The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 contains a nimiety of procedures which involves filing different kinds of documents with the Court for the conduct of a civil suit. The Code also mentions the various rights available to the litigants while litigating a civil suit. The right to lodge a caveat petition is one such right which is provided under section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure.
The word ‘caveat’ has Latin origins and comes from the word ‘cavere’, which loosely translates to “let a person beware”. It generally refers to caution or warning. In law, a caveat is a precautionary measure taken by a party to prevent any court proceeding from being heard, an action being taken, order or judgement being passed without the presence of the person giving notice of the caveat or without giving such person an opportunity of being heard. The person who files a caveat shall receive formal notice of initiating any legal proceeding or action involving such person or their interest in a court of law. The person who files the caveat petition is called the caveator, and the person who has already instituted a suit or might institute and file an application in such a suit is called a caveatee. By filing a caveat petition, a caveator claims her right to appear before the Court and to be heard on matters affecting her interests.
Section 148A was inserted by the Law Commission in the Code of Civil Procedure in 1976 through an amendment act in pursuance of following the principle of natural justice and Audi Alteram Partem, which means “both sides be heard”. It was introduced with the aim of bringing an end to litigation by reducing the multiplicity of court proceedings. The case of Nirmal Chand versus Girindra Narayan, 1978 defines a caveat as a warning granted by a person to the Court of law that no judgement or order shall be passed without furnishing a notice to the caveator or without giving an opportunity to the caveator to be heard.
The prime object of a caveat petition is to protect the interests of the caveator against whom an order or judgement might be passed based on an application filed or which is expected to be filed by a party to the suit or any proceeding which has already been instituted or is yet to be instituted. The caveator need not be a necessary party to the suit, but an order might still affect her interests. It ensures that the Court does not pass any ex-parte orders that adversely affect the caveator’s interests.
A caveat petition can be filed in any suits, appeals, or other proceedings before a civil court as per the Code of Civil Procedure.
After the caveat application has been filed, if the other party files any application in a suit or proceeding, the Court is mandated to serve a notice of the application to the caveator. The Court is also required to send the caveat petition to the applicant.
Section 148A- Right to Lodge Caveat
Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 states that when there is an expectation that an application is about to be made or has already been made in any suit or proceeding in a court, any person who claims the right to appear before the Court on the hearing of the application is given a right to lodge a caveat.
It further states that the caveator is required to serve a notice of the caveat registered post acknowledgement due on the applicant. The section also lays down a mandate on the Court that it is necessary to serve a notice to the caveator of any application which is filed in any suit or proceeding in the Court to which the caveat applies.
After the applicant receives a notice of the caveat, such applicant is required to provide the caveator with a copy of the application made along with copies of any document or paper attached with the application at the caveator’s expense.
It is also stated that once a caveat has been lodged, it shall not remain in force after 90 days from the day when it was lodged unless the application is made before the expiry of the 90-day period.
Right to Lodge a Caveat
A caveat can be lodged by any person who claims a right to be present before the Court regardless of whether such person has been a party to the suit. The right to appear can arise in the following circumstances:
- When there is an apprehension of any application being made or an application has already been made which affects the interests of such person, and
- In a suit has already been instituted or the person reasonably expects it shall be initiated.
The substantive right is provided under section 148A of CPC, where a third party with interest in the suit can file a caveat if they have the right to appear before the Court. However, such a person must be familiar with the suit. In the case of Kattil Vayalil Parkkum Koiloth vs Mannil Paadikayil Kadeesa Umma, the Court opined that a total stranger to the suit or proceeding is not eligible to file a caveat petition. A caveat petition can also be filed by a person who is apprehensive that she shall be affected by an interim order passed by the Court.
The caveator is required to follow specific procedures after filing the caveat petition as per Section 148A (2) of the Code of Civil Procedure. After filling the caveat petition, the caveator is mandated to furnish the caveat by means of registered post acknowledgement due to the person who has already made the application, or a person whom the caveator believes shall make an application in the suit.
Where Can a Caveator Lodge a Caveat?
A caveator has the right to lodge a caveat in any civil court of original jurisdiction, Court of appellate jurisdiction. This also includes a court of small causes or tribunals or High Court or Supreme Court dealing with civil cases where an application has already been filed affecting her interests, or such person has a reasonable apprehension that an application might be filed affecting her interests in an ongoing suit or proceeding or in a future suit or proceeding. In the case of Kapildeo Prasad versus Ramanand Prasad, the Patna High Court states that Section 148A of CPC applies to only civil courts. The term ‘Civil Courts’ must be read in accordance with Section 9 of CPC, which means that it shall only include courts with jurisdiction to try civil suits.
The logical corollary of this is that a caveat petition cannot be filed in a criminal case at any stage of inquiry, trial or an appeal by a complainant or an informant or a private party to oppose any proceedings which have been launched at the behest of the other party/accused. Neither the State nor the accused can file a caveat in a criminal proceeding to enforce a right to be heard in a Criminal Court. Similarly, a caveat petition does not apply to proceedings under article 226 of the Constitution of India.
Benefits of Filing a Caveat Petition
A caveat petition is a preventive measure ensuring that the caveator’s interests are not affected adversely. There are many advantages of filing a caveat petition, and some of them are as follows:
- It protects the right of the caveator to be heard in a suit of proceeding if an application affecting her interests has been filed or might be filed. No order shall we passed in any application affecting the interests of the caveator without providing her with a fair opportunity of being heard.
- No ex-parte order shall be passed against the caveator once the caveat application has been filed.
- Any interim order which has been passed ex-parte after the caveator has filed the petition shall be inoperative invalid and unenforceable.
- It helps the Court to be fair to all the parties involved and follow the principles of natural justice.
- It helps reduce the multiplicity of proceedings in Court, reduces the burden on the courts, and aid in putting an end to litigation.
Duty of the Court and the Applicant
Section 148A of CPC places specific duties on the Court and the applicant once the caveator files the caveat petition. Clause (3) states that the Court in which the caveator has filed the caveat petition shall furnish a notice to the caveator of any application made in a suit or proceeding before it to which the caveat applies.
Clause (4) places a duty on the applicant or the caveatee to whom the notice of a caveat has been served to furnish the caveator with copies of any application made by the caveatee along with any supporting documents or papers submitted with the application. These shall be made available at the caveator’s expense.
The Implication of Non-Compliance with Section 148A
The Code of Civil Procedure places specific duties on the caveator, the Court and the caveatee pertaining to the caveat petition. A notice must be served on the caveat whenever an application affecting her interests is made in the Court. Any order which a court has passed without giving proper notice to the caveator shall be illegal and shall defeat the purposes of the law set out under Section 148A of CPC. This was provided for in the case of C. Seethiah versus the Government of Andhra Pradesh, 1983. Earlier, in the case of Reserve Bank of India Employees Association and Another versus The Reserve Bank of India and Others, 1981, it was held that an order passed without giving notice to the caveator cannot be considered a complete nullity. The judges had opined that the intention of the legislator was not to curtail the powers of the civil Court, and lodging a caveat petition cannot dilute or alter the power of the civil Court. Lodging of a caveat petition merely provides a right to the caveator to be informed of any application against her or her interests. However, this cannot curtail the power of the Court how to pass orders. However, this case what set aside by the judgement passed in the case of C. Seethiah, which held that the provision regarding giving the caveator a notice under Section148A (3) is mandatory for any order which is passed without giving due notice to the caveator is null and void.
Procedure to Lodge a Caveat Petition
The form for filing a caveat petition must be presented to the court officer and signed by the caveator. If the caveat petition is filed through an advocate, then the advocate shall also sign the application, and the advocate’s vakalatnama must also be attached. The caveat petition which has been filed in the Court shall be entered in the register of caveats. The caveat register has details pertaining to the date of the proceeding and the number maintained by the Court. The caveator is also required to file the caveat along with the copy of the application and provide proof to the Court that copies of the caveat petition have been sent to the parties to the suit. The caveator is also required to furnish a court fee of ₹100 how to login caveat petition.
While presenting a caveat petition in a High Court, the petition must be submitted along with an affidavit and such affidavit, and the caveator shall sign the petition. If the petition is being filed through an advocate, a vakalatnama, any order which is being challenged, and proof as to dispatch of the notice of the caveat to the caveatee shall also be submitted.
A Caveat Petition Made By The Caveator To The Court Is Required To Have The Following Information:
- Name of the caveator.
- Name of the applicants or the possible applicants, plaintiff all the appellant order possible plaintiff or appellant.
- Nature of the legal proceeding or suit of which the caveator has reasonable apprehension.
- The subject matter of the proceedings.
- Name of the Court in which the caveat petition is being filed.
- The number of the suit or appeal, or petition pertaining to which the application of the caveat petition is being filed.
- Details of the application which has already been filed or which might be filed by the applicant.
- The caveator’s address where the notice shall be served if and when an application against her or involving her interest is filed.
- The applicant’s or plaintiff’s or appellant’s address against whom the caveat has been filed and where the notice of the caveat has to be sent bio registered post, acknowledgement due.
Validity of a Caveat Petition
Section 148A (5) of CPC states that once a caveat petition has been filed, it shall remain valid for 90 days from the date on which such petition was lodged. The caveat shall become invalid on the expiry of 90 days unless the caveatee files any application before the expiry of such 90 days or has already preferred an application before the caveat filed the petition.
If after the expiry of 90 days from the date on which the cabin petition was lodged, no application has been filed by the caveatee, the caveat shall stand expired. The caveator will have to file a fresh caveat petition to place the onus on the Court of any subsequent application which the caveatee might file.
Section 148A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 follows the spirit of the maxim Audi Alterum Partem which means that both sides be heard. The provision for lodging a caveat petition was inserted by the 54th Law Commission in 1976 to protect the caveator’s interests and reduce the multiplicity of court proceedings. A caveat follows the principle of natural justice. It is a precautionary measure taken by a party to prevent any court proceeding from being heard, the action being taken, an order or judgement being passed without the presence of the person giving notice of the caveat or without giving such person an opportunity of being heard. Caveator only needs to have a claim to a right to appear in a court proceeding or be given a fair chance to be heard in a civil suit or proceeding where an application affecting the interests of such caveator has already been filed or might be filed. Once a caveat has been lodged, and the caveator has followed the mandates mentioned under Section 148A, no order or judgement fast in an application affecting her interests without giving the caveator an opportunity to be heard. Any order or judgement passed without following the provisions shall be void and inoperative.
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