1. A simple point of jurisdiction is raised in this petition by defendant 1, a permanent resident of Karaikal, who was sued in the Court of the Subordinate Judge of Tiruchirapalli by the plaintiff in the following circumstances. The plaintiff alleged that he and defendant 1 entered into an agreement at Karaikal on 7th August 1947 by which the latter agreed to sell a building he owned in Manapparai in the Tiruchirapalli district to the plaintiff for Rs. 13,250, that he paid defendant 1 an advance of Rs. 2000 and that it was agreed that defendant 1 should come to Manapparai and complete the conveyance and get it registered in the local Registrar's office. The suit was filed for specific performance of contract and also for recovery of possession. The plea of jurisdiction taken on behalf of defendant 1 was that as a nonresident foreigner resident in the French territory of Karaikal he could not be sued in the Tiruchirapalli Court. The learned Subordinate Judge held that the Tiruchirapalli Court had jurisdiction both under Section 16 and Section 20, Civil P. C.
2. The learned advocate for the petitioner is unable to cite any authority for the position that in the circumstances the Tiruchirapalli Court had no jurisdiction. I should have been surprised if he could adduce any authority to support it. His main argument is that this suit is essentially one in personam and that no nonresident foreigner can be sued in an Indian Court. This may be so but not if the non-resident foreigner is possessed of immovable property in the jurisdiction of the Indian Court and this property is the subject-matter of the suit. A subtle distinction is sought to be drawn between a suit for land and a suit for a specific performance of a contract relating to land which it is urged is an action in personam. Reliance is placed on Valliappa Chettiar v. Saha Govinda Dass, 52 Mad 809: A. I. R. 1929 Mad. 721 a Full Bench decision of five Judges. That was a decision as regards the scope of Clause 12, Letters Patent and whether the High Court in its ordinary original civil jurisdiction could try a suit for specific performance of contract to sell made in Madras relating to property in the Chittor district. The finding was that such a suit was not a suit for land within the meaning of Clause 12, Letters Patent. That decision affords us no assistance in determining this issue of jurisdiction. Under the proviso to Section 16, Civil P. C.
'a suit to obtain relief respecting, or compensation for wrong to, immoveable property held by or on behalf of the defendant may, where the relief sought can be entirely obtained through his personal obedience, be instituted either in the Court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction property is situate.......'
The criterion for jurisdiction is whether the defendant owns property in the jurisdiction of the Court and whether the suit sought to be filed against him is to obtain relief respecting such property. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the relief sought for in this suit is one respecting this building in Manapparai which was the subject-matter of the contract entered into at Karaikal. It is argued that Section 16 to Section 20, Civil P. C. do not apply to non-resident foreigners, who cannot be sued in personam but when the non-resident foreigner owns property within the jurisdiction of an Indian Court and enters into a contract regarding that property, no matter where such a contract is entered into, the Indian Court clearly has jurisdiction to try that suit by reason of the immovable properties being situate within its jurisdiction. The learned Subordinate Judge was quite correct in repelling this plea of want of jurisdiction. The petition is dismissed with costs.