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Supreme Court: Suit before a Civil Court would be maintainable for other reliefs, notwithstanding creation of the specific Tribunal

The SC on August 10, 2021 {Ratul Mahanta vs. Nirmalendu Saha} observed that it was earlier held by the Court in case dealing with Wakf Tribunal that a   suit   before   a   civil   court   would   be maintainable   for   other   reliefs   notwithstanding   the creation of the specific tribunal under the Act, unless the dispute falls within the four corners of the powers vested in the Tribunal. Therefore, it was held that despite there being the bar of jurisdiction of the civil courts under the Act, except for the disputes arising to the limited extent all other issues were held to be maintainable before the civil court.

It was also held by the Bench, comprising of Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Hemant Gupta that the relief   sought   in   the   instant   suit   is   in   the   nature   of declaratory   relief   in   an  inter  se dispute   between   the parties. It was held that the consideration by the statutory authority as provided under GMC Act is of summary nature. Further, it was held that the appeal provided is in respect of any notice issued or action   taken   or   proposed   to   be   taken   by   the Commissioner,   which   in   effect   provides   the   appeal remedy only to   the owner of the drain against whom action is proposed.

The issue before the SC was whether   the   civil   court   had jurisdiction to proceed with the suit or as to whether a bar with regard to jurisdiction as provided in the GMC Act   will   apply.

The SC held that it is seen that sections 246, 247 and 248 of Guwahati Municipal Corporation Act, 1971 (‘GMC’ Act for short) though   referred   to   the   ownership   and   the   manner   in which the drains connected to municipal drain are to be used   and   the   Commissioner   is   given   the   authority   to compel the owner of a drain to permit another property owner to use the same, the said provisions cannot be considered either as an express or an implied bar on the civil court to entertain a suit relating to the declaration of an existing right to use of the drain as asserted in the plaint.

The SC further held that the High Court without taking note of these aspects of the matter has wrongly invoked the provisions contained in Order VII Rule   11   (d)   of   the   Civil   Procedure   Code   to   reject   the plaint, when in the instant facts there is neither express nor implied bar under any law. On the other hand, it was held that the learned Munsif was justified in passing the order holding the suit to be maintainable.

In the result, the order passed by the   Gauhati   High   Court   at   Guwahati  was   set   aside.   The   plaint   in   title   suit  was restored to the file of the learned Munsif No.2,  Kamrup Guwahati. The appeal was accordingly allowed by the SC.

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