Understanding Caveat under Section 148A of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

1. Introduction:
“Caveat,” a Latin term originating from the 16th century, signifies a cautionary or preventive measure taken by an individual anticipating a potential legal action against them. In the context of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), the concept of “Caveat” allows such an individual to file a caveat petition, ensuring the court notifies them if a case is lodged against them.

2. Understanding Caveat:
Section 148-A of the CPC provides the provision of Caveat. Although the term is not explicitly defined within the Code, the courts, as seen in the case of Nirmal Chandra Dutta v. Girindra Narayan Roy and Ors. AIR 1978 Cal 492, have interpreted it as a warning to the court not to issue any grants or take steps without prior notification to the party lodging the caveat.

3. Scope and Objective of Caveat:
The primary purpose of section 148 A is to protect the interest of the individual filing the caveat against potential ex-parte decisions. The caveator’s right to a fair hearing, a principle of Natural Justice (Audi Alteram Partem), is preserved through the lodging of a caveat, helping to avoid multiple cases and reducing inconvenience to the courts.

4. Basic Elements of a Caveat Petition:
Section 148-A delineates the conditions under which a person may file a caveat petition, including scenarios where there is apprehension of an application, an application has already been made, an anticipated suit, or an already instituted suit.

5. Duties and Responsibilities:
The section also outlines the duties of the caveator, the court, and the applicant in relation to a caveat petition. The caveator must notify relevant parties about the caveat via registered post. Upon receipt of a caveat, the court must notify the caveator about any related application—a mandatory requirement. If the applicant receives notice of the caveat, they are obligated to provide the caveator with copies of their application and relevant documents, although this is merely a directive.

6. Non-Compliance Implications:
In cases where the court fails to serve notice, the subsequent order isn’t null but considered illegal, as demonstrated in the case of C. Seethaiah v. Govt. of A.P (1) AIR 1983 AP 443.

7. Caveat Benefits:
The filing of a caveat petition allows the preservation of the caveator’s right to a fair hearing, prevents ex-parte orders, avoids unnecessary case duplication, and minimizes court inconvenience.

8. Where to File a Caveat:
Caveats may be lodged at any civil court of original jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, high courts, or Supreme Court. Depending on the situation, this may also extend to tribunals, forums, courts of small causes, and commissions.

9. Non-Maintainability of Caveat:
Certain cases, including those under Article 226 of the Constitution, have been deemed non-maintainable for caveat petitions, as observed in Harikrishnan v. Jacob (2005 (2) KLT 488) and Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare V Aswathy Elsa Mathew (2008 (2) KLT 670 : ILR 2008 (2) Ker. 298).

10. Caveat Validity:
As per clause (5), a caveat remains in force for a maximum of 90 days from its filing date, after which a fresh caveat may be lodged.

11. Caveat Filing Procedure:
A caveat petition, attached with an affidavit, should be signed by the caveator and accompanied by any impugned order, vakalatnama (if represented by an advocate), and proof of notice of caveat. The complete set of documents must be registered in the court’s caveat registry. A nominal filing fee, usually around Rs. 100, may apply.

Please note: This practice note is an attempt to facilitate a better understanding of the concept of Caveat under Section 148A of the CPC. It explores the objectives, scope, fundamental elements, benefits, and filing procedure, amongst other aspects. However, the interpretation and application of these guidelines can differ on a case-to-case basis, indicating the varying nature of each clause of Section 148A.

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