Lal v. Mewa Ram AIR 1921 All 1. In that case the trial Court had considered a question of jurisdiction and had decided it, and was proceeding to hear the case on the merits when the application was made to the High Court. The decision of the Full Bench was that the High Court would refuse to interfere in revision with such an order on the ground that no case had been decided. It is not clear however that the decision of the Full Bench would have been the same if the trial Court had decided that it had no jurisdiction and had dismissed the suit, or if the trial Court had refused to go into the question of jurisdiction and had proceeded to try the suit on the merits without expressing an opinion on this very essential point.
2. The strongest argument on behalf of the applicant is this : Under Rule 2, Order 14, Civil P.C., where there are issues of both law and fact in same the suit
and the Court is of opinion that the case or any part thereof may be disposed of on the issues of law only it shall try those issues first.
3. In my opinion this rule can be interpreted in one way only, and that is that the Court must decide whether the case can be disposed of on the issue or issues of law only in the first place, and if it is of opinion that the case may be disposed of on those issues only, it has no option, but must decide those issues first. In the present case the Court has not put to itself the question at all, and has therefore expressed no opinion one way or the other. It has merely decided that it is not desirable that the case be decided piecemeal, and apparently it has been guided only by questions of convenience. The rule however as I have pointed out, makes it obligatory for the Court to consider whether the case may be disposed of on the legal issue alone, and as it has not done so it has undoubtedly acted irregularly, that is to say, otherwise than in accordance with the rules laid down in Schedule 1. The effect of this of course may be that the Court may waste a good deal of time, and the parties may be called on to undergo a good deal of expense to no purpose if it is ultimately found that the Court has no jurisdiction and this no doubt is the reason why Rule 2, Order 14, has been drafted so as to make it mandatory for the Court to decide the issue of law first in such a case.
4. I have no doubt therefore that the Court has acted irregularly, and the only question that remains is whether the decision of the Court amounts to a 'case decided.' There have been many attempts at defining the expression a 'case decided,' but none has been finally accepted, and the general trend of decisions in this Court has lately been to give a rather broader meaning to the expression than that which was attached to it by the majority of Judges in the Full Bench decision. I may refer to the case of Sumatra Devi v. Hazari Lal : AIR1930All758 . In the present case the issue before the Court was whether it had jurisdiction or not to proceed with the suit, and if it had decided against its ownjurisdiction the decision would undoubtedly have amounted to a case decided. It appears to me very difficult therefore to argue that a contrary decision does not also amount to a 'case decided.' I therefore allow the application with costs, set aside the order of the Subordinate Judge and direct him to decide the issue of jurisdiction before proceeding to hear the suit on its merits.