Pakistan Supreme Court holds mining lease to be movable property; dismisses appeal for not raising territorial jurisdiction objections before trial court at the earliest

Supreme Court of Pakistan: A Division bench comprising of Mushir Alam and Sajjad Ali Shah, JJ. while hearing a civil petition for leave to appeal, held that objections as to territorial jurisdiction must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity.

Respondent company, which was in the possession of mining lease for certain areas by way of assignments and agreements had filed a suit in trial court seeking an injunction against petitioner to not carry out mining activity in those areas. The trial court decreed in favour of the respondent/ plaintiff, and against this order, the petitioner/ defendant filed an appeal in High Court raising objections as to territorial jurisdiction. The High Court held that since the matter in issue pertained to an area of mining lease and rights thereon, it did not directly relate to right and interest in the immovable property, and thus the suit could be filed at the place where the cause of action had arisen in whole or in part. It was further held that since the petitioner had not raised the said objection timely, it amounted to waiver on his part. Aggrieved by the said order of High Court, the present petition was filed by petitioner.

At the outset, the Supreme Court relied on Australian Apex Court’s case of Sojitz Coal Resources Pty. Ltd. v Commissioner of State Revenue, (2015) QSC 9 to hold that mining lease means rights and interest in mines/minerals in and on the surface of the land. Therefore, a mining lease does not constitute an estate or interest in land but is instead regarded as movable property.

Further, the  Court held that as per Section 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 objections as to territorial jurisdiction must be raised before the Court of first instance at the earliest possible opportunity. Such objections can be considered by the appellate or revisional court only if the three conditions set down in Section 21 CPC are met viz.: (i) objection as to territorial jurisdiction was raised in the Court of the first instance, (ii) such objection is raised at the earliest opportunity, and (iii) there has been consequent failure of justice. It relied on the judgment of Indian Supreme Court in Pathumma v Kuntalan Kutty, (1981) 3 SCC 589 to hold that the aforesaid three conditions must co-exist in order that an appellate or revisional court consider a territorial jurisdiction objection.

The Court noted that in the instant case, the petitioner instead of raising objections as to territorial jurisdiction in the trial court at the earliest opportunity had engaged in a long drawn battle in High Court and Supreme Court. Thus, the present petition was dismissed for lack of merits. [Malik Khan Muhammad Tareen v. Nasir & Brother Coal Company,2018 SCC OnLine Pak SC 1, decided on 03-10-2018]

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