Meaning of Suits of Civil Nature

The word ‘word is not defined in the code but according to dictionary meaning it pertains to the private rights and remedies of a citizen as distinguished from a criminal, constitutional or public law rights and remedies. In Black’s legal dictionary it is defined as ‘relating to provide rights and remedies sought by civil actions as contrasted with criminal proceeding’. In law, it is understood as an antonym of criminal. Historically the two broad classifications were civil and criminal. Revenue, tax and company etc. were added to it later. But they too pertain to the larger family of civil. There is thus no doubt about the width of the word civil. Its width has been stretches further by using the word nature along with it. That is even those suits are cognizable which are not only civil but are even of civil nature….
The word “civil nature” is wider than the word ‘civil proceeding. The Section 9 would, therefore, be available in every case where the dispute has the characteristics of affecting one’s rights which are not only civil but of civil nature.”
Thus, a suit is of a civil nature if the principle question therein relates to a civil or legal right. Explanation I to the Section specifies that if the principal or only question in the suit is a caste question or a question relating to religious rites or ceremonies, the suit is not of a civil nature for it deals not with the rights of the citizen but with matters that are purely social.
However when:
(1) a caste questions or a question relating to religious rites or ceremonies is not the principal question in the suit, but is merely a subsidiary question, and
(2) The principal question is of a civil nature e.g. a question as to any right to property or to an office or to any other civil right, and
(3) The principal question, which is of a civil nature, cannot be determined without deciding the caste question or the question relating to religious rites or ceremonies,
(4) The Court has the power to decide the caste question or the question relating to religious rites or ceremonies, to enable it to decide the principal question.
So, it is not the status of the parties to the suit, but the subject matter of it which determines whether or not the suit is of a civil nature.

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