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South Delhi Municipal Corporation and Ors. Vs. Today Homes and Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (19 Aug 2019)

Jurisdiction of civil Courts cannot be completely taken away in spite of either an express or implied bar



The order of assessment and the demand for payment of property tax made on the Respondents was the subject matter of challenge in a civil suit filed before the High Court. Learned Single Judge of the Delhi High Court rejected the plaint by holding that, the suit was not maintainable. The appeals filed by the Respondents were allowed by a Division Bench. The judgment in the said civil suit was consequently set aside and the learned Single Judge was directed to decide the point of jurisdiction afresh. Aggrieved thereby, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has filed this appeal.

Whether a civil suit is maintainable in disputes pertaining to payment of tax under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957/Act is the question that arises for consideration in present appeals.

There is an inherent right to approach a civil Court. The bar on a civil court's jurisdiction is not to be readily or lightly inferred. The jurisdiction of civil courts can be excluded by an express provision of law or a clear intendment in such law.

A perusal of the relevant provisions of the Act would show that, there is no express bar on the jurisdiction of Courts. However, Section 169 of the Act provides for an appeal to the Municipal Taxation Tribunal. Section 171 of the Act provides that the order of the Municipal Taxation Tribunal in the appeal filed by the Assessee shall be final. According to the Corporation, the aforementioned Sections, read together, create a bar on the jurisdiction of civil courts.

Wherever a right or liability, not pre-existing in common law is created by a statute and that statute itself provides a machinery for enforcement of such right or liability, both the right/liability and the remedy having been created uno flatu and a finality is intended to the result of the statutory proceedings, then, even in the absence of an exclusionary provision the jurisdiction of the civil court is impliedly barred.

It is settled law that, jurisdiction of the civil courts cannot be completely taken away in spite of either an express or implied bar. The civil courts shall have jurisdiction to examine a matter in which there is an allegation of non-compliance of the provisions of the statute or any of the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.

A plain reading of the plaint would suggest that, the order impugned in the suit is at the most an erroneous order. No jurisdictional error is pleaded in the plaint. Therefore, the question of maintainability of the suit does not arise. In the absence of any pleadings in the plaint, the High Court ought not to have remanded the matter back to the learned Single Judge. Judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court is set aside and the appeals are allowed.


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