Wadia-Raheja land dispute: Civil court will decide jurisdiction issue, says SC

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New Delhi | Published: April 9, 2015 12:56:12 AM

In the high profile tussle between industrialist Nusli Wadia and realty developer Gopal Raheja over a 460-acre prime land in Malad suburb of Mumbai...

In the high profile tussle between industrialist Nusli Wadia and realty developer Gopal Raheja over a 460-acre prime land in Malad suburb of Mumbai, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that a civil court will have to decide the jurisdiction issue before proceeding with any property suit where interim relief is sought by a party.

The issue raised before the apex court was about the ambit and scope of Section 9A CPC as inserted by the Code of Civil Procedure (Maharashtra Amendment) Act 1977 vis-à-vis the provision of Order XIV Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Various property suits were dismissed by the Bombay High Court on the ground that the suits was either barred by limitation or interim relief was denied as the other party had raised objections to the maintainability of the suit itself. Even interim reliefs were declined pending hearing on the preliminary issue raised by the defendants under Section 9A, CPC till the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit was decided.

Even in the matter of Nusli Neville Wadia, the division bench of the HC had set aside its single judge judgment and directed that the issue — whether the claim of Wadia in the suit is barred by limitation — should be tried as a preliminary issue under Section 9A of Maharashtra Amendment Act, a stand taken by Rahejas.

A bench headed by MY Eqbal said that “Section 9A of Maharashtra Amendment Act, makes a complete departure from the procedure provided under Order 14, Rule 2, CPC. Section 9A mandates the court to decide the jurisdiction of the court before proceeding with the suit and granting interim relief by way of injunction.”

AM Singhvi, appearing for Rahejas, submitted that insertion of Section 9A by Maharashtra Amendment is a legislative policy decision of the state to entertain objection to jurisdiction at the initial stage and to decide it as preliminary issue.

According to the learned counsel, the question of limitation is the question of jurisdiction and it has to be decided as a preliminary issue.

The dispute originates from certain developments in 1970, when Eduljee Framroze Dinshaw, owner of the land died in US, and willed his personal property to his sister, Bachoobai Dashkow.

According to the will, following Bachoobai’s death, ownership of the brother’s corpus would be distributed to two trusts based in US namely Salvation Army, New York, and the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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