At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE P. SOMARAJAN
For the Petitioner: Siju P. Kuriakose, Anitha Mathai Muthirenthy, Mathew A. Kuzhalanadan, Advocates. For the Respondent: Jomy George, M. Anju Thomas, A. Mini Joseph, Deepak Mohan, Advocates.
1. Challenging Ext.P16 order dated 11.11.2016 in I.A.No.144 of 2016 in O.S.No.51 of 2016 and Ext.P11 order of temporary injunction, dated 20.10.2016, in I.A.No.135 of 2016 in O.S.No.51 of 2016 of the Gram Nyayalaya, Nedumkandam, the petitioner/defendant came up with this petition challenging the jurisdiction of the Gram Nyayalaya in entertaining a suit of this nature. The subject matter of the suit is an immovable property and the suit is filed for declaration of right of way. Admittedly, the way in question is a private way and not a public way. Gram Nyayalaya entertained the suit and granted an order of injunction. The application in I.A.No.144 of 2016 challenging the jurisdiction of the Gram Nyayalaya was dismissed under Ext.P16 order.
2. The civil jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalaya is governed by Section 13 of the Gram Nyayalayas Act, 2008 (for short 'the Act'), which is extracted below for reference:
"13. Civil Jurisdiction.-- (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) or any other law for the time being in force, and subject to sub-section (2), the Gram Nyayalaya shall have jurisdiction to-
(a) try all suits or proceedings of a civil nature falling under the classes of disputes specified in Part I of the Second Schedule;
(b) try all classes of claims and disputes which may be notified by the Central Government under sub-section (1) of section 14 and by the State Government under sub-section (3) of the said section.
(2) The pecuniary limits of the Gram Nyayalaya shall be such as may be specified by the High Court, in consultation with the State Government, by notification, from time to time."
3. The matter in dispute would fall under clause (a) of Section 13(1) of the Act, i.e. classes of disputes specified in Part I of the Second Schedule. Part I of the Second Schedule is extracted below for reference:
SUITS OF A CIVIL NATURE WITHIN THE
JURISDICTION OF GRAM NYAYALAYAS
(i) Civil Disputes:
(a) right to purchase of property ;
(b) use of common pasture ;
(c) regulation and timing of taking water from irrigation channel.
(ii) Property Disputes:
(a) village and farm houses (Possession);
(b) water channels;
(c) right to draw water from a well or tube well.
(a) claims under the Payment of Wages Act 1936 (4 of 1936);
(b) claims under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (11 of 1948);
(c) money suits either arising from trade transaction or money lending;
(d) disputes arising out of the partnership in cultivation of land;
(e) disputes as to the use of forest produce by inhabitants of Gram Panchayats."
4. According to the petitioner, the dispute would come under the purview of clause (i)(b) in Part I of the Second Schedule, "use of common pasture".
5. The word 'Pasture' is defined in Law Lexicon as under:
"Pasture or grasslands.-- "Land for pasture" has the protection of Art.31- A(2)(a)(iii) of the Constitution. The inclusive definition of "estate" takes in this category of land expressly but there is no reference in terms to "land for grass" in this provision. The dictionary meaning of grassland is "pasture or grazing land" and of pasture land is "a piece of land covered with grass". – Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vols.I and II.-- Gulabhai Vallabhai Desai v. H.A.Khan, Collector of Daman, A.I.R. 1970 Goa 59 at pp.69-70."
The meaning of the word 'pasture' is given in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English 7th Edition as "land covered with grass that is suitable for feeding animals on: an area of permanent/rough/rich pasture"
6. Dispute pertaining to user of way cannot be brought under the purview of "common pasture" even by giving an exhaustive meaning. The jurisdiction vested with the Gram Nyayalaya under Section 13(1)(a) is not for trying all suits or proceedings of a civil nature but confined only to those classes of disputes specified in Part I of the Second Schedule. Three classes of cases are brought under the head 'civil disputes'- (a) right to purchase of property (b) use of common pasture, and (c) regulation and timing of taking water from irrigation channel. Three other sets of disputes are brought under the category 'property disputes'-(a)village and farm houses (possession); (b) water channels; and (c) right to draw water from a well or tube well. In the third category, certain other disputes are included under the head 'other disputes'. A dispute with respect to user of way either public or private cannot be brought under Part I of Second Schedule.
7. The pecuniary limits of the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas is notified by the State Government vide G.O.(Rt.) No.2518/2014/Home dated 20/09/2014 and it is upto Rs. 50,000/-. The learned Presiding Officer of the Gram Nyayalaya misinterpreted the said notification empowering the Gram Nyayalaya for trying all civil suits and proceedings and found that the present suit is within the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas. The wording used in the notification that the pecuniary jurisdiction "shall extend to all suits or proceedings of civil nature of which the amount or value of the subject matter does not exceed Rs. 50,000/-(Rupees Fifty Thousand only)" shall not be construed as the jurisdiction vested with the Gram Nyayalayas for trying all suits or proceedings of civil nature. The notification pertaining only to the pecuniary limits of jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalayas. The nature of jurisdiction vested with the Gram Nyayalayas is governed by Section 13 of the Act. The civil disputes included in Part I of Second Schedule alone can be tried by the Gram Nyayalas constituted under the Act. In short, in order to invoke the jurisdiction vested with Gram Nyayalayas it should satisfy the pecuniary limits of j
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urisdiction, namely, up to Rs. 50,000/- and also the requirement under Section 13 of the Act. Only those matters which would come under the purview of Section 13 having the value upto Rs. 50,000/- alone can be tried by Gram Nyayalayas. Further, the words "use of common pasture" would stand for a right to use a common grass land. As such, the matter in dispute would not come under the jurisdiction of Gram Nyayalaya. The order is liable to be set aside and I do so. The Gram Nyayalaya shall return the plaint as per Order VII Rule 10 CPC for presentation before the Civil Court having jurisdiction over the matter. The Original Petition is disposed of as above.