The principles of natural justice form the touchstone of justice and fairness in any adjudicatory proceeding. The serving of notice is thereby considered a cardinal cannon of affording fair hearing to the involved parties. However, when a party is of the belief that a proceeding has already been or may be initiated against her, the resultant right to be served a notice before taking certain steps by the court of law has been envisaged in the provisions of Section 148-A of the CPC, 1908. It’s paramount significance can be gleaned through a succinct overview of it’s meaning, process of lodging a Caveat and the duties of the parties involved therein and the limitation of time that is to be considered, in addition to the common mistakes that are to be avoided while filing a Caveat.
The word ‘Caveat’ is of Latin derivation which simply means ‘let him beware’ and is believed to have taken birth in the mid-16th century. In rudimentary terms, it acts as a notice that certain actions may not be taken without duly notifying the person who files such a caveat. It is usually filed when the applicant suspects institution of proceedings against him by another party and thereby seeks to protect his interests by filing a caveat to notify that the court may not pass any exparte order. Caveat is generally filed inter alia in case of probate proceedings and in connection with the grant of marriage licenses. The provisions relating to Caveat have been comprehensively envisaged in Section 148A of the CPC, 1908 as a result of the 1976 amendment based on the recommendations of 54th Report of the distinguished Law Commission of India.
Whereas, its definition has not been expressly found in the CPC, 1908, it’s meaning has been articulated by several jurists and judicial pronouncements. The Black’s Law Dictionary defines Caveat as “ an intimation made to a judge or an officer notifying him to suspend a proceeding until merits of a caveat are determined.” It has further been defined in Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law as “ an entry made in the books of the offices of a registry or Court to prevent a certain step being taken without previous notice to the person entering the caveat.” The Honourable Calcutta High Court envisaged the meaning of Caveat as “a caution or warning giving notice to the Court not to issue any grant or take any step without notice being given to the party lodging the Caveat.”  Primarily, two parties are involved while dealing with a Caveat, namely:
- Caveator: A person against whom either a suit has been filed or who apprehends that proceedings may be instituted against him by another party and thereby, files a Caveat to notify the Court that certain actions may not be taken by the Court without duly notifying such Caveator.
- Caveatee: A person who has instituted a suit or is likely to institute a suit against the Caveator hereinabove mentioned.
- Circumstances to be satisfied for lodging a Caveat?
Section 148A of the CPC enshrines the right to lodge a Caveat upon the satisfaction of any of the following circumstances:
i) When an application is expected to be filed in respect of a suit or a proceeding which is expected to be instituted or
ii) When an application has already been made in respect of any suit or proceeding which has already been instituted and is ongoing.
Therefore, it is axiomatic that the right to lodge a Caveat is a comprehensive one which extends an invaluable right to protect one’s interest in not only an ongoing proceeding, but also in case of a suspicion or apprehension of future proceedings.
- Eligibility to lodge a Caveat?
As per the provisions of Section 148-A of CPC, 1908, Caveat can be lodged only by such a person who can claim a right to appear before the Court while the application is already filed or expected to be filed in a suit or proceeding already ongoing or apprehended to be instituted is being heard by the Court. Moreover, the substantive right to lodge a caveat cannot be exercised by a total stranger and it has further been reiterated by the Honourable Madras High Court while hearing a probate proceeding, wherein the court emphasised that a person who seeks to be impleaded as a caveator must establish that he has an interest in the deceased’s estate. As a consequence of the petitioner’s failure to establish such interest, the petitioner was branded as a stranger and his application for impleadment was dismissed.
- The forum that must be approached for lodging a Caveat
A caveator can exercise his/her right to lodge a Caveat at any Civil Court of Original Jurisdiction, Appellate Court, High Court and Supreme Court. It covers within its wide ambit the different machineries of justice including Tribunals, Forums, Commissions and Court of Small Causes. Further, as is evident from the inclusion of Caveat in the CPC, it can only be filed in case of civil proceedings filed before courts that are established under Section 9 of CPC and any other such machinery which hears proceedings of civil nature. Accordingly, in the matter of Laxminarayan v. Shivlal Gujjar, the Honourable Court pertinently observed that Caveat is not applicable to an application filed under Section 482 of CrPC, 1973 as such proceedings are not within the ambit of CPC, 1908 by any stretch of imagination and as they had emanated from the orders passed by the learned Magistrate and was given birth to by the lodging of an FIR under the relevant provisions of IPC, 1860.
- Procedure for filing a Caveat
While, it is essential to take into account the different rules laid down by the respective Court before which the Caveat has been filed, the rudimentary procedure that is usually followed is that the Caveator must duly file the Caveat petition before the competent court of law specifying all the particulars including his/her name and address, date of caveat, date of impugned order and particulars of the proceedings that have already been instituted or are apprehended to be instituted. Additionally, requisite documents such as copies of Vakalatnama, Affidavit, postal proof, copy of impugned order must be submitted along with the appropriate court fees. Further, the provisions of Section 148-A of the CPC mandate that the Caveat must be duly signed by the Caveator or the Advocate of the Caveator.
- Contents that are to be included in a Caveat
The format of filing Caveat generally differs based on the rules and practice adopted by different courts of law. However, the basic framework of a Caveat Application usually contains the following particulars:
- The date of the Caveat.
- Name and address of the Caveator.
- Particulars regarding the suit filed or likely to be filed including the names of the Plaintiff and Defendant along with the number of cases filed before the court of law.
- A copy of the impugned order(if applicable).
- Affidavit duly deposed the Caveator in support of the Caveat lodged.
- A copy, postal proof and an application to the effect that the notice has been duly served to all the concerned parties must be annexed to the application. Both the petition as well as the Affidavit must be duly signed.
- Court fees generally not exceeding hundred rupees, subject to the rules framed by respective court is to be paid along with the application.
- Rights and duties of:
As the Caveat is filed by the Caveator before the court in order to ensure that certain actions may not be taken by the court without serving a notice to the Caveator, upon admission of the Caveat by the court the Caveator is duty bound to serve a notice by registered post to the party who has initiated or is expected to initiate proceedings against the Caveator.
The Caveator files the Caveat before the Court of law requesting that he/she is duly notified before taking certain actions. Thereby, the duty of notifying the Caveator by the court arises after the Caveat has been duly lodged and a notice of the same has been served to the applicant who has already initiated proceedings or is expected to initiate proceedings against the Caveator. Thereafter, if any application is filed by the applicant as expected by the Caveator, the court is incumbent to serve notice to the Caveator notifying the filing of application for a period of 90 days in which the Caveat remains in effect.
When the Caveator lodges a Caveat fueled by the apprehension that the applicant has or will initiate proceedings against him/her, the applicant is also mandatorily served a copy of the Caveat lodged by registered post. Thereafter, if the Applicant proceeds to file an application against the Caveator, the Applicant/Caveatee is duty bound to serve a notice as well as a copy of the application filed and all the supporting documents to the Caveator at the expense of the Caveator.
- Limitation of time
Section 148-A(5) states that upon lodging a Caveat, it shall remain in force for a period of 90 days during which the Court as well as the Caveatee is expected to notify the caveator. However, if the Caveator wishes to be notified before the Court may take certain actions, then, a fresh Caveat is to be lodged by the Caveator within the expiry of the period of 90 days for which the prior Caveat remains effective.
- Common mistakes made while filing a Caveat
While the weapon of Caveat is a crucial right conferred upon the Caveator, it is not infrequent to encounter obstacles as a result of commission of mistakes or omission on the part of the Caveator. In order to avoid committing them, it is essential to comprehend some of the common mistakes made while filing a Caveat, some of which are as follows:
- Failure to promptly and appropriately file the supporting affidavits along with the Caveat application.
- Failure to ensure that the requisite court fees has been paid.
- Failure to serve notice to the Applicant as has been dictated by the provisions of Section 148-A of CPC, 1908.
- Failure to file the Caveat against application, rather, filing in support of application which is to be refrained.
- Failure to diligently file fresh Caveat if required within the expiry of the period of 90 days of previous Caveat that had been lodged.
Therefore, it is axiomatic that the right to lodge a Caveat is an invaluable instrument for upholding the rights of the Caveator as well as bolstering efficiency and speedy adjudication.Consequently, comprehensive knowledge of provisions in relation to Caveat is crucial. In this regard, the principle of caveat has been enunciated in the CPC, 1908 with the aim of exhaustively providing for the time limit applicable, eligibility to file Caveat, duties of the parties involved and circumstances that confer the right to file a Caveat. Moreover, the format and procedure of filing a Caveat is flexible and is largely determined by the respective Court which is approached by the Caveator. However, caution should prevail regarding common mistakes committed while filing Caveats and the Caveators must ensure that they staunchly refrain from committing the same.
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 HENRY CAMPBELL BLACK, BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 281(4th ed.,West Publishing Co., 1968).
 Reserve Bank of India Employees Association & Anr. v. Reserve Bank of India & Ors., C.R.P No.5994 of 1980(India).
 Nirmal Chandra Dutta v. Girindra Narayan Roy & Ors., AIR 1978 Cal 492(India).
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 Laxminarayan v.Shivlal Gujar, AIR 2003 MP 49 (India).
 Deepak Khosla v. UOI, (2000) 1 SCC 607(India).
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Authored By: Vrinda Bhandarkar, 8th Semester, SDM Law College, Mangalore