In general terms, the word ‘caveat’ denotes “[a] warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.” In civil law, the term refers to Section 148-A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (‘the Code’), which deals with the right to lodge a caveat petition in the context of civil proceedings. Such a petition functions to provide notice by… Read More »

In general terms, the word ‘caveat’ denotes “[a] warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.” In civil law, the term refers to Section 148-A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (‘the Code’), which deals with the right to lodge a caveat petition in the context of civil proceedings. Such a petition functions to provide notice by one party as against the appropriate officer or authority, that no action be taken without first informing the person who...

In general terms, the word ‘caveat’ denotes “[a] warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations.” In civil law, the term refers to Section 148-A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (‘the Code’), which deals with the right to lodge a caveat petition in the context of civil proceedings. Such a petition functions to provide notice by one party as against the appropriate officer or authority, that no action be taken without first informing the person who filed such a caveat petition. Often, misguided parties can obtain ex-parte orders or other interim reliefs which may cause obstruction to justice and proper settlement of civil claims. The right to lodge a caveat petition has been crafted to prevent such situations, and the present article, ‘Caveat: Introduction, Concept and Applicability’ discusses the right to lodge caveat as per the Code, with reference to relevant case-law.

Introduction

What is a caveat under the Code?

The right to lodge a caveat petition is provided in Section 148-A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (‘the Code’) and said provision was inserted in the Code by the 1976 amendment to the Code. As mentioned above, misguided and unscrupulous parties may try to mislead the court by obtaining ex-parte injunctions and other interim reliefs- and it takes valuable time to vacate such reliefs once obtained.[1] Thus, in order to avoid such a situation, a person may avail of the right to lodge a caveat petition in compliance with the terms of Section 148-A of the Code.

What is the objective of the caveat petition?

The right to lodge a caveat is a precautionary measure having the purpose of safeguarding the interest of a person against an order that may be passed on an application in a suit or proceeding instituted or about to be instituted, giving him an opportunity of being heard.[2] The concept of lodging a caveat also serves to avoid multiplicity of proceedings.[3] Given the large backlog of cases and average pendency of civil suits, courts are keen to avoid multiple proceedings. Thus, the caveat petition is discretionary relief that courts can grant to aid the cause of efficacious proceedings.

Concept

Statutory Basis: Section 148-A

Section 148-A is mentioned in Part XI of the Code, under the Miscellaneous provisions of the same. The preceding section, section 148, provides for extending the period to do any particular act by the party. It states that any period that is granted or fixed by the Court for doing any act prescribed or allowed under the Code, may be extended by the Court in its discretion- even if the period originally fixed or granted may have expired.[4] However, the 1999 Amendment to the Code capped such the maximum period of enlargement by Court as ‘not exceeding thirty days in total.

Section 148-A deals with the right to lodge a caveat under the Code. Section 148-A(1) states that any person who claims the right to appear before the court may file a caveat petition where an application is expected to be made (by the opposite party) or has been made, in a suit or proceeding that has been instituted or is about to be so instituted in a court.

Further, Section 148-A(2) notes that the caveator (this is the term for person who lodged the caveat in the previous sub-section) is statutorily mandated to issue a notice of the caveat so lodged upon the person who has filed the application or is expected to file such application, by registered post for due acknowledgement.

The Court is mandated to serve a notice to the caveator in case of any application filed in any suit or proceeding.[5] The applicant is required to furnish a copy of the application with all supporting documents at his expense, to the caveator.[6]

The requirement for a civil court to serve notice upon the caveator was of contention in Siddalingappa v. Veeranna.[7] In this particular case, a civil revision petition was made against an interim stay order granted by a civil judge in a suit relating to immovable property.[8] The respondent in the instant appeal, filed a suit for declaration of title and permanent injunction relating to certain immovable property before munsif court. An application for temporary injunction was made and an order for ex-parte temporary injunction were passed in that suit. In response, the petitioner filed an application to vacate the ex-parte temporary injunction, and the munsif court vacated the same. On the same day, the petitioner filed a caveat in the court of the civil judge, anticipating that the respondent would file an appeal and or seek an interim order.

The caveat had been lodged, and a copy of the same was sent to the respondent by registered post with acknowledgement due. However, the dispute arose as to whether notice of the caveat had been served upon the respondent or not and whether a civil judge could pass an ex-parte order in a case where a caveat was filed. The Court stated that while the caveat was lodged with postal receipt, the lower court did not serve the mandatory notice required under Section 148-A(3) for the lower court to serve notice of application upon the petitioner-caveator before passing an interim order. Thus, the court found in favour of the petitioner and allowed the revision petition.

Finally, as mentioned above, the maximum period for a caveat petition to subsist is 90 days from the date of lodging of the petition- unless the application is made once again before the expiry of the period.[9]

Applicability

Who may lodge a caveat

As mentioned above, a caveat made be lodged by any person who is going to be affected by any application made under any present suit or proceeding or a future suit or proceedings by the applicant.[10] Generally, caveats are lodged against interim orders that have been applied for by the applicant. It is sufficient if the caveator claims and establishes prima facie right to appear before the court.[11]

However, merely claiming a prima-facie right does not mean that a caveat petition can be filed by any individual- rather, it has been held by the Kerala High Court that a complete stranger to the suit or proceedings cannot file such a petition under Section 148-A.[12] Thus, the interpretation of a complete stranger to a suit has been clarified by the High Court in the case of Kattil Vayalil Parkkum Koiloth v. Mannil Paadikayil Kadeesa Umma.[13]

In that case, the suit was for partition and separate possessions of the plaintiff’s share in the suit property.[14] The respondents attempted to implead themselves as additional parties on the ground their predecessors had an oral lease with respect to the suit property- however, such application was dismissed by the trial court, and a final decree was passed. Subsequently, the respondents filed a caveat under Section 148-A praying for notice before any order is passed while execution of the decree on any application made by the decree-holder.

The decree-holder had filed a revision petition (i.e. the present case) against the order granting the caveat petition to the respondents. The Court in its reasoning concluded that since the respondents based their claim upon the suit property through an oral lease, they may not file an application unless evicted based on previous decisions. Thus, in the view of the court, the respondents did not have any right to appear before the court and claim notice for any application that the decree-holder may file in relation to the execution of the suit property- thus are not entitled to lodge a caveat petition. The Court finally set aside the caveat petition as it was held not maintainable for the above reasons.[15]

In another case, the High Court observed that …the language of Sub-section (1) of Section 148-A is wide enough to take in not only a necessary party but even a proper party.”[16] Combined with the discretion of the court, even a proper party may be allowed to lodge a caveat petition, provided all other statutory and other requirements be met.

Form of caveat

The caveat petition is required to state the nature of the application expected to be made against or affecting the caveator. However, there is no prescribed form for lodging a caveat under the Code.[17] In the absence of such a form, the petition may be drafted in the form of an application stating the facts briefly and the nature of the application expected to be made by the applicant.[18]

Effect of caveat

As provided in Section 148-A(4), a caveator is entitled to receive copies of the application and documents filed by the opponents. No order would be ordinarily passed without affording an opportunity of hearing to the caveator.[19] However, the lodging of caveat does not exclude the jurisdiction of the court to grant ex-parte relief, if there are compelling circumstances and the order passed without notifying the caveator shall not be void.[20]

In RBI Employee’s Association v. RBI,[21] the petitioners were defendants in a suit before a city civil court. The defendant-petitioners apprehended that the plaintiff-respondents in that suit might obtain an injunction preventing them from holding meetings, staging demonstrations within the premises of the Reserve Bank of Hyderabad branch. Thus, the defendant-petitioners lodged a caveat under Section 148-A before the city civil court. However, interim orders of injunction were passed by another judge which they argued was contrary to Section 148-A(3), and therefore null and void.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court examined the origin and context of the right to lodge caveat under the Code, and held that while requirements under sub-sections (1), (2) and (4) of Section 148-A were complied with, the subordinate court failed to act in compliance with the statutory requirements of Section 148-A(3). However, the Court concluded that the lodging of a caveat was “merely a right to be informed of the hearing date and it has no way of curtailing the powers of a civil court to pass an appropriate order on the merits of the case.” Thus, the impugned order was upheld by the High Court.

In essence, the caveator cannot be permitted to ‘steal a march over the opponents’ by lodging a caveat. This is because “[an] order passed by a Court without giving notice to the caveator cannot be treated as a nullity. If a statute intends to demolish the ordinary powers of a Civil Court, it is a well-settled proposition of law that it can only be done by a direct piece of legislation enacted for that purpose and not by the effect of indirect legislation as if it were by a side wind[22] In cases where delay may be counter to the purpose of filing the suit or if the suit is likely to be rendered infructuous, the court may pass ex-parte orders as may be necessary, notwithstanding the caveat petition being lodged.[23] It cannot be allowed to be misused as an instrument to buy time: it is essentially a matter of judicial discretion.[24]

When does caveat not lie

The Bombay High Court had as on 12 May 2021, issued two notifications[25] amending the Original and Appellate Side Rules of the Bombay High Court. The two new amendments state that Section 148A (that is, caveat petitions filed under this provision) will not apply to writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution.[26] Thus, as of the date of notification of such amendments, no caveats can be filed in any suit or proceeding arising out of Article 226 claims in Bombay High Court.

Conclusion

The right to lodge a caveat petition, as enshrined in Section 148-A of the Code is a precautionary measure which may be lodged by a person apprehending an application being filed or in the application so filed in any suit or proceeding before a civil court. If lodged, the court is statutorily mandated to serve notice to the caveator in case any such application be filed. The above article has discussed the concept, meaning and statutory provisions relating to the caveat in the Code, with reference to case-law.


[1] D.F. Mulla, Mulla The Key to Indian Practice: Summary of the Civil Procedure Code, 11th ed., 2016.

[2] Bhavesh Jayanti Lakhani v. State of Maharashtra, (2009) 9 SCC 551 (558).

[3] Supra, at note 1.

[4] Section 148, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

[5] Section 148-A(3), Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

[6] Section 148-A(4), Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

[7] Siddalingappa v. Veeranna, AIR 1981 KANT 242.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Section 148-A(5), Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

[10] Supra, at note 7.

[11] Nirmal Chandra v. Girindra Narayan, AIR 1978 Cal 492.

[12] Kattil Vayalil Parkkum Koiloth v. Mannil Paadikayil Kadeesa Umma AIR 1991 Ker 411.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Supra, at note 12.

[15] Ibid.

[16] RBI Employee’s Association v RBI, AIR 1981 AP 246.

[17] Supra, at note 1.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Supra, at note 16.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Supra, at note 1.

[24] Ibid.

[25] See generally: Available Here

[26] D.J. Dalal, Whether Section 148-A CPC Applies To Writ Petitions Filed Under Article 226 of the Constitution, SCC Online Blog, (13/09/2021), Available Here


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Updated On 2021-12-28T13:55:04+05:30
Devanjali Banerjee

Devanjali Banerjee

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