Overview of Civil Law
The term civil law has been derived from the word “jus civile”. It is the system of law or a body that mentions rules and regulations to deal with the rights and obligations of parties who have formed a legal relationship between them. It primarily focuses on legal relations between two or more parties and most of the laws are codified.
Features of Civil Law
There are several features of civil law that are as follows:
- Protecting the rights of an individual,
- Availability of effective remedy in case the right of a person has been violated.
Branches of Civil Law
There are a lot of branches of civil law. It covers a lot of disputes related to the rights and liabilities of people living in the country. Some of the branches of the civil law are as follows:
The laws made for legal contracts contain provisions governing and interpreting a contract where the parties to a contract mutually agree to sell or purchase goods or services, property, etc. the contract law not only defines the rights and liabilities of parties to the contract but also provides the sufficient remedy to party who has been aggrieved from the act of another party. The Act also defines the available remedies that can be availed by the parties.
In India, the Indian Contract Act of 1872 governs contracts. A contract is defined as an agreement which is legally enforceable by law. This definition has been mentioned under Section 2(h) of the Act. The Act defines what contracts are void, valid and voidable. The Act covers different types of contracts such as contracts of indemnity, guarantee, agency, bailment, etc.
The property laws in India define who is the rightful owner or has possession of property. It defines the rights and duties of people on the use or transfer of the property along with following all the reasonable restrictions defined in the statutes. As per the Acts, there are 2 types of property, real and personal property. A personable property is one that can be moveable such as a vehicle, precious jewels, stocks, furniture, etc or that be tangible or intangible such as copyright, trademark, know-how, etc. Real property includes all the immovable properties such as buildings, land, etc.
The prevailing statutes governing property laws in India are the Indian Contract Act of 1872, the Transfer of Property Act of 1882, the Indian Easement Right of 1882, etc.
The law which governs the matters related to people in a family is called family law. The law defines the rights and obligations of people over matters related to child custody, maintenance, marriage, divorce, adoption, etc.
In India, there are personal laws of parties that govern their family matters. For people belonging to the Hindu community, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 is there, for Christians, the Indian Christian Marriage Act of 1872 is there, etc.
A person who has committed a civil wrong resulting in harm or injury to another person or property is said to have committed a tortious act. Under tort law, a person aggrieved by the act of another can claim damages for the injury suffered to him or the property. The law of tort is an uncodified law. Some examples of tort law are negligence, trespass, etc.
The law which covers the rights, responsibilities and functioning of corporate entities (companies) is called corporate law. The law contains provisions with regard to the formation, investments, combinations and winding up of a company. The prevailing statutes governing companies include the Companies Act of 2013, the Sale of Goods Act of 1930 and the Indian Partnership Act of 1932, etc.
This law is an uncodified law. The law defines the powers, rights and obligations of the administrative bodies in India. The law is related to the executive branch of the Indian government. To solve matters concerning administrative actions, there have been separate tribunals established to solve disputes.
Types of cases decided under Civil Law
Broadly, there are 4 types of cases which are decided by the courts in civil matters. These are as follows:
As tort is a civil wrong, a person who harms another person or damages his/her property is said to commit the tortious act. An aggrieved party can claim damages under tort based on:
Some of the tort claims include:
Contractual breach claims
Whenever a party to the contract refuses to perform his/her part of the contractual liability, then the other party to the contract approaches the court to seek specific performance or damages for loss. A few examples of contractual breach claims include:
An equitable claim is also known as an injunction suit. Under equitable claim, the court orders a person to stop performing an action rather than paying compensation in the form of money for a specific time period or for perpetuity. In this type of claim, the court may order the opposite party to:
Class action claims
A class action suit is filed by a group of people who have been aggrieved by the act of the opposite party. These claims are generally filed by people against the entities. A person can file a class action suit when:
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Reliefs and remedies under Civil Law
The sole purpose of filing a civil suit is to restore the rights of the party whose rights have been violated. The restoration can be done with the help of several available remedies and relief to be provided to the aggrieved. Such relief is provided by the competent court or tribunal having jurisdiction to entertain the matter as per the prevailing laws in India.
In general, there are 4 types of remedies available to an aggrieved party under civil law. These are – specific performance, injunction, declaration, and monetary compensation.
Monetary relief involves payment of monetary compensation to the aggrieved person who has suffered loss from the act of the defendant. Monetary relief involves payment of compensatory damages, nominal damages, liquidated damages, consequential damages, incidental damages, etc.
The enforcement of civil liability on the defendant which he/she has failed to perform is called Specific performance of the contract. Under this remedy, the court orders the defendant to perform his/her part of the obligation that he/she failed to perform. Such failure to perform was the reason to file the suit. This remedy is often provided to parties who have formed contracts and one party has refused to perform his/her part.
It is the relief where the defendant is prohibited from doing a particular act. An injunction can be either temporary or permanent in nature. An interim injunction is passed and remains in effect till the matter is pending before the court whereas, in the case of a permanent injunction, the party is prohibited from doing an act for perpetuity.
Under this remedy, the court defines a person’s right over the movable or immovable party. Once the court’s decision has been made, it becomes binding for the whole world. A declaration is made where the court defines the rights and liabilities of the parties to the suit. Under this, the court does not order a party to pay compensation or perform any specific task, but it merely defines the rights and liabilities of the parties to the suit.
Hierarchy of Civil Courts in India
Under civil law in India, there is a hierarchy of courts with specific powers and authority to deal with matters in India. In the hierarchy of courts, the Supreme Court is the apex court. The hierarchy has been set as per the territory and monetary jurisdiction of the courts. Monetary jurisdiction is the pecuniary value of the amount involved in the disputed case.
Supreme Court of India
It is the apex court of India and is considered the guardian of the Indian Constitution. In matters related to civil law, the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction under which the court accepts appeals from parties involved in civil suits. The decision passed by the Supreme Court is final and binding on both parties to the suit as it has been passed by the highest authority in the hierarchy.
The High Court is ranked below the Supreme Court in the hierarchy. These courts are established in all states of India. The Court has the authority to solve civil matters having a pecuniary value of Rs. 20 lakhs.
A district court is below the High Court under the hierarchy of courts in India. These courts have the power to entertain civil matters having a monetary value of less than Rs. 20 lakhs but more than Rs. 3 lakhs. District courts are established in every district.
These courts are below the district court and are called munsif and small cause courts. These are the lowest courts in the hierarchy of courts in India. These courts have the authority to deal with matters having a monetary value of less than Rs. 3 lakhs.
There are other civil courts in India which deal with civil matters such as family courts, tribunals and consumer courts, etc.
Difference between Civil Law and Criminal Law
There is a clear difference between civil and criminal law. It is as follows:
- Civil law governs the duties and rights of parties arising out of a legal relationship between two parties or entities whereas criminal law governs the actions of an individual which affects society in a negative manner.
- The main purpose of civil law is to protect the rights of an individual and provide them compensation in case of violation whereas the main purpose of criminal law is to punish the offenders and maintain peace and order in society.
- In civil law, the suit is filed by the plaintiff who has been aggrieved and in case of criminal law, the government usually files the case.
- The plaintiff files a suit before the civil courts or tribunals in civil law whereas, in criminal law, the party approaches the criminal court to file a case.
- In civil suits, the final decision will either make the defendant liable or set him free whereas in cases of criminal complaints, the accused can be either convicted or acquitted.
- The desired outcome in a civil suit is the civil remedy, i.e., compensation, an injunction (permanent and temporary) whereas, in the case of criminal law, the remedy is imprisonment or fine to the convicted person.
- The procedural law in India is the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908 for civil law. The procedural law in India is the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973 for criminal law.
- In civil law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant has committed a civil wrong. In criminal law, the prosecution is under an obligation to prove that the offender is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
- In civil law, the matters are cases of negligence, marriage, disputes related to property, etc. The matters are murder, rape, dacoity, etc in criminal law.
Frequently Asked Questions
The essential features of civil law are as follows:
- It protects the rights of the citizens from being violated.
- It provides an effective remedy when there is a violation of the rights of a person.