Courts of small causes are civil courts which adjudicate trivial matters of small value. These courts are prevalent in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in major cities. These courts took up small matters of civil nature only.
Statutory Provisions: The Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 governs functioning of small cause courts in India. The Act originally contained 37 Sections divided into 5 chapters along with 2 schedules attached to it.
CONSTITUTION OF PROVINCIAL SMALL CAUSE COURTS
Chapter I (Section 5 to 14 ) deals with constitution of courts of small causes.
Establishment: According to Section 5 of the Act, the state government may establish court of small causes at any time within its territory under its administration. Earlier prior sanction of governor general in council was required but this requirement is omitted by amendment in 1914.
Composition: The court established under Section 5 shall consist of a judge and may consist of additional judges and a registrar.
- Judge(Section 6) : The court of small causes shall consist of a judge. There is no bar on the same person being appointed as judge of more than such court if the state government directs so.
- Additional judges(Section 8) : The state government may appoint additional judges to the court and he shall perform such functions which the judge will assign to him. In the exercise of such functions, he shall have the same power as that of the judge.
- Registrar(Section 12): The state government may appoint an officer called registrar who shall be ministerial officer of the court. The state government may confer jurisdiction on him to try suits with value not exceeding rs 20. Additionally, the judge may direct him to try other suits.
He shall perform the duties conferred on him by the Act and the duties which the judge may assign to him.
A Person who is a judge of this court can also be a judge or magistrate of any other court. He may hold any other public office as well while serving as judge or additional judge of this court.
JURISDICTION OF SUCH COURTS
Chapter III ( Section 15 and 16) deals with jurisdiction of courts of small causes.
The court of small causes shall have the jurisdiction to try to suits of civil nature whose value doesn’t exceed rs 500. However this value may be increased up to rs 1000 by respective state governments.
Suits Exempted: Schedule 2 specify some suits of civil nature which the court can’t take cognizance of. These suits are thus exempted from being tried by small causes like suits related to immovable property, land revenue, maintenance, restitution of conjugal rights, performance of contract etc. Total 44 items are there under schedule 2.
However a suit cognizable by small causes court shall not be tried by any other court having jurisdiction within the local limits where this court has jurisdiction.
PROCEDURE OF PRACTICE AT PROVINCIAL SMALL CAUSE COURTS
Chapter IV(Section 17 to 27) deals with the procedure and practice of small causes court.
The provisions of Code of Civil Procedure 1908 shall apply to all the suits cognizable by small causes court.
The suits cognizable by registrar shall be tried and executed in the same manner as the judge tries and executes the decree.
The suits pending before the registrar may be transferred by the judge either to himself or to the additional judge.
Powers to registrar in the absence of judge and additional judge:
If the judge or additional judge ( if appointed) both are absent, the registrar may admit or return or reject the plaints by stating the reasons. The plaints admitted by Registrar may be rejected by the judge and the plaints rejected by the registrar may be admitted by the judge when he resumes the work. The judge may do this either suo moto or on basis of application by either party to the suit.
If before the date, appointed for hearing the suit, the defendant admits plaintiff’s claim, the registrar in the absence of judge and additional judge, the registrar may pass a decree against the defendant. The decree passes by registrar may be reviewed, reheard by the judge if he so desires.
The registrar may make orders for execution of decrees and orders passes by small causes court in the absence of judge and additional judge. This order may be modified or reversed by the judge within 15 days after the registrar pass the order. The judge may do this either suo moto or on basis of application by either party.
The registrar has the power to adjourn the hearings of the suits and fix date for further hearings in the absence of judge and additional judge.
The orders passed by Court of small causes are final.
Appeal ( Section 24) : The appeal against the orders passed by Court of small causes shall lie before district court.
Control : The Court of small causes are under the administrative control of district court and under the superintendence of High Court.
Abolition: The Court of Small Causes can be abolished by an order passed by state government in writing.
So the establishment and abolition of Court of Small Causes is the sole discretion of respective state governments. Most of the states have their respective Acts related to establishment of Court of small causes.