Caveat

From Justice Definitions Project

What is a caveat?

The term caveat comes from a Latin term cavere which means “let a person beware”. A caveat petition is a precautionary measure which is undertaken by a person who has a strong apprehension that a case concerning their interest in any form is going to be filed. In law, it may be understood as a notice, that certain actions may not be taken without informing the person who gave the notice. A caveat petition is only filed in civil matters.[1] It was recommended by the Law Commission of India's 54th Report and subsequently, Section 148A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 which deals with a caveat petition, was inserted by the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 104 of 1976.

Official definition of caveat

The term caveat has not been officially defined in any statute. It has been defined by the Calcutta High Court as “a caution or warning giving notice to the Court not to issue any grant or take any step without notice being given to the party lodging the caveat.[2]

Section 148A(1), Civil Procedure Code, 1908 prescribes qualifications for who may lodge a caveat. The language is wide and includes not just a necessary party, but even a proper party.[3] Hence, a caveat may be filed by any person who is going to be affected by an order.[4] However, a stranger to the petition cannot lodge a caveat.[5] Once a caveat is lodged, the court and the Caveator have a duty to serve a notice of an application on the caveator.[6]

No form of caveat has been prescribed under the Civil Procedure Code. It may be filed as a petition where the caveator has to specify the nature of the application which is expected to be made or has been made and also his right to appear before the court at the hearing of such application.[7]

Picture: Sample Form of a Caveat [Source: MP Jain: The Code of Civil Procedure including Limitation Act, 1963, 5th edn., published by LexisNexis]

It is the duty of the court to hear the caveator before passing any interim order against him.[8] But an interim order passed without hearing the caveator is not without jurisdiction and operates unless set aside.[9]

A caveat remains in force for ninety days from the date of its filing as per Section 148A(5), Civil Procedure Code, 1908. After this period, it may be renewed.[10]

The main objective of Section 148A, which is a salutary provision[11], is to safeguard and protect the interests of the caveator because he is concerned about a potential case. This is done to ensure that he is afforded an opportunity to be heard[12] before any ex parte order is made against him. This is in accordance with audi alteram partem and is also used to avoid multiplicity of proceedings. The provision relating to caveat is applicable to suits, appeals and other proceedings under the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 or under other enactments.[13]

Further, Order XV Rule 2 of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 also contains the mechanism for lodging a caveat and subsequent issuance of notice to the plaintiff.

Appearance in official databases

The websites of the Supreme Court[14] and High Courts have information pertaining to caveats filed before them. Further, the e-courts services website[15] has a record of the details of caveats filed before various court complexes in the district level.

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Research that engages with caveat

The Indian Succession Act, 1925[16] had a mechanism for lodging a caveat in testamentary proceedings, only for all civil lawsuits in 1976. Prior to 1976, anyone with knowledge that a suit will be or has already been initiated against him could file a caveat petition before the Supreme Court, contesting such suit. The petition had a 90-day validation period and could not be extended, unlike the current Civil Procedure Code provision. Even if the person was acting in his best interests, his presence was deemed premature and he lacked locus standi. Due to this, it was suggested in the 54th Law Commission Report that a provision for caveat be added to the Civil Procedure Code, whereby a caveat petition could be filed in all subordinate courts, allowing the individual to dispute and appear even at the preliminary stage of the suit. As a result, Section 148A was included in the 1976 amendment to the Civil Procedure Code.

References

  1. Deepak Khosla v. Union of India, 2011 SCC OnLine Del 2200
  2. Nirmal Chandra Dutta v. Gundra Narayan Roy, 1978 SCC OnLine Cal 174
  3. Employees Assn. v. RBI, AIR 1981 AP 246
  4. Nirmal Chandra v. Girindra Narayan, AIR 1978 Cal 492
  5. Kattil Vayalil Parkkum v. Mannil Paadikayil, AIR 1991 Ker 411
  6. Section 148­A(2), Civil Procedure Code, 1908
  7. Nirmal Chandra v. Girindra Narayan, AIR 1978 Cal 492
  8. G.C. Siddalingappa v. G.C. Veeranna, AIR 1981 Kant 242
  9. Employees Assn. v. RBI, AIR 1981 AP 246
  10. Pashupati Nath v. Registrar, Coop. Societies, AIR 1983 Raj 191; H.G. Shankar Narayan v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1985 Raj 156
  11. C. K. Takwani, Civil Procedure, 6th edition
  12. G.C. Siddalingappa v. G.C. Veeranna, AIR 1981 Kant 242
  13. Chandrajit v. Ganeshiya, AIR 1987 All 360
  14. Available at https://main.sci.gov.in/caveat
  15. Available at https://services.ecourts.gov.in/ecourtindia_v6/?p=caveat_search/index&app_token=03bc67259f9e61aa7bbce51dd696c73e03e1e8ba30f7287f0cd501b9e1423974
  16. Persons who have some interest in the estate of the deceased are entitled to enter caveats under Section 284, Indian Succession Act, 1925.
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