Decided on February 26,2021

Yashwardhan Raghuwanshi Appellant


MOHAMMAD RAFIQ,C.J. - (1.) This writ petition has been filed by Yashwardhan Raghuwanshi, who is an advocate practising law at Bhopal, assailing the validity of order dated 20th October, 2020 passed by the District and Sessions Judge, Bhopal, in exercise of powers conferred upon him by Section 15(1) of the Madhya Pradesh Civil Courts Act, 1958 (for short "the Civil Courts Act") read with Sections 194, 381(1) & 400 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (for short "CrPC"), distributing civil and criminal business amongst the various Additional District Judges and Subordinate Judges working under his supervision in the District of Bhopal. Challenge in particular is made to Entry No.45 of the aforesaid order vide which the disputes/cases filed under the provisions of Sections 9, 14, 34 & 36 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (for short "the Arbitration Act") involving commercial disputes under the provisions of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015 (further be called as "the Commercial Courts Act") of specified value between Rs.3 lac. to Rs.1 crore, have been assigned to the Court of XX Civil Judge Class-I, Bhopal.
(2.) Mr. Deepesh Joshi, learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that allocation/distribution of the judicial work by the District Judge with regard to the commercial disputes filed under Sections 9, 14, 34 & 36 of the Arbitration Act to the Court of XX Civil Judge Class-I is wholly incompetent inasmuch as such allocation is based on wrongful interpretation of the legal provisions of the Arbitration Act, the Commercial Courts Act as well as the Civil Courts Act. It is contended that the District Judge has passed the aforesaid order in exercise of the powers conferred upon him under Sections 15(1) of the Civil Courts Act read with Sections 194, 381(1) and 400 of CrPC. The work distribution circular numbered as Q/EK-01/2020 dated 20.10.2020 at Paras- (C) & (D) of Entry No.45 assigned power to undertake trial of commercial disputes for a specific category as per the Commercial Courts Act to the Court of XX Civil Judge Class-I, Bhopal, having pecuniary jurisdiction over matters valued between Rs. 3 lac. and Rs.1 crore, which also includes the matter that comes under the purview of the Arbitration Act. Learned counsel submitted that the term "specified value" is defined in Section 2(1)(i) of the Commercial Courts Act. It is evident from the aforesaid provision that "specified value" in relation to a commercial dispute is determined on the basis of the subject matter of the respective suit, appeal or application. Sub-section (3) of Section 10 of the Commercial Courts Act provides that all applications or appeals arising out of arbitration under the provisions of the Arbitration Act shall be tried before any Commercial Court having territorial jurisdiction. It is true that the Court of XX Civil Judge Class-I, Bhopal has been designated as a Commercial Court vide notification dated 02-03.04.2019 (Annexure-P/2), but the Arbitration Act is a consolidated statute for law relating to any form of arbitration dispute. The Legislature in so providing, intended to streamline the commercial disputes arising out of arbitration in speedy manner, for which purpose the Special Courts have been set up. With that end in view, the Parliament has time and again made amendments in tune with modern day developments.
(3.) Mr. Deepesh Joshi, learned counsel further argued that the term "Court" for the purpose of Arbitration Act has been defined under Section 2(1)(e) of the Arbitration Act which inter-alia provides that "Court" means, in cases of an arbitration other than international commercial arbitration, the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in a district, and includes the High Court in exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction, having jurisdiction to decide the questions forming the subject-matter of the arbitration if the same had been the subject-matter of a suit, but does not include any Civil Court of a grade inferior to such Principal Civil Court, or any Court of Small Causes. In view of this provision, it is clear that any commercial dispute involving arbitration shall be tried only by Principal Civil Court of the superior most jurisdiction in the District i.e. the Court of District Judge or at the maximum, it could be assigned to the Court of Additional District Judge in a district as per Section 7 read with Section 15 of the Civil Courts Act but it cannot be assigned to a Court inferior thereto. It is contended that a conjoint reading of two Acts, namely, Arbitration Act and Commercial Courts Act, makes it clear that only such "commercial matters" which do not involve the arbitration matters can be assigned to a notified Commercial Court of the status of a Senior Civil Judge but all matters involving both Commercial Courts Act as well as Arbitration Act can only be tried by the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction. The Court of XX Civil Judge Class-I, Bhopal is therefore wholly incompetent to entertain, try and decide the arbitration disputes.;

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