Today's Paper

Argument that there can be only one High Court for a State rejected

The Principal Seat of the Madras High Court in Chennai has refused to entertain a writ petition filed by a resident of Thuraiyur in Tiruchi district, challenging two orders passed by State Bank of India officials in Tiruchi, on the ground that the case can be filed only before the Madurai Bench, which exercises jurisdiction over 13 districts, including Tiruchi.

Justice K. Chandru rejected the argument advanced by the petitioner's counsel that there can be only one High Court for a State as per Article 214 of the Constitution and hence the Principal Seat of the Madras High Court alone was the court recognised by the Constitution as well as Parliament.

“Madurai is after all a Bench created by a subordinate legislation. It cannot override the Constitution,” the lawyer said.

The judge pointed out that the issue related to determining territorial jurisdiction of the Principal Seat of a High Court and its Bench elsewhere was settled in 1975 itself when the Supreme Court dealt with a similar matter related to the jurisdiction of the principal seat of the Allahabad High Court and its Lucknow Bench in Nasiruddin Vs. State Transport Tribunal.

The apex court had said: “The expression ‘cause of action' with regard to a civil matter means that it should be left to the litigant to institute cases at Lucknow Bench or at Allahabad Bench according to the cause of action arising wholly or in part within either of the areas. If the cause of action arises wholly within Oudh areas, then the Lucknow Bench will have jurisdiction. Similarly, if the cause of action arises wholly outside the specified areas in Oudh, then Allahabad will have jurisdiction.”

In 2001 too, the Supreme Court had taken a similar view in a dispute related to territorial jurisdiction between the Principal Seat of the Rajasthan High Court and its Jodhpur Bench.

In the case filed by Rajasthan High Court Advocates Association, the court had said:

“In case of a dispute arising whether an individual case or cases should be filed and heard at Jodhpur or Jaipur, the same has to be found out by applying the test — from which district the case arises, that is, in which district the cause of action can be said to have arisen.”

Mr. Justice Chandru pointed out that he himself had held in 2007 that the Principal Seat in Chennai and the Madurai Bench should be construed as separate for the practical purpose of exercising jurisdiction even though the judges were interchangeable at the discretion of the Chief Justice. The only exception was the discretion conferred upon the Chief Justice to direct any case or class of cases arising within the jurisdiction of the Madurai Bench to be heard in Chennai.

“Therefore, insofar as Tiruchi district has been assigned to come within the Madurai Bench by a Presidential order, the petitioner has no other option but to move the Madurai Bench… This court having bound by the legal precedents set out above is constrained to direct the Registry to return the papers covering this writ petition to the petitioner for proper presentation before the Registry of the Madurai Bench,” he concluded.

Recommended for you