Civil Suit: Trial has to be de novo after return of plaint

Jurisdiction of Civil Court:

It is no more res­integra that in a dispute between parties where two or more courts may have jurisdiction, it is always open for them by agreement to confer exclusive jurisdiction by consent on one of the two courts. Clause 16B of the agreement extracted above leaves us in no doubt that the parties clearly indicated that it was only the court at Delhi which shall have exclusive jurisdiction with regard to any dispute concerning the franchise agreement and no other court would have jurisdiction over the same. In that view of the matter, the presentation of the plaint at Gurgaon was certainly not before a court having jurisdiction in the matter.

The Court considering a similar clause restricting jurisdiction by consent in Swastik Gases (P) Ltd. vs. Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd., (2013) 9 SCC 32, observed as follows:

“32. ….It is a fact that whilst providing for jurisdiction clause in the agreement the words like “alone”, “only”, “exclusive” or “exclusive jurisdiction” have not been used but this, in our view, is not decisive and does not make any material difference. The intention of the parties—by having Clause 18 in the agreement —is clear and unambiguous that the courts at Kolkata shall have jurisdiction which means that the courts at Kolkata alone shall have jurisdiction. It is so because for construction of jurisdiction clause, like Clause 18 in the agreement, the maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius comes into play as there is nothing to indicate to the contrary. This legal maxim means that expression of one is the exclusion of another. By making a provision that the agreement is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts at Kolkata, the parties have impliedly excluded the jurisdiction of other courts. Where the contract specifies the jurisdiction of the courts at a particular place and such courts have jurisdiction to deal with the matter, we think that an inference may be drawn that parties intended to exclude all other courts. A clause like this is not hit by Section 23 of the Contract Act at all. Such clause is neither forbidden by law nor it is against the public policy. It does not offend Section 28 of the Contract Act in any manner.”

In cases dealing with transfer of proceedings from a Court having jurisdiction to another Court, the discretion vested in the Court by Sections 24(2) and 25(3) either to retry the proceedings or proceed from the point at which such proceeding was transferred or withdrawn, is in marked contrast to the scheme under Order VII Rule 10 read with Rule 10-A where no such discretion is given and the proceeding has to commence de novo.

(Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. vs. Tejparas Associates and Exports Pvt. Ltd., (2019) 9 SCC 435 does not lay down the correct law and was over­ruled)

[Source: Exl Careers vs Frankfinn Aviation Services Pvt Ltd. decided by SC on August 5, 2020.]

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