Monday, March 7, 2011

What does a "Suit" means?

I realized, quite lately, that I started this blog during my college days but could not continue it for no good reasons. I have decided not only to revive it but also to try keeping it alive now with regular posts on some interesting issues in civil laws, ofcourse with all your support and comments.

I was reading an interesting decision of IPAB (Intellectual Property Appellate Board) in the case of Enercon India Limited v. Aloys Wobben, (available at, which is basically a case of revocation of patent under section 64 of the Patents Act, 1970. One of the issues raised by the Patentee in this case was that the revocation petition was not signed by an authorized person. Patentee, therefore, questioned the locus standi of the applicant to maintain the revocation application while challenging the competency of the signatory to the application for revocation. According to the patentee, the signatory was authorized by the Board Resolution “to defend the Company and file suits on behalf of the company on matters that may arise out of contractual laws, corporate laws, taxation laws or any other statutory acts” but not to initiate these revocation proceedings. It was contended by the Patentee that the revocation proceedings doesn't come under the definition of "Suit".

The IPAB while deciding that the revocation proceedings comes within the purview of the definition of "Suit", placed reliance on the law laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Patel Roadways Ltd. v. Birla Yamaha Ltd., (2000) 4 SCC 91. As per IPAB, the Hon’ble Supreme Court, at paragraph 48 (sic) and 49 (sic), observed as follows:

42.Suit, Action – ‘Suit’ is a term of wider signification than action; it may include proceedings on a petition

43. From the above it is clear that the terms “suit” is a generic term taking within its sweep all proceedings initiated by a part for realization of a right vested in him under law. The meaning of the term “suit” also depends on the context of its user which in turn, amongst other things, depends on the Act or the rule in which it is used. No doubt the proceeding before a National Commission is ordinarily a summary proceeding and in an appropriate case where the Commission feels that the issues raised by the parties are too contentions to be decided in a summary proceeding it may refer the parties to a civil court… A proceeding before the National Commission, in our considered view, comes within the term “suit.”

It was held that, the term “suit” is not to be strictly construed but construed in the manner in which it is used. It was also stated by the IPAB that the term “suit” has been used in the Board resolution in the context of ‘initiation of proceedings’ and has to be liberally construed. Therefore, any proceedings before this Appellate Board are construed to be in the nature of a suit.

I read the judgment of Supreme Court in the above case where the primary issue was whether the expression ‘suit’ in Section 9 of Carriers Act is applicable to proceeding under Consumer Protection Act before the National Commission which is a forum which is to decide complaints by consumers following a summary procedure. The term ‘suit’ was not defined in the Carriers Act nor is it provided in the said Act that the term suit will have the same meaning as in the Civil Procedure Code.

The Hon’ble court, while adopting the view that the ordinary dictionary meaning of the term will have to be taken for ascertaining its meaning, insightfully cited P. Ramanatha Aiyars Law Lexicon 1997 Edition, wherein some of the references of the term are: Suit Prosecution of pursuit of some claim, demand or request; the act of suing, the process by which one endeavours to gain an end or object; attempt to attain a certain result; the act of suing; the process by which one gains an end or object, an action or process for the recovery of a right or claim; the prosecution of some demand in a Court of Justice; any proceeding in a Court of Justice in which plaintiff pursues his remedy to recover a right or claim; the mode and manner adopted by law to redress Civil injuries; a proceeding in a Court of Justice for the enforcement of a right.

Therefore, the word suit does not mean only what is usually called a regular suit, but it also embraces all contentious proceedings of an ordinary civil kind, whether they arise in a suit or miscellaneous proceedings.

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