Exclusive jurisdiction is that which confers sole power on one court or tribunal to try, deal with and decide a case. It is given in Section 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, The Courts shall have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. Therefore, it must be remembered by the parties involved that while providing exclusive jurisdiction it must be in such a court that has the power to hear and decide the case. It cannot be said that Exclusive jurisdiction clauses are a failure owing to inherent jurisdiction as the parties have an option to settle through a contract a place or their convenience and benefit that is not barred legally and has appropriate jurisdiction. Such a contract must be clear and use unambiguous terms while specifying that only that court alone should have jurisdiction concerning the matter at hand because in case there is unambiguity the courts would give higher weightage to the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
Like In the case of ABC Laminart the Supreme Court held that had the contract had specially mentioned affirmative words like ‘alone’, ‘only’, ‘exclusive’, etc then the court would be able to hold without muster doubt that exclusive jurisdiction would prevail. Simply mentioning the jurisdiction of one court without clear terms barring other courts would not take away its jurisdiction. There have been many cases wherein exclusive jurisdiction clauses have prevailed over inherent jurisdiction.
In Swastik gases v. IOCL, the issue arose of whether Kolkata courts had exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the dispute. In this case, both parties amicably decided that the agreement will be subject to Kolkata courts. This clause was unambiguous and clarified the parties’ intentions of excluding the jurisdiction of all other courts and limiting their dispute resolution to courts in Kolkata only.
In the case of Hakkam Singh v. Gammon India, the contract which was entered into specified that the courts in Bombay alone had jurisdiction to adjudicate upon in case of disputes that may arise. In this case on default of payment Hakkam Singh filed a suit in Varanasi court which was also the site of operation (construction) to which Gammon objected in lieu of the clause in their contract giving Bombay courts exclusive jurisdiction. Varanasi court held that since the cause of action was taking place in Varanasi, it could not be excluded from trying the matter, further no chain of causation could be established that would confer jurisdiction upon Bombay. This decision was revised by the Allahabad High Court in response to which Hakkam Singh moved to the Supreme Court. It was held in this case that the parties have the discretion to bind themselves to the jurisdiction of one court, provided that the agreement does not go against public policy. In this case by virtue of the contract, they decided that Bombay courts would have jurisdiction over dispute matters in their case.
Further, in Shridhar Vyapar v. Gammon India, by the Calcutta High Court that as long as the contract clearly gives jurisdiction to a particular court/s and no other legal procedures are violated in doing so then it can be held that other courts that would have inherent jurisdiction are excluded from adjudicating upon that matter.
- Code of Civil Procedure 1908, s 9
- ABC Laminart v AP Agencies, Salem  2 SCC 163
- M/S Swastik gases v Indian Oil Corp Ltd  9 SCC 32
- Hakkam Singh v Gammon (India) Ltd  AIR 740
- Shridhar Vyapar v. Gammon India  GA 44 of 2018
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