The Presidency Town Small Causes Act, 1882

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The Presidency Town Small Causes Act, 1882 was enacted on 17th March, 1882. The act aims to amend laws relating to small causes court established under the Presidency towns i.e. Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.

The act provides for establishment of Presidency Small Causes Court in all towns of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and shall be under superintendence High Court of Judicature at Fort William, at Bombay or Madras. The court shall comprise of Chief Judge and other Judges appointed by the State. The Court shall be headed by Chief Judge in his absence the court shall be presided over by any person appointed to perform duties of chief judge, or judge of said court shall dispense with the duties of chief judge. The act provides for appointment of registrar and other officers of court under section 13 of the Act. Registrar may be invested with powers of judge in matters exceeding five hundred rupees. The Act under section 15 strictly prohibits judges or court officers to pursue any trade, profession or business.

Chapter III of the Act deals with administration of the court, the small causes court shall proceed in accordance with law as administered by the High Court while exercising original civil jurisdiction. Jurisdiction of small causes court shall be similar to that of ordinary original jurisdiction of High Court and shall have jurisdiction over matters of civil nature. Pecuniary jurisdiction of court shall not exceed twenty five thousand rupees. Section 19 of the Act specifically debars small causes court to have jurisdiction with respect to matters concerning recovery of immovable property; partition of immovable property; mortgage or redemption of immovable property; specific performance; injunction; enforcement of trusts; insurance matters; matters relating to vessels; restitution of conjugal rights etc. The Act also took care instances wherein small causes court are unable to decide matter for want of jurisdiction then it shall return the plaint in compliance of provisions of Civil Procedure Code.

Chapter V of the act deals with procedure suits vide sections 23 to section 36. The section lays down procedure for hearing suits, filing appeals, recording of evidence, powers of registrar, issuance of warrants against decree holders and execution of decrees etc.

Decree and order of small causes court in suit shall be final under section 37 of the Act. The small causes court under section 8 on application of party to the suit within eight days order new trial, set aside a decision, stay proceedings or reverse decree or order.

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Small causes court shall also have power to decide tenancy suits, suits for recovery of possession and settlement of dispute between licensor and licensee. Appeal in such cases shall lie to division bench of same court under section 42 of the Act filed within limitation period of thirty days.  While deciding such suits small causes court shall follow Civil Procedure Code.

Reference shall be made to High Court for deciding such cases where division bench judges have not come to consensus in such cases reference shall be compulsory. Bombay Court fee Act 1959 shall apply on matters dealt by small causes court. Section 79 of the Act lays punishment for misconduct and omissions committed by clerk, bailiff or any inferior ministerial officer of the Small causes Court.

Chapter XII of the Act deals with Contempt of Court, any person guilty of contempt shall be dealt with in accordance with section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code.

The Act was enacted while the British regime in India. India was then divided into presidency towns which were the principle cities. Inorder to develop a more comprehensive judicial system small causes court were established in the Presidency towns of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. These small causes court were established to share the burden of cases with High Court since these had jurisdiction over matters whose pecuniary value was less than twenty five thousand rupees and other small cases, the court had enormous power to decide such cases.

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by Vibhuti Nakta.