1. On a reference the following question came before a Division Bench (S.B. Sen and Kaina, JJ.) for decision
'Whether the Claims Tribunal constituted under Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act is a Civil Court and a revision petition would lie under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code,' against an order passed by it in the course of proceedings before it?'
There was a difference of opinion between my learned Brothers S.B. Sen. J., and Raina, J. Hence the case has, been placed before me. Sen, J., has held that the Claims Tribunal is a 'Civil Court' and a revision under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure lies against its orders, while Raina, J. has taken a contrary view. On careful consideration of the whole matter I am inclined to agree with the conclusion reached by Sen, J. My reasons for agreeing with Sen, J. are these.
2. Under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure the High Court is empowered to send for the record of any Court subordinate to it and may make such order in the case as it thinks fit if certain conditions specified in the section are satisfied. The revisional power of the High Court thus depends on two conditions, namely, (i) that the order to be revised must be that of a 'Court'; and (ii) that the Court must be subordinate to the High Court. The expression 'Court' has nowhere been denned in the Code of Civil Procedure. That matter came for consideration before the Privy Council in Raiah Nilmoni Singh Deo Bahadur v. Taranath Mookerjee, (1881) 9 Ind App 174 (PC). Under Act X of 1859 (Bengal Rent Act) certain rent suits were made cognizable by the Collectors and that except for the appeal provided under that Act no cognizance could be taken of the suits by any other Court. The question arose as to whether the decrees in the rent suits passed by the Collectors could be transferred for execution beyond the jurisdiction of that Court. The High Court took the view that the Collector's Court not being a Civil Court the provisions of transferring the decree from one Court to another contained in the Code of Civil Procedure could not be attracted. Theii Lordships of the Privy Council, after considering the provisions of Act X of 1859, came to the conclusion:
'It must be allowed that In those sections there is a certain distinction between the Civil Courts there spoken of and the Rent Courts established by the Act, and that the Civil Courts referred to in Section 77. and the kindred sections mean Civil Courts exercising all the . powers of Civil Courts, as distinguished from the Rent Courts which only exercise powers over suits of a limited class. In that sense there is a distinction between the terms; but it isentirely another question whether the Rent Court does not remain a Civil Court in the sense that it is deciding on purely civil questions between persons seeking their civil rights, and whether being a Civil Court in that sense, it does not fall within the provisions of Act VIII of 1859 (the Code of Civil Procedure in force at that time). It is hardly necessary to refer to those provisions in detail. ' because there is no dispute but that, if the Rent Court is a Civil Court within Act VIII of 1859, the Collector has under Section 284 (of Act VIII of 1859) the power of transferring his decrees for execution into another district.'
In this view of the matter, it washeld that the provisions of Section 284 of Act VIII of 1859 were applicable to the decrees passed by the Rent Courts. This decision clearly indicates that there may be Civil Courts which enioy general jurisdiction to decide all civil disputes between individuals inter se or between citizens and the State, and there may be civil Courts whose jurisdiction is confined to certain specified disputes and in that sense they are somewhat different from the general Civil Courts established in the country. But the special Courts still maintain their character as 'Civil Courts' in spite of the fact that the matters entrusted to those Special Courts are excluded from the general jurisdiction of the regular Civil Courts and that the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure would apply to the proceedings of the Social Courts also unless specifically excluded.
3. The Civil Procedure Code of 1859 was amended from time to time and the last consolidated Code was enacted in the year 1908 which is the present Code. It must be noted that even in this Code 'Court' is not denned and the legislature may be taken to have accepted the interpretation put by their Lordships of the Privy Council on that word in (1881) 9 Ind APP 174 (PC) (supra).
4. In Cooper v. Wilson, (1937) 2 KB 309 it was observed
'It is clear, therefore, that In order to constitute a Court in the strict sense of the term, an essential condition is that the Court should have, apart from having some of the trappings of a 'judicial tribunal, power to give a decision or a definitive judgment which has finality and authoritativeness which are the essential tests of judicial pronouncement.'
Similarly, it was held in Huddart. Parker and Co. v. Moorehead,. (1909) 8 CLR 330
'I am of opinion that the words 'judicial power' as used in Article 71 of the Constitution mean the powers which every sovereign authority must of necessity have to decide controversies betweenits subjects, or between itself and its subjects, whether the rights relate to life, liberty or property. The exercise of this power does not begin until some tribunal which has power to give a binding and authoritative decision (whether subject to appeal or not) is called upon to take action.'
Both these passages were quoted by their Lordships of the Supreme Court, with approval, in Jugal Kishore v. Sitamarhi Central Co-op. Bank, AIR 1967 SC 1494. In the same decision their Lordships quoted other two passages from Brajnandan Sinha v. Jyoti Naraiu. AIR 1956 SC 66 which are to the following effect:
'It may be stated broadly that what distinguishes a court from a quasi-judicial tribunal is that it is charged with a duty to decide disputes in a judicial manner and declares the rights of parties in a definitive judgment. To decide in a judicial manner involves that the parties are entitled as a matter of right to be heard in support of their claim and to adduce evidence in proof of it. And it also imports an obligation on the part of the authority to decide the matter on a consideration of the evidence adduced and in accordance with law. when a question, therefore, arises as to whether an authority created by an Act is a Court as distinguished from a quasi-judicial tribunal, what has to be decided is whether having regard to the provisions of the Act it possesses all the attributes of a Court.'
'A true judicial decision presupposes an existing dispute between two or more parties, and then involves four requisites: (1) The presentation of their case by the parties to the dispute; (2) if the dispute between them is a question of fact, the ascertainment of the fact by means of evidence adduced by the parties to the dispute ......... (3) if thedispute between them is a question of law. the submission of legal arguments by the parties; and (4) a decision which disposes of the whole matter by a finding upon the facts in dispute and an application of the law of the land to the facts so found, including where required a ruling upon any disputed question of law.'
5. A sovereign State Is required to discharge three functions--legislative, executive and judicial. The sovereign State in discharge of its iudicial functions may appoint Courts of general jurisdiction, or it may appoint Courts the jurisdiction of which is confined to certain specified matters only. And the Courts may be designated as 'Tribunals'. Similarly, in discharge of its executive functions the sovereign State may appoint tribunals. The tribunals appointed to discharge executive function mayalso be required to act quasi-judicially and they may have all the trappings of a Court of judicature inasmuch as they are also required to take evidence, at time decide questions of law and decide disputes between individuals inter se or between individuals and the State. But in doing all that the tribunals discharge the executive functions of the sovereign State and are guided by the State policy. From the decisions quoted above, it thus becomes clear that a tribunal constituted under any statute, by whatever name it is described, would be treated as a 'Court of judicature' if it is called upon to discharge the judicial functions of the sovereign State, untrammelled by executive considerations, and in reaching its conclusions it is required to follow the well recognised judicial principles.
6. The provisions under Section 110 onwards of the, Motor Vehicles Act have not abrogated the right of a citizen to sue for damages arising out of accidents by a motor vehicles. What has been done is that a special tribunal has been appointed to decide those disputes and the jurisdiction of the general Civil Courts is taken away so far as those claims are concerned. The tribunals so appointed are, however, required to decide the claims on the basis of well known judicial principles and to follow the procedure specially prescribed under the Act. Though the procedure prescribed is somewhat summary in nature to secure quick disposal of the claims, yet the procedure prescribed is well known judicial procedure wherein the parties are allowed to put up their claims, adduce evidence in support of or in opposition to them and to submit arguments. The tribunal is also required to decide the dispute untrammelled by any executive considerations. There should not, therefore, be any difficulty in holding that the Claims Tribunal is a 'Court of judicature.' This is so in spite of the fact that Section 111 (c) (Sic 110-F?) of the Motor Vehicles Act bars the jurisdiction of the general Civil Courts so far as the claims in question are concerned. In fact, at least in two Division Bench cases of this Court it has been held that the Claims Tribunal is a 'Civil Court1. The decisions are :
(i) Radhabal Bhikaji v. Baluram Dalurarn, 1970 MPLJ 754,
(ii) Hayatkhan v. Mangilal, 1970 MPLJ 671 = (AIR 1971 Madh Pra 140). In Radhabai's case, 1970 MPLJ 754 it was held by the Division Bench that a 'Civil Court' includes any Court competent to notice the injury and grant compensation and that the Claims Tribunal was a Civil Court. In Hayatkhan's Case, 1970 MPLJ 671 = (Am1971 Madh Pra 140) another Division Bench held that a Claims petition under Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act is a petition which for all material purposes is like a plaint pertaining to the dispute ordinarily triable in a Civil Court and the Division Bench therefore applied Section 6 of the Limitation Act in the case of claim proceedings also. On similar reasoning, in Balubhai v. Mahila Sarjubai, 1967 Acc CJ 232 (Madh Pra) it was held that the Claims Tribunal had the power to issue commission for examination of witnesses, though the power was not specifically given to the Tribunal. I, therefore, do not find any difficulty in holding that the Claims Tribunal is a 'Court of Judicature'.
7. Raina, J., however, found difficulty in invoking the jurisdiction under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure on a different ground. His Lordship's objection may be quoted in his own words:
'The word 'Court' has not been defined in the Code of Civil Procedure. But whatever meaning we may assign to it. it must apply equally to all the provisions in the Code wherever the word 'Court' occurs. The word 'Court' occurs throughout in the code in numerous provisions and I do not think it is permissible to construe it in one sense for the purposes of one provision and in a different sense in regard to other provisions ... ... ... Thus it will not bepermissible to construe the word 'Court' in Section 115 in a different sense in the absence of anything to the contrary in the Code to show that it was not used in the same sense throughout. This is the main reason why I am unable to accept the proposition that the claims Tribunal is a Court within the meaning of Section 115, Civil P. C. If we hold that it is a Court for the purposes of Section 115 we must hold that it is a Court for the purpose of other sections as well, and this will immediately lead us to certain consequences which are patently not tenable. This may be demonstrated by reference to the following provisions in the Code.
Section 9 of the Code lays down that the Court shall have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature excepting suits of which cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. It is obvious that the Claims Tribunal is not a court falling within the purview of Section 9. The Claims Tribunal does not exercise a general jurisdiction in civil matters. It is established under the Motor Vehicles Act for the limited purpose of determining claims to compensation arising out of motor accidents in accordance with the provisions of that Act.'
8. I do not think that the difficulty envisaged by Raina, J., is a real difficulty.
9. The Code of Civil Procedure does not provide for constitution of Civil Courts, defining their powers and jurisdictions. That has been done by several statutes like the Civil Courts Act passed by the various States. Subsection (4) of Section 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure only defines a 'Civil District' and 'the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction', described as 'District Court'. Section 3 of the Code then lays down that for the purpose of the Code the District Court is subordinate to the High Court, and every Civil Court of a grade inferior to that of a District Court and every Court of Small Causes is subordinate to the High Court and the District Court. Section 6 then provides that, save in so far as is otherwise expressly provided, nothing contained in the Code shall give any court jurisdiction over suits the amount or value of the subject-matter of which exceeds the pecuniary limits of its ordinary jurisdiction. But that jurisdiction is to be provided for by other Acts. Sections 7 and 8 deal with Small Cause Courts. Section 9 then provides that the Courts shall, subject to the provisions contained in the Code, have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. The function of Section 9, therefore, appears to be declaratory. It only means that if Civil Courts are established by the sovereign State, they shall have jurisdiction to try all suits of civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. This section, however, does not take away the right of the State to constitute Courts for the trial of suits of specific nature and does not declare that such Courts are not Civil Courts to be governed by the procedure prescribed under the Code of Civil Procedure. What Section 9 contemplates is a general declaration of the authority of the Courts to try all civil matters if their jurisdiction is not, in any way, limited to any particular matters. Even if Section 9 confers jurisdiction on the Civil Courts, it cannot entertain a suit beyond its pecuniary jurisdiction; nor can it act beyond its territorial jurisdiction. Courts with limited jurisdiction are thus contemplated even under Section 9 of the Code. Similarly, Section 9 also contemplates taking away the jurisdiction of the general Courts in certain matters and conferring that jurisdiction on Special Courts. In this view of the matter, when we read Section 9 In interpreting the expression 'Court' in thatsection, we will have to interpret the word 'Court' in the context that Courts might be constituted with limited jurisdictions or courts might be constituted without denning their jurisdiction and that Section 9 is attracted only in the case of those courts whose jurisdiction has not been defined by the statute constituting them.
10. Raina, J. has not referred to other sections of the Code of Civil Procedure to show how any difficulty would arise in the interpretation of other provisions of the Code. If it is kept in mind that Courts of different jurisdictions can be constituted by the State authority, there would not be any difficulty in interpreting the various provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. It may be pertinent to note that Section 3 of the Madhya Pradesh Civil Courts Act, 1958 provides:
'In addition to the Courts established under any other law for the time being in force, there shall be following classes of Courts, namely, ... ...'
This section clearly envisages other classes of Civil Courts apart from the Civil Courts of general jurisdiction constituted under the said Act. There should not, therefore, be any difficulty In holding that the Claims Tribunal was established as a Civil Court to deal with specific matters only; and it being a Court of limited jurisdiction, there is no question of its exercising jurisdiction over other matters. The distinction between Courts of general jurisdiction and courts of special jurisdiction was noted by their Lordships of the Privy Council in (1881) 9 Ind App 174 (PC) (Supra). Venkatarama Aiyar, J. (as he then was) of the Madras High Court in Sriramrao v. Suryanarayanmurthi, AIR 1954 Mad 340 interpreted the observations of the Privy Council to mean:
'Courts constituted for deciding on purely civil questions between persons seeking their civil rights must be considered to be Civil Courts, notwithstanding that they are created by a special statute and are mentioned in that statute as distinct from Civil Courts. The true import of such a distinction is that while special courts have jurisdiction over a limited class of suits specified in the statute the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts is not limited to any class of suits. To this extent there is distinction between the two classes of courts but in respect of the class of suits actually entrusted to the jurisdiction of special courts they perform in relation to them functions which but for the special Act would have been performed by Civil Courts and to that extent the special courtscan be said to be Civil Courts in a different attire.' (page 345)
In this view of the matter, there shouldnot be any difficulty in holding thatSection 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure only refers to those courts whoseDowers have not been defined by thestatute constituting them and the expression 'Court' in Section 9 in that context shouldbe confined to those courts only. Ifthis distinction is kept in mind, thatcourts with general jurisdiction as wellas courts with special jurisdiction areconstituted by the state, no difficultyshould be envisaged in interpreting thevarious provisions of the Code of CivilProcedure.
11. In order to determine as to whether the Claims Tribunal was a court subordinate to the High Court Sen. J, had referred to the decision of the Supreme Court. In Shankar Ramchandra v. Krishnaji Dattatraya. AIR 1970 SC 1 wherein their Lordships had observed:
'The right of appeal is one of entering a superior Court and invoking its aid and interposition to redress the error of the Court below. Two things which are required to constitute appellate jurisdiction are the existence of the relation of superior and inferior Court and the power on the part of the former to review decisions of the latter. When the aid of the High Court is invoked on the revisional side it is done because it is a superior court and it can interfere for the purpose of rectifying the error of the Court below. Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure circumscribes the limits of that jurisdiction but the jurisdiction which is being exercised is a part of the general appellate jurisdiction of the High Court as a superior Court. It is only one of the modes of exercising power conferred by the statute; basically and fundamentally it is the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court which is being invoked and exercised in a wider, and larger sense.'
Inasmuch as an appeal is provided for against the decision of the Claims Tribunal to the High Court, Sen, J., relying on the abovesaid decision, held that the Claims Tribunal was subordinate to the High Court and it could exercise revisional powers under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the exercise being basically and fundamentally exercise of the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court. Raina, J., held' that in AIR 1970 SC 1 (Supra) their Lordships of the Supreme Court were concerned mainly with the question of the merger of the order of subordinate court in that of the order of the superior court passed in exercise of its appellate jurisdiction or revisional jurisdiction and in that context made the abovesaid observations and that the said decision did not lay down any such general proposition that the appellate power included within itself the exercise of revisional power as well. Raina. J., observed that the revisional jurisdiction may be similar to the appellate jurisdiction; but that is not the same thing to say that the conferral of appellate jurisdiction amounts to conferral of revisional jurisdiction as well. Raina. J. appears to be right in this criticism. But that does not, in any way, affect the matter. Once it is held that the Claims Tribunal is a Court of judicature, it must follow that under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which is general in terms, the High Court is entitled to revise the orders of that Court. Section 3 of the Code clearly lays down that all Courts constituted within a Civil District are subordinate to the District Court and are also subordinate to the High Court. The Claims Tribunal must, therefore, be held to be subordinate to the High Court. Both the conditions under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure are thus satisfied. There is, therefore, no escape from the conclusion that the orders passed by the Claims Tribunal can be revised under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. I need not refer to the various cases cited by Sen. J., wherein tribunals constituted under different statutes were held to be 'Civil Courts' amenable to revisional jurisdiction of the High Court. In AIR 1954 Mad 340 (supra). Venkatarama Aiyar. J., held that the Registrar of Co-operative Societies deciding disputes between members of a co-operative society acted as a 'Court' and that his orders were revisable under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The proposition that the Registrar of Co-operative Societies acts as a Court has been confirmed by the Supreme Court in AIR 1967 SC 1494 (Supra), though the case was decided under Section 3 of the Contempt of Courts Act. In Maghanmal v. Moolchand, AIR 1961 Madh Pra 193, Shiv Dayal, J., had also held, for similar reasons, that the Tribunal appointed under Section 4 of the Displaced Persons (Debts Adjustment) Act, 1951 was a 'Civil Court' amenable to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 115 of the Code of Civil Procedure. I drive support for my conclusions from this judgment also.
12. I, therefore, hold that the Claims Tribunal constituted under Section 110 of the Motor Vehicles Act is a Civil Court and a revision petition would lie under Section 115 of theCode of Civil Procedure against anorder passed by it in the course of proceedings before it. Let the case be now placed before the appropriate Bench for disposal.