1. A suit valued at Rs. 768 was within the small cause jurisdiction of the Subordinate Judge of Devakotta. The District Munsif of Devakotta was trying a connected suit within his original side jurisdiction. For convenience of parties the small cause suit was transferred by the District Judge of Ramnad to the file of the District Munsif. The petitioner moves this Court to declare, in revision, that the District Judge acted without jurisdiction.
2. The short point is whether a District Munsif is 'competent to try' a small cause suit beyond his small cause jurisdiction and within the small cause jurisdiction of the Subordinate Judge. Because if he is not 'competent to try' the District Court could not have transferred the suit to him under Section 24(1)(a), Civil Procedure Code.
3. Ordinarily a District Munsif would be competent to try a suit valued at Rs. 768; but if his munsifi is included in the jurisdiction of a Subordinate Judge who has been given small cause powers up to Rs. 1,000, then under Section 16, Act IX of 1887 (save as provided by any enactment for the time being in force), he shall not try such a suit, which will be triable only by the Subordinate Judge. Then the question arises, is a Munsif whose hands are tied by Section 16, 'competent' to try the suit?
4. I think there can be no doubt that he is competent, but that particular class of suit is taken from him by special enactment; and, as Section 16 expressly provides, if the special enactment is negatived by some other enactment, then the Munsif can exercise his competence. The matter has been elucidated in a parallel problem arising out of the same term 'a Court competent to try' in Section 11, Civil Procedure Code. It was argued in Raja Simhadri Appa Row v. Ramachandrudu I.L.R. (1902) 27 M. 63 : 13 M.L.J. 23 that the District Munsif of Gudivada could never by force of Section 16 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act take a suit of small cause valuation on to his original side; and therefore a suit which he had decided on the original side could not be treated as res judicata when he was trying a small cause suit between the same parties, because the Original Side Court 'was not competent to try' the subsequent suit in the Small Cause Court.
5. The Bench negatived this argument holding that the circumstance of the original jurisdiction being barred does not make the ordinary Civil Court a Court which is not a Court of jurisdiction competent to try the present suit.
6. The same language may be applied to Section 24(1)(a), Civil Procedure Code. The Court has jurisdiction to try, and is competent to try, though there is the circumstance, or accident, that that particular class of suit is removed from its purview.
7. It is clear that when Section 24 has been canvassed on other grounds this question has suggested no difficulty to the Courts. Thus in Sankararama v. Padmanabha I.L.R. (1912) 38 Mad. 25 : 23 M.L.J. 373, when the Subordinate Judge of Tuticorin had small cause jurisdiction covering the munsifi of Srivaikuntam, and the suit was transferred to the Munsif of Srivaikuntam who had not got small cause powers up to the necessary value, this Court has held (page 27) 'that both Courts were competent to dispose of the suits cannot be doubted' and the District Court 'had power to transfer the suit' (page 31).
8. Again in Sukha v. Raghunath Das I.L.R. (1916) 39 All. 214 it is held that the District Court has power to transfer the small cause suit to a Court which is not invested with small cause powers.
9. This is directly traversed in Murugesa Mudaliar v. Venkata Kesavalu Chetty (1929) 56 M.L.J. 649 . No doubt it is there left open whether Sukha v. Raghunath Das I.L.R. (1916) 39 All. 214 had gone to this extent, but the passage quoted above from page 219 puts it beyond doubt, and it must be decided whether the Allahabad or the Madras case is right.
10. The ruling upon which the Madras case chiefly relies, Bagiammal, In re : AIR1918Mad488 is hardly in point because the City Civil Court by virtue of Section 3 of the Madras City Civil Courts Act (VII of 1892) is quite incompetent to try suits cognizable by the Small Cause Court. There is no precisely similar enactment in regard to District Munsifs, who are competent to try suits of small cause valuation provided that Section 16 of the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act does not apply.
11. An unreported case cited in Murugesa Mudaliar v. Venkata Kesavalu Chetty (1929) 56 M.L.J. 649 hardly carries the matter further, for there this Court was exercising its own discretion under Section 24, Civil Procedure Code, and nobody suggests that a Court is bound to transfer.
12. Section 24 clearly contemplates the transfer by a District Court of a suit from a Court of Small Causes. If it is to be said that a small cause suit can only be transferred to a Court having small cause jurisdiction, because otherwise Section 16 of the Small Cause Courts Act will be offended, then Sub-clause (4) of Section 24 becomes meaningless. If the Court of transfer is itself always to be a Small Cause Court there can be no question of deeming.
13. But there is no difficulty if 'competent to try' is understood as in Raja Simhadri Appa Row v. Ramachandrudu I.L.R. (1902) 27 Mad. 63 : 13 M.L.J. 23 to mean 'of jurisdiction competent to try'. Section 24 must then be understood to constitute an enactment saving, in special circumstances, the provision of Section 16 of the Small Cause Courts Act.
14. Of course it is a question of convenience. When a District Munsif is trying an original suit of Rs. 1,400 value, and a connected suit of Rs. 700 value is before the Subordinate Judge in his small cause jurisdiction, it would be inconvenient to insist on two separate trials because of a hard and fast rule against concurrent jurisdiction. Therefore Section 16, Small Cause Courts Act, is made elastic by Section 24, Civil Procedure Code. Whenever to avoid rigidity a certain discretion is given to the Courts ingenious persons can imagine that discretion being carried to staggering lengths, and in the case-law which has clustered round Section 24 words like 'disastrous' and 'curious' will be found. But it is hardly the business of Courts to save the Legislature from itself, and, at any rate in this matter, it is sufficient to point out the clear meaning of the section.
15. Therefore it cannot be said that the learned Judge acted with any irregularity and the petition is dismissed with costs.
Krishnan Pandalai, J.
16. I agree that the petition should be dismissed. Perhaps I may add that the difficulties felt in working Sub-clause (4) of Section 24 of the Code of Civil Procedure are of two kinds. First, where a small cause suit is transferred to a Court which is not vested with any small cause jurisdiction, the latter Court is to be deemed for the purpose of the transferred suit to be a Court of Small Causes. This, it appears to me, is the proper meaning and effect of that clause. But it has been thought that it means that, where a suit is transferred to a Court which, as all Munsifs' Courts are in this Presidency, is already invested with small cause jurisdiction up to a certain limit (Rs. 100 or Rs. 300), that Court should try the transferred suit as a small cause suit though of higher value than its small cause jurisdiction and that as a consequence there should be no appeal from such a decree; though, if it were not a transferred case, there would have been an appeal. To this latter difficulty, if it is really a greater one than the first difficulty abovementioned, I would venture to suggest that on a proper construction of Sub-clause (4) it does not deal with transfers to a Court already invested with small cause powers. The word 'deemed' seems to indicate that it deals only with transfers to a Court without such powers. Therefore, where a suit is transferred to a Small Cause Court, there is nothing in the Sub-section which requires that suits of higher value when transferred should be tried as small cause suits or that there shall be no appeal therefrom. This point, however, does not arise in the present petition which only raises the question of the power of transfer to a Court which has small cause jurisdiction of a suit of higher value than such jurisdiction. I agree that the main part of the section clearly authorises such transfer.