CAVEAT PETITION: A PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE IN INDIA

INTRODUCTION

The civil proceedings contain numerous procedures and require various types of legal documents. The caveat petition is one of the legal documents which a person files as per the provision of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Before going forward, one must know the meaning of the term “caveat”. In Latin, this term means ‘let a person be aware’. In common parlance, a caveat is a precautionary measure taken by a person who is scared that someone is going to file a case against that person in court. Hence, It is a notice through which a person gets notified when the court is about to take any legal action against that person. However, a caveat petition is commonly known as a ‘caveat’. It is filed only in civil matters.

CAVEAT PETITION AND ITS PROVISION UNDER CPC

A Caveat Petition is a formal notice filed by a party to ask the court not to act in a certain manner without informing the party who has filed such a notice. In other words, it is a caution or warning given by a party to the court not to pass any order or judgment without informing or hearing him.

Let’s take an example, A is the owner of the land. He constructs a house in his land. But, Z, A’s neighbour, claims that some part of that land belongs to him. Now, A anticipated that Z may file an application. Therefore, A files a caveat against Z, praying the court to inform him when Z files any such application.

In India, a person has a right to lodge a caveat petition as per section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.[1] The Law Commission of India, in 54th Report, recommended the insertion of this section in the Code. This section applies to:

  • The suits, appeals as well as other proceedings under the Code.[2]
  • The writ petitions and matters before Industrial or Labour Courts.[3]

PURPOSE OF A CAVEAT PETITION

These are the purposes of a caveat petition:

  1. To safeguard the interest of a person against the ex-parte orders or judgments that the court may pass.
  2. To avoid multiplicity of proceedings.[4]

WHO CAN LODGE A CAVEAT PETITION?

Section 148-A (1) provides qualifications for a person who intends to lodge a caveat petition. These are the qualifications:

  • He must be a person claiming a right to appear before the court on the hearing of an application, which the applicant might move for the grant of interim relief.

Moreover, any person may file a caveat petition. But, such a person must be going to be affected by an interim order that the court may pass. Here, the interim order is the result of the application which some other person may file in a suit or proceeding.

Therefore, the person who files a caveat petition is known as a ‘caveator’.

WHEN A CAVEAT PETITION CAN BE LODGED?

Normally, a person may lodge a caveat petition after the order or the judgment is passed. In exceptional cases, the caveat petition may be filed even before the passing of the order or the judgement.[5]

FORM OF A CAVEAT PETITION

There is no particular form of a caveat petition as per the Code. Therefore, the caveator has to specify the nature of the application that is likely to be made or has been made. Moreover, he has to specify his right to appear before the court at the hearing of such an application.[6]

The Stamp Reporter or the Registry of the court has to make entries of the filing of the caveats in the register.

RIGHTS AND DUTIES AS PER SECTION 148A

Section 148-A prescribes the rights and duties of the following:

  1. Of Caveator

The caveator has to serve a notice regarding the caveat petition to the opposite party (applicant) by post.[7] Here, the opposite party means the person who has filed or may file an application against the caveator for an interim order.

Sometimes, there may be an uncertainty of the opposite party likely to file the application. Therefore, the provision under the section is a directory, not mandatory.[8]

  1. Of Applicant

Moreover, when the court sends the notice to the caveator, the applicant must serve a copy of the application along with the documents submitted with the application to the caveator. The applicant serves such a copy before the court at the caveator’s expense.[9]

  • Of Court

After lodging the petition, if the opposite party files an application in a suit or proceeding, the court must send a notice regarding the application to the caveator.[10] This notice includes the ‘date of hearing’ of the petition.

HEARING OF A CAVEATOR

The main intention of the Legislature in enacting section 148A is to enable the caveator to be heard before passing any orders or judgments.[11] It is not permissible for the court to pass an interim order without hearing the caveator. Otherwise, this will lead to a violation of the provision under the Code.

TIME-LIMIT & RENEWAL OF A CAVEAT PETITION

The caveat filed under section 148-A (1) remains in force for 90 days from the date of its filing.[12] After this period, the caveator has to renew the caveat. Moreover, the failure of such renewal, the caveat would come to an end.

CONCLUSION

The caveat is a petition filed by a party before the court stating that if the opposite party institutes a suit, appeal or another proceeding against him/her, the court must inform regarding the same to the party filing the caveat. A caveat petition has no prescribed format. Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure provides a right to the person, in civil matters, to prevent the court from passing ex-parte orders or judgments. If the court does not inform the caveator and passes the order or the judgment, such order or judgment becomes void. Section 148A applies in all civil proceedings. Hence, the section defends the caveator from impaired orders or judgments.

The person who is a stranger to the proceeding cannot lodge a caveat. The sub-sections (2), (3), and (4) of section 148A of the Code provides the rights and duties of the caveator, applicant, and the court. If one does not follow the rules prescribed under these sections, it defeats the very object of introducing section 148A. The court has to hear the caveator’s petition before passing any interim order against him, and such a hearing is mandatory. The caveat petition lasts for 90 days from the date of filing. After that, the caveator can renew such a petition. Otherwise, the petition expires.

Author(s) Name: Vishwendra Prashant (ICFAI University, Dehradun)

References:

[1] Inserted by the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act 1976

[2] Chandrajit v Ganeshiya AIR 1987 All 360

[3] Mahadeo Sitaramji v MSRTC 1992 Mah LJ 31

[4] C K Takwani, Civil Procedure with Limitation Act 1963 And Chapter on Commercial Courts (9th edn, 2021) 791

[5] H G Shankar Narayan v State of Rajasthan AIR 1985 Raj 156

[6] Nirmal Chandra v Girindra Narayan AIR 1978 Cal 492 at 494

[7] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, s 148A (2)

[8] Central Electricity Regulatory Commission v National Hydroelectric Power Corp Ltd (2010) 10 SCC 280

[9] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, s 148A (4)

[10] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, s 148A (3)

[11] Mahadev Govind Gharge v Land Acquisition Officer (2011) 6 SCC 321                                      

[12] Code of Civil Procedure 1908, s 148A (5)

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