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foreign judgment


Supreme Court of India

R. Viswanathan vs Rukn-Ul-Mulk Syed Abdul Wajid on 4 May, 1962


The language of a. 13 speaks not of the judgment but "'matter thereby directly adjudicated upon" and the word ',,any" shows that all the adjudicative parts of the judgment are equally conclusive.


Supreme Court in R. Vishvanathan v. Rukh-ul-Mulk Syed Abdul Wajid, AIR 1963 SC 1, for the proposition that in considering whether a judgment of a foreign court is conclusive, the courts in India will not inquire whether the conclusions recorded thereby are supported by the evidence, or are otherwise correct, because the binding character of the judgment may be displaced only by establishing that the case falls within one or more of the six clauses of section 13, and not otherwise. The court held that the foreign judgment is conclusive as to any matter directly adjudicated upon thereby; but it does not include the reasons for the judgment given by the foreign court. What is conclusive under section 13 of the Code is the judgment, that is, the final adjudication and not the reasons. The court held that by section 13 of the Code, a foreign judgment is made conclusive as to any matter thereby directly adjudicated upon between the same parties. But it is the essence of a judgment of a Court that it must be obtained after due observance of the judicial process, that is, the Court rendering the judgment must observe the minimum requirements of natural justice - it must be composed of impartial persons, acting fairly, without bias, and in good faith, it must give reasonable notice to the parties to the dispute and afford each party adequate opportunity of presenting his case. A foreign judgment of a competent court is conclusive even if it C/FA/2696/2018 JUDGMENT proceeds on an erroneous view of the evidence or the law, if the minimum requirements of the judicial process are assured: correctness of the judgment in law or on evidence is not predicated as a condition for recognition of its conclusiveness by the municipal court. Neither the foreign substantive law, nor even the procedural law of the trial need be the same or similar as in the municipal court.


R. Viswanathan vs. Rukn-ul-Mulk Syed Abdul Wajid reported in 1963 (3) S.C.R. 22. Undoubtedly the burden of proving that the decree is not on merits would be on the party alleging it. However Courts never expect impossible proofs. It would never be possible for a party to lead evidence about the state of mind of the judge who passed the decree. Of course, amongst other things, the party must show that the decree does not show that it is on merits, if necessary the rules of that Court, the existence or lack of existence of material before the Court when the decree was passed and the manner in which the decree is passed. All this has been done in this case. It was also submitted that the Courts of law are not concerned with the result and even though the result may be repugnant to the Court, still the Court cannot relieve the party from the burden if the law provides for a contingency. In support of this reliance was placed upon the case of The Martin Burn Ltd. vs. Corporation of Calcutta reported in AIR 1966 S.C. 529 and Firm Amar Nath Basheshar Dass v. Tek Chand reported in AIR 1972 S.C. 1548. There can be no dispute to this proposition. However this proposition cuts both ways. If the decree is not on merits then, even though the Court may be reluctant to leave the Respondents remedy less, the Court would still have to refuse to enforce the decree. In support of the proposition that such a decree could not be a decree on merits.



In the case of Algemene Bank Nederland NV v. Satish Dayalal Choksi reported in AIR 1990 Bombay 170. In this case a summary suit had been filed in Hong Kong. In that suit leave to defend was granted to the defence. Thus the High Court had prima facie considered the merits of the matter and had granted unconditional leave. Thereafter the defendant filed a written statement. It appears that the defendant applied to the Reserve Bank of India for foreign exchange in order to engage lawyer in Hong Kong and his application was not granted by the Reserve Bank of India. As a result the defendant could not appear at the trial and an ex parte decree came to be passed against the defendant. The question which arose before the Court was whether such a decree could be said to be a decree on merits. A large number of authorities were cited before that Court and it was ultimately held as follows :


"28. In the light of these authorities I have to see whether in the present case the Hong Kong court gave its decision on the merits of the controversy. The Hong Kong Court had before it the defence which was filed by the present defendant. The defence questioned the execution of the guarantee to repay the debts of Madhusudan & Co. Ltd. The entry of 7.4.85 in the Register of Guarantees was also questioned by the defendant. In the absence of the defendant, these contentions raised by him could not have been considered. The judgment which is before me does not indicate whether actually any evidence was led before the Hong Kong Court and whether the Court went into the merits of the case. The judgment merely sets out that "on the defendant's failure to appear and upon proof of plaintiff's claim," the judgment is entered for the plaintiff. The plaintiff-Bank has emphasised the words "upon proof of plaintiff's claim". They have also produced the original guarantee which bears in one corner a sticker showing that it was exhibited before the Hong Kong Court. The plaintiff-Bank has not said in its affidavit that the documents which were tendered before the court were properly proved or that anybody on behalf of the bank had given evidence to establish the plaintiff's claim. This becomes relevant because it is the contention of the defendant that the guarantee which he had given was a blank and undated guarantee. It had been misused by the plaintiff-Bank in the present case. The defendant has also relied upon alterations and erasures in the plaintiff-Bank's register of guarantees to show that this undated guarantee was subsequently entered in the register by altering another entry to indicate that it was given around 7th April 1985. There is no material to show that these aspects of the dispute were ever examined by the Hong Kong Court. The Court seems to have proceeded to pronounce the judgment in view of the defendant's failure to appear at the hearing of the case to defend the claim on merits.


29. In my view, in these circumstances, the case before me falls under the ratio laid down by the Privy Council in Keymer's case (AIR 1916 P.C. 121). The decision of the Hong Kong Court is not given on examination of the points at controversy between the parties. It seems to have been given ex parte on the basis of the plaintiff's pleadings and documents tendered by the plaintiff without going into the controversy between the parties since the defendant did not appear at the time of the hearing of the suit to defend the claim. The present judgment, therefore, is not a judgment on the merits of the case. Hence this is not a fit case where leave can be granted under Order 21 Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure for the purpose of executing the decree here."



Supreme Court in M/s. Alcon Electronics Pvt. Ltd. v. Celem S.A. of FOS 34320 Roujan, France, (2017) 2 SCC 253, wherein the court held that a plain reading of section 13 of the Code would show that to be conclusive an order or decree must have been obtained after following the due judicial process by giving reasonable notice and opportunity to all the proper and necessary parties to put forth their case. When once these requirements are fulfilled, the executing court cannot enquire into the validity, legality or otherwise of the judgment. It was accordingly, urged that the impugned judgment and decree passed by the trial court deserves to be quashed and set aside and that the appeal deserves to be allowed by decreeing the suit in favour of the appellant.



Supreme Court of India

Y. Narasimha Rao And Ors vs Y. Venkata Lakshmi And Anr on 9 July, 1991


Under Section 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 (hereinafter referred to as the ``Code''), a foreign judgment is not conclusive as to any matter thereby directly adjudicated upon between the parties if (a) it has not been pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction;


(b) it has not been given on the merits of the case; (c) it is founded on an incorrect view of international law or a refusal to recognize the law of India in cases in which such law is applicable; (d) the proceedings are opposed to natural justice, (e) it is obtained by fraud, (f) it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India.


We believe that the relevant provisions of Section 13 of the Code are capable of being interpreted to secure the required certainty in the sphere of this branch of law in conformity with public policy, justice, equity and good conscience, and the rules so evolved will protect the sanctity of the institution of marriage and the unity of family which are the corner stones of our societal life. Clause (a) of Section 13 states that a foreign judgment shall not be recognised if it has not been pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction. We are of the view that this clause should be interpreted to mean that only that court will be a court of competent jurisdiction which the Act or the law under which the parties are married recognises as a court of competent jurisdiction to entertain the matrimonial dispute. Any other court should be held to be a court without jurisdiction unless both parties voluntarily and unconditionally subject themselves to the jurisdiction of that court. The expression ``competent court'' in Section 41 of the Indian Evidence Act has also to be construed likewise.


Clause (b) of Section 13 states that if a foreign has not been given on the merits of the case, the courts in this country will not recognise such judgment. This clause should be interpreted to mean (a) that the decision of the foreign court should be on a ground available under the law under which the parties are married, and (b) that the decision should be a result of the contest between the parties. The latter requirement is fulfilled only when the respondent is duly served and voluntarily and unconditionally submits himself/herself to the jurisdiction of the court and contests the claim, or agrees to the passing of the decree with or without appearance. A mere filing of the reply to the claim under protest and without submitting to the jurisdiction of the court, or an appearance in the Court either in person or through a representative for objecting to the jurisdiction of the Court, should not be considered as a decision on the merits of the case. In this respect the general rules of the acquiescence to the jurisdiction of the Court which may be valid in other matters and areas should be ignored and deemed inappropriate.


The second part of clause (c) of Section 13 states that where the judgment is founded on a refusal to recognise the law of this country in cases in which such law is applicable, the judgment will not be recognised by the courts in this country. The marriages which take place in this country can only be under either the customary or the statutory law in force in this country. Hence, the only law that can be applicable to the matrimonial disputes is the one under which the parties are married, and no other law. When, therefore, a foreign judgment is founded on a jurisdiction or on ground not recognised by such law, it is a judgment which is in defiance of the Law. Hence, it is not conclusive of the matters adjudicated therein and therefore, unenforceable in this country. For the same reason, such a judgment will also be unenforceable under clause (f) of Section 13, since such a judgment would obviously be in breach of the matrimonial law in force in this country.


Clause (d) of Section 13 which makes a foreign judgment unenforceable on the ground that the proceedings in which it is obtained are opposed to natural justice, states no more than an elementary principle on which any civilised system of justice rests. However, in matters concerning the family law such as the matrimonial disputes, this principle has to b extended to mean something more than mere compliance with the technical rules of procedure. If the rule of audi alteram partem has any meaning with reference to the proceedings in a foreign court, for the purposes of the rule it should not be deemed sufficient that the respondent has been duly served with the process of the court. It is necessary to ascertain whether the respondent was in a position to present or represent himself/herself and contest effectively the said proceedings. This requirement should apply equally to the appellate proceedings if and when they are file by either party. If the foreign court has not ascertained and ensured such effective contest by requiring the petitioner to make all necessary provisions for the respondent to defend including the costs of travel, residence and litigation where necessary, it should be held that the proceedings are in breach of the principles of natural justice. It is for this reason that we find that the rules of Private International Law of some countries insist, even in commercial matters, that the action should be filed in the forum where the defendant is either domiciled or is habitually resident. It is only in special cases which is called special jurisdiction where the claim has some real link with other forum that a judgment of such forum is recognised. This jurisdiction principle is also recognised by the Judgments Convention of this European Community . If, therefore, the courts in this country also insist as a matter of rule that foreign matrimonial judgment will be recognised only it it is of the forum where the respondent is domiciled or habitually and permanently resides, the provisions of clause (d) may be held to have been satisfied. The provision of clause (e) of Section 13 which requires that the courts in this country will not recognise a foreign judgment if it has been obtained by fraud, is self-evident. However, in view of the decision of this Court in Smt. Satya v. Teja Singh, it must be understood that the fraud need not be only in relation to the merits of the mater but may also be in relation to jurisdictional facts.


13. From the aforesaid discussion the following rule can be deduced for recognising foreign matrimonial judgment in this country. The jurisdiction assumed by the foreign court as well as the grounds on which the relief is granted must be in accordance with the matrimonial law under which the parties are married. The exceptions to this rule may be as follows: (i) where the matrimonial action is filed in the forum where the respondent is domiciled or habitually and permanently resides and the relief is granted on a ground available in the matrimonial law under which the parties are married; (ii) where the respondent voluntarily and effectively submits to the jurisdiction of the forum as discussed above and contests the claim which is based on a ground available under the matrimonial law under which the parties are married; (iii) where the respondent consents to the grant of the relief although the jurisdiction of the forum is not in accordance with the provisions of the matrimonial law of the parties.


The aforesaid rule with its stated exceptions has the merit of being just and equitable. It does no injustice to any of the parties. The parties do and ought to know their rights and obligations when they marry under a particular law. They cannot be heard to make a grievance about it later or allowed to bypass it by subterfuges as in the present case. The rule also has an advantage of rescuing the institution of marriage from the uncertain maze of the rules of the Private International Law of the different countries with regard to jurisdiction and merits based variously on domicile, nationality, residence-permanent or temporary or ad hoc forum, proper law etc. and ensuring certainty in the most vital field of national life and conformity with public policy. The rule further takes account of the needs of modern life and makes due allowance to accommodate them. Above all, it gives protection to women, the most vulnerable section of our society, whatever the strata to which they may belong. In particular it frees them from the bondage of the tyrannical and servile rule that wife's domicile follows that of her husband and that it is the husband's domicilliary law which determines the jurisdiction and judges the merits of the case.


Since with regard to the jurisdiction of the forum as well as the ground on which it is passed the foreign decree in the present case is not in accordance with the Act under which the parties were married, and the respondent had not submitted to the jurisdiction of the court or consented to its passing, it cannot be recognised by the courts in this country and is, therefore, unenforceable.


Under Section 74(1)(iii) of the Indian Evidence Act (Hereinater referred to as the "Act") documents forming the acts or records of the acts of public judicial officers of a foreign country are public documents. Under Section 76 read with Section 77 of the Act, certified copies of such documents may be produced in proof of their contents. However, under Section 86 of the Act there is presumption with regard to the genuineness and accuracy of such certified copy only if it is also certified by the representative of our Central Government in or for that country that the manner in which it has been certified is commonly in use in that country for such certification.


Section 63(1) and (2) read with Section 65(e) and (f) of the Act permits certified copies and copies made from the original by mechanical process to be tendered as secondary evidence. A photostat copy is prepared by a mechanical process which in itself ensures the accuracy of the original. The present photostat copies of the judicial record of the Court of St. Louis is certified for the Circuit Clerk by the Deputy Clerk who is a public officer having the custody of the document within the meaning of Section 76 of the Act and also in the manner required by the provisions of the said section. Hence the Photostat copy per se is not inadmissible in evidence. It is inadmissible because it has not further been certified by the representative of our Central Government in the United States as required by Section 86 of the Act. The expression "certified copy" of a foreign judgment in Section 14 of the Code has to be read consistent with the requirement of Section 86 of the Act.


While, therefore, holding that the document is not admissible in evidence for want of the certificate under Section 86 of the Act and not because it is a photostat copy of the original as held by the High Court.


Supreme Court of India

Satya vs Teja Singh on 1 October, 1974

But an awareness of foreign law in a parallel jurisdiction would be a useful guideline in determining these rules. We are sovereign with our territory but "it is no derogation of sovereignty to take account of foreign law" and as said by Cardozo J. "We are not so provincial as to say that every solution of a problem is wrong because we deal with it otherwise at home"; and we shall not brush aside foreign judicial processes unless doing so "would violate some fundamental principle of justice, some prevalent conception of good morals, some deep rooted tradition of the common weal."

Under section 13(e), Civil Procedure Code, the foreign judgment is open to challenge "where it has been obtained by fraud". Fraud as to the merits of the respondent's case may be ignored and his allegation that he and his wife "have lived separate and apart for more than, three (3) consecutive years without cohabitation and that there is no possibility of a reconciliation" may be assumed to be true. But fraud as to the jurisdiction of the Nevada court is a vital consideration in the recognition of the decree passed by that court. It is therefore relevant that the respondent successfully invoked the jurisdiction of the Nevada court by lying to it on jurisdictional facts. In the Duchess of Kingston's Case,(':) De Grey C.J. explained the nature of fraud in this context in reference to the judgment of a spiritual court. That judgment, said the learned Chief Justice, though yes judicature and not impeachable from within, might be impeachable from without. In other words, though it was not permissible to allege that the court was "mistaken", it was permissible to allege that the court was "misled". The essential distinction thus was between mistake and trickery. The appellant's contention is not directed to showing that the Nevada court was mistaken but to showing that it was imposed upon.


Section 41 of the Indian Evidence Act provides, to the extent material, that a. final judgment of a competent court in the exercise of matrimonial jurisdiction is conclusive proof that the legal character which it confers or takes away accrued or ceased at the time declared in the judgment for that purpose. But the judgment has to be of a "competent Court", that is, a court having jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter. Even a judgment in rem is therefore open to attack on the ground that the court which gave it had no jurisdiction to do so. In R. Viswanathan v. Rukn-ul-Mulk Syed Abdul Majid(1) this Court held that "a judgment of a foreign court to be conclusive between the parties must be a judgment pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction and competence contemplated by section 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure is in an international sense and not merely by the law of foreign State in which the Court delivering judgment functions". In fact section 44 of the Evidence Act gives to any party to a suit or proceeding the right to show that the judgment which is relevant under section 41 "was delivered by a court not competent to deliver it, or was obtained by fraud or collusion". It is therefore wrong to think that judgments in rem are inviolable. Fraud, in any case bearing on jurisdictional facts, vitiates all judicial acts whether in rem or in personam.


Supreme Court of India

A.V. Papayya Sastry & Ors vs Government Of A.P. & Ors on 7 March, 2007

Now, it is well settled principle of law that if any judgment or order is obtained by fraud, it cannot be said to be a judgment or order in law. Before three centuries, Chief Justice Edward Coke proclaimed; "Fraud avoids all judicial acts, ecclesiastical or temporal".


It is thus settled proposition of law that a judgment, decree or order obtained by playing fraud on the Court, Tribunal or Authority is a nullity and non est in the eye of law. Such a judgment, decree or order by the first Court or by the final Court has to be treated as nullity by every Court, superior or inferior. It can be challenged in any Court, at any time, in appeal, revision, writ or even in collateral proceedings. In the leading case of Lazarus Estates Ltd. v. Beasley, (1956) 1 All ER 341 : (1956) 1 QB 702 : (1956) 2 WLR 502, Lord Denning observed:


"No judgment of a court, no order of a Minister, can be allowed to stand, if it has been obtained by fraud."


In Duchess of Kingstone, Smith's Leading Cases, 13th Edn., p.644, explaining the nature of fraud, de Grey, C.J. stated that though a judgment would be res judicata and not impeachable from within, it might be impeachable from without. In other words, though it is not permissible to show that the court was 'mistaken', it might be shown that it was 'misled'. There is an essential distinction between mistake and trickery. The clear implication of the distinction is that an action to set aside a judgment cannot be brought on the ground that it has been decided wrongly, namely, that on the merits, the decision was one which should not have been rendered, but it can be set aside, if the court was imposed upon or tricked into giving the judgment. It has been said; Fraud and justice never dwell together (fraus et jus nunquam cohabitant); or fraud and deceit ought to benefit none (fraus et dolus nemini patrocinari debent).


Fraud may be defined as an act of deliberate deception with the design of securing some unfair or undeserved benefit by taking undue advantage of another. In fraud one gains at the loss of another. Even most solemn proceedings stand vitiated if they are actuated by fraud. Fraud is thus an extrinsic collateral act which vitiates all judicial acts, whether in rem or in personam. The principle of 'finality of litigation' cannot be stretched to the extent of an absurdity that it can be utilized as an engine of oppression by dishonest and fraudulent litigants.


In S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu (dead) by LRs. V. Jagannath (dead) by LRs. & Ors. (1994) 1 SCC 1 : JT 1994 (6) SC 331, this Court had an occasion to consider the doctrine of fraud and the effect thereof on the judgment obtained by a party. In that case, one A by a registered deed, relinquished all his rights in the suit property in favour of C who sold the property to B. Without disclosing that fact, A filed a suit for possession against B and obtained preliminary decree. During the pendency of an application for final decree, B came to know about the fact of release deed by A in favour of C. He, therefore, contended that the decree was obtained by playing fraud on the court and was a nullity. The trial court upheld the contention and dismissed the application. The High Court, however, set aside the order of the trial court, observing that "there was no legal duty cast upon the plaintiff to come to court with a true case and prove it by true evidence". B approached this Court. Allowing the appeal, setting aside the judgment of the High Court and describing the observations of the High Court as 'wholly perverse', Kuldip Singh, J. stated: "The courts of law are meant for imparting justice between the parties. One who comes to the court, must come with clean-hands. We are constrained to say that more often than not, process of the court is being abused. Property-grabbers, tax- evaders, bank-loan- dodgers and other unscrupulous persons from all walks of life find the court - process a convenient lever to retain the illegal-gains indefinitely. We have no hesitation to say that a person, who's case is based on falsehood, has no right to approach the court. He can be summarily thrown out at any stage of the litigation".


(emphasis supplied) The Court proceeded to state: "A litigant, who approaches the court, is bound to produce all the documents executed by him which are relevant to the litigation. If he withholds a vital document in order to gain advantage on the other side then he would he guilty of playing fraud on the court as well as on the opposite party".


The Court concluded: "The principle of 'finality of litigation' cannot be pressed to the extent of such an absurdity that it becomes an engine of fraud in the hands of dishonest litigants".


In Indian Bank v. Satyam Fibres (India) Pvt. Ltd., (1996) 5 SCC 550 : JT 1996 (7) SC 135, referring to Lazarus Estates and Smith v. East Elloe Rural District Council, 1956 AC 336 : (1956) 1 All ER 855 : (1956) 2 WLR 888, this Court stated;


"The judiciary in India also possesses inherent power, specially under Section 151 C.P.C., to recall its judgment or order if it is obtained by Fraud on Court. In the case of fraud on a party to the suit or proceedings, the Court may direct the affected party to file a separate suit for setting aside the Decree obtained by fraud. Inherent powers are powers which are resident in all courts, especially of superior jurisdiction. These powers spring not from legislation but from the nature and the Constitution of the Tribunals or Courts themselves so as to enable them to maintain their dignity, secure obedience to its process and rules, protect its officers from indignity and wrong and to punish unseemly behaviour. This power is necessary for the orderly administration of the Court's business".


In United India Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Rajendra Singh & Ors., (2000) 3 SCC 581 : JT 2000 (3) SC 151, by practising fraud upon the Insurance Company, the claimant obtained an award of compensation from the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal. On coming to know of fraud, the Insurance Company applied for recalling of the award. The Tribunal, however, dismissed the petition on the ground that it had no power to review its own award. The High Court confirmed the order. The Company approached this Court.


Allowing the appeal and setting aside the orders, this Court stated;


"It is unrealistic to expect the appellant company to resist a claim at the first instance on the basis of the fraud because appellant company had at that stage no knowledge about the fraud allegedly played by the claimants. If the Insurance Company comes to know of any dubious concoction having been made with the sinister object of extracting a claim for compensation, and if by that time the award was already passed, it would not be possible for the company to file a statutory appeal against the award. Not only because of bar of limitation to file the appeal but the consideration of the appeal even if the delay could be condoned, would be limited to the issues formulated from the pleadings made till then.


Therefore, we have no doubt that the remedy to move for recalling the order on the basis of the newly discovered facts amounting to fraud of high degree, cannot be foreclosed in such a situation. No Court or tribunal can be regarded as powerless to recall its own order if it is convinced that the order was wangled through fraud or misrepresentation of such a dimension as would affect the very basis of the claim.


The allegation made by the appellant Insurance Company, that claimants were not involved in the accident which they described in the claim petitions, cannot be brushed aside without further probe into the matter, for, the said allegation has not been specifically denied by the claimants when they were called upon to file objections to the applications for recalling of the awards. Claimants then confined their resistance to the plea that the application for recall is not legally maintainable. Therefore, we strongly feel that the claim must be allowed to be resisted, on the ground of fraud now alleged by the Insurance Company. If we fail to afford to the Insurance Company an opportunity to substantiate their contentions it might certainly lead to serious miscarriage of justice".



ADVANCED POINTS :

Bombay High Court in the case of Marine Geotechnics LLC v. Coastal Marine Construction & Engineering Ltd., rendered on C/FA/2696/2018 JUDGMENT 5.3.2014 in Company Petition No.69 of 2013 wherein the court held thus:-


"20. Section 13 enunciates the well-established principle of private international law that a court will not enforce a foreign judgment that is not of a competent court. What that section provides is, therefore, substantive law, not mere procedure (Raj Rajendra Sardar Maloji Marsingh Rao Shitole vs Sri Shankar Saran and Ors., AIR 1962 SC 1737). Now Section 13 makes no distinction between judgments of a court in a reciprocating territory and those of courts in non-reciprocating territories. That distinction comes only in Section 44A, an independent provision that says that a decree of a court in a reciprocating state may be put into execution in India (M.V. Al Quamar v Tsavliris Salvage (International) Ltd. & Ors., AIR 2000 SC 2826). A decree from a non-reciprocating state cannot be so executed. Decrees of both reciprocating and non-reciprocating territories must, however, satisfy the tests of Section 13. The difference is at what stage, and on whom lies the burden. Where a foreign judgment is not on merits, or violates any of the provisions of sub-clauses (a) to (f ) of Section 13, it is not conclusive, even though it may accord with the domestic procedure of the country in which it was passed and is valid and enforceable in that country. An ex- parte decree is not necessarily one that is always, and ipso facto, not on merits. If a court has considered and weighed the plaintiffs' case and assessed his evidence, it will be on merits, notwithstanding that it is ex-parte. Where however, there is a summary disposal of the case under some special statutory provision that obviates an examination of the merits and the taking of evidence, such a decree is not executable in India. Thus, for instance, if there is an immediate default summary judgment only on account of the defendants' failure to appear and without any examination of the material or the evidence, that judgment is not enforceable in India (International Woollen Mills, supra). In short, if a foreign judgment falls under any of the Clauses (a) to (f) of Section 13, it is not conclusive as to any matter thereby adjudicated upon. The judgment is open to collateral attack on the grounds mentioned in the clauses of Section 13 (Smt. Satya v Shri Teja Singh, (1975) 1 SCC 120). The elaborate discussion by the Supreme Court in International C/FA/2696/2018 JUDGMENT Woollen Mills v Standard Wool (UK) Ltd (AIR 2001 SC 2134; (2001) 5 SCC 265; cited in China Shipping and Intesa).ultimately leads to one pithy conclusion: a decree that follows a judgment that is not on merits cannot be enforced in India:

... Even where the defendant chooses to remain ex parte and to keep out, it is possible for the plaintiff to adduce evidence in support of his claim (and such evidence is generally insisted on by the Courts in India), so that the Court may give a decision on the merits of his case after a due consideration of such evidence instead of dispensing with such consideration and giving a decree merely on account of the default of appearance of the defendant.

In the former case the judgment will be one on the merits of the case, while in the latter the judgment will be one not on the merits of the case. Thus it is obvious that the non-appearance of the defendant will not by itself determine the nature of the judgment one way or the other. That appears to be the reason why Section 13 does not refer to ex parte judgments falling under a separate category by themselves (emphasis supplied)

21. Armed with a decree of a court in a non-

reciprocating foreign territory, what must a party do in India? His option is to file, in a domestic Indian court of competent jurisdiction, a suit on that foreign decree, or on the original, underlying cause of action, or both (Badat and Co. v East India Trading Co., AIR 1964 SC 538, 1964 (66) BLR 402). He cannot simply execute such a foreign decree. He can only execute the resultant domestic decree. To obtain that decree, he must show that the foreign decree, if he sues on it, satisfies the tests of Section 13. If the decree is, on the other hand, of a court in a reciprocating territory, then he can straightaway put it into execution, following the procedure under section 44A and Order XXI, Rule 22 of the CPC. At that time, the judgment-debtor can resist the decree-holder by raising any of the grounds under Section 13. If he does not, or fails in his attempt, the decree will be executed as if it were a decree passed by a competent court in India."



In Marine Geotechnics LLC v. Coastal Marine Construction & Engineering Ltd. -, a learned Single Judge of the Bombay High Court held that an ex-parte decree is not necessarily one that is always, and ipso facto, not on merits. If a court has considered and weighed the plaintiffs' case and assessed his evidence, it will be on merits, notwithstanding that it is ex-parte. If there is an immediate default summary judgment only on account of the defendants' failure to appear and without examination of the material or C/FA/2696/2018 JUDGMENT the evidence, that judgment is not enforceable in India. The court held that even where the defendant chooses to remain ex parte and to keep out, it is possible for the plaintiff to adduce evidence in support of his claim so that the court may give a decision on merits of his case after a due consideration of such evidence instead of dispensing with such consideration and giving a decree merely on account of the default of appearance of the defendant. In the former case the judgment will be one on the merits of the case, while in the latter, the judgment will be one not on the merits of the case. The court held that it is therefore obvious that the non-appearance of the defendant will not by itself determine the nature of the judgment one way or the other.




Supreme Court of India

M/S. International Woolen Mills vs M/S. Standard Wool (U.K.) Limited on 25 April, 2001

the court was considering an ex parte decree that came to be passed by the Central London County Court. The decree reads as follows:


"IT IS ORDERED THAT:

There be judgment for the plaintiff in the sum of US $ 49, 178.50 plus interest of US $ 17.00 ANF court costs. A total of US $ 49,895.50 plus £ 243:75."

The court held that to say that a decree has been passed regularly is completely different from saying that the decree has been passed on merits. An ex parte decree passed without consideration of merits may be a decree passed regular if permitted by the rules of that court. Such a decree would be valid in that country in which it is passed unless set aside by a court of appeal. However, even though it may be a valid and enforceable decree in that country, it would not be enforceable in India if it has not been passed on merits. Therefore, for a decision on the question whether a decree has been passed on merits or not, the presumption under section 114 would be of no help at all. The court held that undoubtedly the burden of proving that the decree is not on merits would be on the party alleging it. However, courts never expect impossible proofs. It would never be possible for a party to lead evidence about the mind of the Judge who passed the decree. Of course, amongst other things, the party must show that the decree does not show that it is on merits, if necessary the rules of that court, the existence or lack of existence of material before the court when the decree was passed and the manner in which the decree is passed. The court agreed with the view of the Orissa High Court in Trilochan Choudhury v. Dayanidhi Patra, AIR 1961 Orissa 158, wherein it has been held that under section 13(b) even an ex parte judgment in favour of the plaintiff may be deemed to be a judgment given on merits if some evidence is adduced on behalf of the plaintiff and the judgment, however brief, is based on a consideration of that evidence. Where, however, no evidence is adduced on the plaintiff's side and his suit is decreed merely because of the absence of the defendant either by way of penalty or in a formal manner, the judgment may not be one based on the merits of the case. The court referred to the decision of the Kerala High Court in Govindan Asari Kesavan Asari v. Sankaran Asari Balakrishnan Asari, AIR 1958 Kerala 203, wherein it was held that in construing section 13 of the Code, the court has to be guided by the plain meaning of the words and expressions used in the section itself, and not by other extraneous considerations. There is nothing in the section to suggest that the expression "judgment on the merits" has been used in contradistinction to a decision on a matter of form or by way of penalty. The court held that section prescribes the conditions to be satisfied by a foreign judgment in order to be accepted by an Indian court as conclusive between the parties thereto and between parties under whom they or any of them litigate under the same title. One such condition is that the judgment must have been given on the merits of the case. Whether the judgment is one on the merits must be apparent on the judgment itself. It is not enough if there is a decree or a decision by the foreign court. In fact, the word "decree" does not find a place anywhere in the section. What is required is that there must have been a judgment. What the nature of that judgment should also be indicated by the opening portion of the section where it is stated that the judgment must have been directly adjudicated upon questions arising between the parties. The court must have applied its mind to that matter and must have considered the evidence made available to it in order that it may be said that there has been an adjudication upon the merits of the case. It cannot be said that such a decision on the merits is possible only in cases where the defendant appears and contests the plaintiff's claim. Even where the defendant chooses to remain ex parte and keep out, it is possible for the plaintiff to adduce evidence in support of his claim, so that the court may give a decision on the merits of his case after a due consideration of such evidence instead of dispensing with such consideration and giving a decree merely on account of the default of appearance of the defendant. In the former case, the judgment will be one on the merits of the case, while in the latter the judgment will be one not on the merits of the case.


In R.M.V. Vellachi Achi v. R.M.A. Ramanathan Chettiar (supra), the Madras High Court held that it is clear from section 13(b) of the Code that the foreign judgment will be conclusive only if there was an adjudication between the same parties on the merits of the case. In other words, if the foreign judgment is not based upon the merits, whatever the procedure might be in the foreign country in passing judgment, those judgments will not be conclusive. It is, therefore, open to the party against whom such foreign decrees are sought to be executed under section 44A of the Code, to resist the execution on the ground that such foreign decrees are not conclusive as they are not passed on merits.





Authority lays down the correct proposition of law (approved by SC in International woolen Mills case (supra))



In the case of Trilochan Choudhury vs. Dayanidhi Patra reported in AIR 1961 Orissa 158, In this case it is held that under Section 13(6) even an ex parte judgment in favour of the plaintiff may be deemed to be a judgment given on merits if some evidence is adduced on behalf of the Plaintiffs and the judgment, however brief, is based on a consideration of that evidence. Where however no evidence is adduced on the plaintiff's side and his suit is decreed merely because of the absence of the defendant either by way of penalty or in a formal manner, the judgment may not be one based on the merits of the case. In our view this authority lays down the correct law. In the case of Govindan Asari Kesavan Asari vs. Sankaran Asari Balakrishnan Asari reported in AIR 1958 Kerala 203, it is held as follows :


"In construing S. 13 of the Indian Civil Procedure Code we have to be guided by the plain meaning of the words and expressions used in the section itself, and not by other extraneous considerations. There is nothing in the section to suggest that the expression judgment on the merits has been used in contradistinction to a decision on a matter of form or by way of penalty.


The section prescribes the conditions to be satisfied by a foreign judgment in order that it may be accepted by an Indian Court as conclusive between the parties thereto or between parties under whom they or any of them litigate under the same title. One such condition is that the judgment must have been given on the merits of the case. Whether the judgment is one on the merits, must be apparent from the judgment itself. It is not enough if there is a decree or a decision by the foreign Court. In fact, the word 'decree' does not find a place anywhere in the section. What is required is that there must have been a judgment. What the nature of that judgment should be is also indicated by the opening portion of the section where it is stated that the judgment must have directly adjudicated upon questions arising between the parties.


The Court must have applied its mind to that matter and must have considered the evidence made available to it in order that it may be said that there has been an adjudication upon the merits of the case. It cannot be said that such a decision on the merits is possible only in cases where the defendant enters appearance and contests the plaintiff's claim. Even where the defendant chooses to remain ex parte and to keep out, it is possible for the plaintiff to adduce evidence in support of his claim (and such evidence is generally insisted on by the Courts in India), so that the Court may give a decision on the merits of his case after a due consideration of such evidence instead of dispensing with such consideration and giving a decree merely on account of the default of appearance of the defendant.


In the former case the judgment will be one on the merits of the case, while in the latter the judgment will be one not on the merits of the case. Thus it is obvious that the non-appearance of the defendant will not by itself determine the nature of the judgment one way or the other. That appears to be the reason why S. 13 does not refer to ex parte judgments falling under a separate category by themselves. A foreign Court may have its own special procedure enabling it to give a decision against the defendant who has failed to appear in spite of the summons served on him and in favour of the plaintiff, even without insisting on any evidence in support of his claim in the suit.


Such a judgment may be conclusive between the parties so far as that jurisdiction is concerned, but for the purpose of S. 13 of the Indian Civil Procedure Code such a judgment cannot be accepted as one given on the merits of the case, and to that extent the law in India is different from the law in other jurisdictions where foreign judgments given for default of appearance of defendants are also accepted as final and conclusive between the parties thereto. This position was noticed and recognised in AIR 1927 Mad 265 (D). The contention that the defendant who had chosen to remain ex parte, must be taken to have admitted the plaint claim was also repelled in that case as unsound and untenable. His non-appearance can only mean that he is not inclined to come forward and contest the claim or even to admit it.


His attitude may be one of indifference in that matter, leaving the responsibility on the plaintiff to prove his claim if he wants to get a decree in his favour. Such indifference on the part of the defendant cannot necessarily lead to the inference that he has admitted the plaintiff's claim. Admission of the claim is a positive act and it cannot be inferred from any negative or indifferent attitude of the person concerned. To decree the plaint claim solely on account of the default of the defendant and without considering the question whether the claim is well-founded or not and whether there is any evidence to sustain it, can only mean that such a decree is passed against the defendant by way of penalty.


It will not satisfy even the minimum requirements of a judgment on the merits of the claim. What such requirements are, have been explained in Abdul Rehman v. Md. Ali Rowther, AIR 1923 Rang 319 (J), in the following terms :


"A decision on the merits involves the application of the mind of the Court to the truth or falsity of the plaintiff's case and therefore though a judgment passed after a judicial consideration of the matter by taking evidence may be a decision on the merits even though passed ex parte, a decision passed without evidence of any kind but passed only on his pleadings cannot be held to be a decision on the merits."


The same view was taken by the Patna high Court also in Wazir Sahu v. Munshi Das, AIR 1941 Pat. 109 (K), where the question when an ex parte decision can be said to be on the merits, was answered as follows :


"An ex parte decision may or may not be on the merits. The mere fact of its being ex parte will not in itself justify a finding that the decision was not on the merits. That is not the real test. The real test is not whether the decision was or was not ex parte, but whether it was merely formally passed as a matter of course or by way of penalty or it was based on the consideration of the truth or otherwise of the plaintiff's claim."


Supreme Court of India

Lmj International Ltd vs Sleepwell Industries Co. Ltd on 20 February, 2019

The Supreme Court has observed that piecemeal consideration of the issue of maintainability of the execution case concerning the foreign awards, in the first place; and then the issue of enforceability thereof, is not envisaged under the scheme of Section 48 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.

Court dealt with the argument that, in earlier round of proceedings, the objections to execution case were limited to the questions of maintainability of the execution case on grounds as were urged at the relevant time and not in reference to the enforceability of the subject foreign awards as such. The High Court had held that the application filed questioning enforceability of the foreign award deserves to be rejected, being barred by constructive res judicata.


" Be that as it may, the grounds urged by the petitioner in the earlier round regarding the maintainability of the execution case could not have been considered in isolation and de hors the issue of enforceability of the subject foreign awards. For, the same was intrinsically linked to the question of enforceability of the subject foreign awards. In any case, all contentions available to the petitioner in that regard could and ought to have been raised specifically and, if raised, could have been examined by the Court at that stage itself. We are of the considered opinion that the scheme of Section 48 of the Act does not envisage piecemeal consideration of the issue of maintainability of the execution case concerning the foreign awards, in the first place; and then the issue of enforceability thereof. Whereas, keeping in mind the legislative intent of speedy disposal of arbitration proceedings and limited interference by the courts, the Court is expected to consider both these aspects simultaneously at the threshold. Taking any other view would result in encouraging successive and multiple round of proceedings for the execution of foreign awards. We cannot countenance such a situation keeping in mind the avowed object of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, in particular, while dealing with the enforcement of foreign awards. For, the scope of interference has been consciously constricted by the legislature in relation to the execution of foreign awards. Therefore, the subject application filed by the petitioner deserves to be rejected, being barred by constructive res judicata, as has been justly observed by the High Court in the impugned judgment."

(Court also imposed a cost of Rs 20 lakh)



ANTI SUIT INJUNCTIONS : (practice purpose only)

Supreme Court of India

Modi Entertainment Network & Anr vs W.S.G.Cricket Pte. Ltd on 21 January, 2003

The principles and guidelines laid down by the courts for grant of an anti-suit injunction were considered by the Supreme Court in Modi Entertainment Networks case had delineated the following principles which emerged as under:-


"28. From the above discussion the following principles emerge:

(1) In exercising discretion to grant an anti-suit injunction the court must be satisfied of the following aspects:-

(a) the defendant, against whom injunction is sought, is amenable to the personal jurisdiction of the court;

(b) if the injunction is declined the ends of justice will be defeated and injustice will be perpetuated; and

(c) the principle of comity -- respect for the court in which the commencement or continuance of action/proceeding is sought to be restrained -- must be borne in mind;

(2) in a case where more forums than one are available, the Court in exercise of its discretion to grant anti-suit injunction will examine as to which is the appropriate forum (Forum conveniens) having regard to the convenience of the parties and may grant anti-suit injunction in regard to proceedings which are oppressive or vexations or in a forum non-conveniens;

(3) Where jurisdiction of a court is invoked on the basis of jurisdiction clause in a contract, the recitals therein in regard to exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction of the court of choice of the parties are not determinative but are relevant factors and when a question arises as to the nature of jurisdiction agreed to between the parties the court has to decide the same on a true interpretation of the contract on the facts and in the circumstances of each case;

(4) a court of natural jurisdiction will not normally grant anti- suit injunction against a defendant before it where parties have greed to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of a court including a foreign court, a forum of their choice in regard to the commencement or continuance of proceedings in the court of choice, save in an exceptional case for good and sufficient reasons, with a view to prevent injustice in circumstances such as which permit a contracting party to be relieved of the burden of the contract; or since the date of the contract the circumstances or subsequent events have made it impossible for the party seeking injunction to prosecute the case in the court of choice because the essence of the jurisdiction of the court does not exist or because of a vis major or force majeure and the like;

(5) where parties have agreed, under a non- exclusive jurisdiction clause, to approach a neutral foreign forum and be governed by the law applicable to it for the resolution of their disputes arising under the contract, ordinarily no anti- suit injunction will be granted in regard to proceedings in such a forum conveniens and favoured forum as it shall be presumed that the parties have thought over their convenience and all other relevant factors before submitting to non-exclusive jurisdiction of the court of their choice which cannot be treated just an alternative forum;

(6) a party to the contract containing jurisdiction clause cannot normally be prevented from approaching the court of choice of the parties as it would amount to aiding breach of the contract; yet when one of the parties to the jurisdiction clause approaches the court of choice in which exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction is created, the proceedings in that court cannot per se be treated as vexatious or oppressive nor can the court be said to be forum non-conveniens; and (7) the burden of establishing that the forum of the choice is a forum non- conveniens or the proceedings therein are oppressive or vexatious would be on the party so contending to aver and prove the same.

This case was dealing with a commercial arbitration where there was a written contract between the parties. However, the principles and discretion to be exercised by the Court while considering a prayer for grant of an anti-suit injunction remain the same. One aspect is that if the injunction is declined, the ends of justice would be defeated and injustice would be perpetuated; another aspect is the aspect of forum conveniens; in case there is more than one forum available, the Court in the exercise of its discretion while granting an anti-suit injunction will examine as to which is the most appropriate forum (forum conveniens) having regard to the convenience of the parties; it may grant anti-suit injunction in regard to proceedings which are oppressive or vexatious or in a forum non-conveniens.


The Apex Court in Modi Entertainment Networks had reiterated that the Courts in India like Court in England are courts of law and equity. The principles governing the grant of anti-suit injunction being essentially an equitable relief; the Courts in India have the powers to issue anti-suit injunction to a party over whom it has personal jurisdiction in an appropriate case; this is because the Courts of equity exercise jurisdiction in personam; this power has to be exercised sparingly where such an injunction is sought and if not granted, it would amount to the defeat of ends of justice and injustice would be perpetuated.




Supreme Court of India (facta and decision)

Modi Entertainment Network & Anr vs W.S.G.Cricket Pte. Ltd on 21 January, 2003

The short point that arises for consideration is: whether the Division Bench of the High Court erred in vacating the anti-suit injunction granted by a learned Single Judge restraining the respondent from proceeding with the action between the same parties pending in the English Court, the forum of their choice. It involves examination of the principles governing grant of an anti-suit injunction by a court of natural jurisdiction against a party to a suit before it restraining him from instituting and/or prosecuting the suit, between the same parties, if instituted, in a foreign court of choice of the parties. It will be appropriate to note, in brief, the factual background in which the aforesaid question has arisen. The International Cricket Conference (ICC) organised a tournament 'ICC Knockout Tournament' (referred to as, 'the Event') in Kenya between October 3 and 15, 2000. The respondent had the exclusive right to grant commercial rights relating to the Event. On September 21,2000, an agreement was entered into between the second appellant and the respondent granting exclusive licence to telecast the Event on Doordarshan and to sell advertisement slots thereon. The second appellant assigned its right under the said agreement to the first appellant on September 22, 2000. The agreement, inter alia, provided that the licence granted thereunder was restricted to exhibiting the Feed by terrestrial free to air television on Doordarshan only and the satellite broadcast licence for India was granted to "ESPN - Star Sports" (for short, 'ESPN'); the appellants were to pay a minimum guaranteed amount of USD 35 lakhs (Rs.15 crores); if the revenue derived by the appellants exceeded the aforementioned sum the parties would share the excess amount in the manner provided in the agreement. The Doordarshan used the PAS-4 Satellite to transmit the signal through its terrestrial transmitters. Soon after the commencement of the telecast the respondent registered a complaint with the Doordarshan that the signal was being received in the Middle East which would amount to breach of contract between the parties and violation of the licence granted to Middle East licensee, called upon the appellants to rectify the same and threatened that the Feed to the Doordarshan would be discontinued. The response of the Doordarshan that it was nothing but a natural spill over and that under the agreement such spill over of other satellite signals would not constitute a breach, was communicated to the respondent. However, the respondent was not satisfied with that explanation and kept on repeating the threat that if the Doordarshan did not switch from the PAS-4 satellite to the INSAT satellite it would discontinue the signal Feed to Doordarshan. It appears that during the period of the telecast nothing was done by the respondent pursuant to the threats. Even so, the appellants complained that on account of the open threats of the respondent the advertisers who had committed their advertisements on Doordarshan, pulled their advertisements out and switched them to ESPN and that caused tremendous loss of revenue to them. It was also alleged that diversion of advertisements from Doordarshan to ESPN enabled the respondent to benefit from the revenue sharing arrangement it had with ESPN. To resolve the disputes generated by cross allegations made by the parties against each other some negotiations were held and pursuant thereto the appellants paid, from time to time between December 2000 and February 2001, a sum of USD 7,13,714 to the respondent. They also addressed letters to the respondent seeking time till May 2001 to make payment of the balance amount.


While the matter stood thus, the appellants received a notice dated May 3, 2001 from the solicitors of the respondent demanding full minimum guaranteed amount. Anyhow, on May 9, 2001, the appellants filed a suit in the Bombay High Court claming, inter alia, damages for the loss of advertising revenue due to alleged illegal threats of the respondent. On November 22, 2001, the respondent also filed an action in the High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division (referred to as, 'the English Court'), praying for a money decree for the minimum guaranteed amount and took out writ of summons, calling upon the appellants to notify the English Court of their intention to contest jurisdiction; it was also stated therein that failure to do so would amount to submitting to jurisdiction of the English Court and rendering them liable to a default judgment. The appellants entered appearance before the English Court on January 9, 2002 and sought time till January 31, 2002. Despite this move, on January 15, 2002, the appellants took out motion in the Bombay High Court praying for anti-suit injunction against the respondent in regard to the action in the English Court on the ground that the Indian Court was a natural forum for the adjudication of the dispute and that continuance of the proceedings in the English Court would, on the facts of the case, be vexatious and oppressive. The respondent contested the motion relying on the non-exclusive jurisdiction clause in the contract. After hearing both the parties, a learned Single Judge of the Bombay High Court granted an ad-interim injunction on January 30, 2002, in terms of clause (a) and ordered notice of motion returnable within six weeks. Aggrieved by the said order of the learned Single Judge, the respondent filed an appeal before the High Court. With the consent of the parties the Division Bench of the High Court which heard the appeal, disposed of the notice of motion itself finally along with the appeal by order dated April 1, 2002. The Division Bench set aside the order of the learned Single Judge, dismissed the motion of the appellants and thus allowed the appeal. It is against that judgment and order of the Division Bench of the High Court that this appeal is directed.


Mr.Ashok H.Desai, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants, contended that the Indian Court was a natural and appropriate forum; the principle for granting anti-suit injunction was correctly noticed by the learned Single Judge who recorded the finding that the action initiated by the respondent in the English Court was vexatious and oppressive; the Division Bench without disturbing the said finding dismissed the motion erroneously taking the view that only if a party commenced litigation in a Foreign Court in breach of a contract stipulating that the Indian Courts would have exclusive jurisdiction, could an anti-suit injunction be granted. He submitted that reliance on Rule 32(4) of Dicey & Morris 'The Conflict of Laws' by the Division Bench was misconceived and that the correct rule applicable was Rule 31(5) which referred to the decision of the House of Lords in the case of Spiliada Maritime Corporation vs. Cansulex Ltd. [(1986) 3 All.ER 842] and of the Privy Council in SNI Aerospatiale vs. Lee Kui Jak & Anr. [(1987) 3 All.ER 510]. In his submission the English Court is a forum non-conveniens as the appellants have to take all the witnesses to London which would cause great inconvenience and economic loss and unless the court grants injunction against the respondent, it would result in disastrous consequences to the appellants. He further contended that the appellants could not have foreseen that the respondent who was contractually bound to supply Feed for telecast only through Doordarshan, would thereafter jeopardise the appellants' advertising revenue by publicly threatening to discontinue the signal Feed to Doordarshan on the alleged ground of spill over of the Doordarshan signal beyond India. He vehemently contended that the natural and appropriate forum which had jurisdiction to grant anti-suit injunction were Indian Courts so the Division Bench erred in dismissing the motion. He argued that the English Court had no nexus whatsoever with the parties or the subject-matter and that the contractual stipulation for non- exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts (without reference to English conflict of law rules) would not preclude the Indian2 Courts from granting anti-suit injunction.


Mr.Iqbal Chagla, the learned senior counsel for the respondent, argued that the prima facie finding of the learned Single Judge in regard to the action of the respondent in the English Court being vexatious and oppressive would not bind the learned Judge himself at the stage of final hearing of motion much less would it bind the Division Bench in appeal. According to the learned counsel the suit was filed in India to foreclose the right of the parties to approach the court of their choice, namely, the English Court. He pointed out that the parties had clearly stipulated in the contract for resolution of their disputes in accordance with the English Law and in the English Court, therefore, the appropriate forum would be the English Court. In any event, it being the court of choice of the parties no injunction could be granted against the respondent from prosecuting the case before that Court. It was submitted that the respondent continued the Feed during the stipulated period; the appellants had the advantage of telecasting the Event and receiving the benefit of the advertisement slots fully; they made payments till the end of February; and, therefore, they could not be allowed to evade the liability under the contract by seeking injunction. It was also submitted that the foreseeability test pleaded by the appellants was not relevant; the parties had chosen neutral forum in preference to natural forums - Indian Courts and Singapore Courts. In any event, submitted the learned counsel, when a party had approached an agreed jurisdiction under a contract, whether exclusive or non-exclusive, the other party could not be allowed to contend that the suit so filed was vexatious and oppressive; only in extra-ordinary and unforeseen circumstances which would justify a party to claim relief from its bargain of non-exclusive jurisdiction clause that an anti-suit injunction could be claimed but certainly not on the ground of convenience such as expenses and hardship of getting the witnesses to the agreed neutral forum. The Courts in India like the Courts in England are courts of both law and equity. The principles governing grant of injunction - an equitable relief - by a court will also govern grant of anti-suit injunction which is but a species of injunction. When a court restrains a party to a suit/proceeding before it from instituting or prosecuting a case in another court including a foreign court, it is called anti-suit injunction. It is a common ground that the Courts in India have power to issue anti-suit injunction to a party over whom it has personal jurisdiction, in an appropriate case. This is because courts of equity exercise jurisdiction in personam. However, having regard to the rule of comity, this power will be exercised sparingly because such an injunction though directed against a person, in effect causes interference in the exercise of jurisdiction by another court.


In regard to jurisdiction of courts under the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) over a subject- matter one or more courts may have jurisdiction to deal with it having regard to the location of immovable property, place of residence or work of a defendant or place where cause of action has arisen. Where only one Court has jurisdiction it is said to have exclusive jurisdiction; where more courts than one have jurisdiction over a subject-matter, they are called courts of available or natural jurisdiction. The growing global commercial activities gave rise to the practice of the parties to a contract agreeing beforehand to approach for resolution of their disputes thereunder, to either any of the available courts of natural jurisdiction and thereby create an exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction in one of the available forums or to have the disputes resolved by a foreign court of their choice as a neutral forum according to the law applicable to that court. It is a well-settled principle that by agreement the parties cannot confer jurisdiction, where none exists, on a court to which CPC applies, but this principle does not apply when the parties agree to submit to the exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction of a foreign court; indeed in such cases the English Courts do permit invoking their jurisdiction. Thus, it is clear that the parties to a contract may agree to have their disputes resolved by a Foreign Court termed as a 'neutral court' or 'court of choice' creating exclusive or non- exclusive jurisdiction in it.

In the instant case, though the learned single judge proceeded on the prima facie finding that the proceedings in the English Courts would be oppressive and vexatious, in our view, those findings, recorded at the stage of passing an ad-interim order, would not bind the same learned judge much less they would bind the appellate court or the parties thereto at subsequent stage of the same proceeding because it cannot operate as issue estoppel. It cannot be laid down as a general principle that once the parties have agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of a foreign court, the proceedings or the action brought either in the court of natural jurisdiction or in the court of choice will per se be oppressive or vexatious. It depends on the facts of each case and the question whether the proceedings in a Court are vexatious or oppressive has to be decided on the basis of the material brought before the court. Having perused the plaints in both the suits and the contract we are of the view that the proceeding in the English Court for recovery of the minimum guaranteed amount under the contract cannot, at this stage, be said to be oppressive or vexatious. It is true that the courts would be inclined to grant anti-suit injunction to prevent breach of contractual obligation to submit to the exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction of the court of choice of the parties but that is not the only ground on which anti-suit injunction can be granted. As is apparent the appellants brought the suit in the court of natural jurisdiction for adjudication of the disputes arising under the contract for which the parties have agreed to submit to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the English Court in accordance with English law though the English Court has no nexus with the parties or the subject-matter and is not the natural forum. But then the jurisdiction clause indicates that the intention of the parties is to have the disputes resolved in accordance with the principles of English law by an English Court. Unless good and sufficient reasons are shown by the appellants, the intention of the parties as evidenced by their contract must be given effect to. Even when the appellants had filed the suit earlier in point of time in the court of natural forum and the respondent brought action in the English Court which is the agreed forum or forum of the choice having regard to the expressed intention of the parties, no good and sufficient reason is made out to grant anti-suit injunction to restrain the respondent from prosecuting the English action as such an order would clearly be in breach of agreement and the court will not, except when proceedings in foreign court of choice result in perpetuating injustice aid a party to commit breach of the agreement. To apply the principle in Donohue's case good and sufficient reasons (strong reasons) should be shown to justify departure from the contractual obligations. Here, two contentions have been urged; the first is that the English Court is forum non-conveniens in view of the alleged breach of the agreement by the respondent in the manner not foreseen. This, in our view, is far from being a good and sufficient reason to ignore the jurisdiction clause. Even otherwise the fact that the parties had agreed to resolve their disputes arising under the agreement, shows that they had foreseen possible breach of agreement by any of the parties and provided for the resolution of the disputes which might arise therefrom. In the context, the foreseeability test would take in circumstances which render approaching the forum of choice impossible like the court of choice merging with other court and losing its identity or a vis major etc., which would make it impossible for the party seeking anti-suit injunction, to prosecute the case before the forum of choice. In our view, on the facts of this case, the foreseeability test cannot be extended to the manner of breach of the contract so as to turn the forum of choice into forum non-conveniens. Circumstances such as comparison of litigation expenses in England and in India or the hardship and incurring of heavy expenditure on taking the witnesses to the English Court, would be deemed to have been foreseen by the parties when they agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the English Court in accordance with the principles of English law and the said reasons cannot be valid grounds to interdict prosecution of the action in the English Court of choice. And the second is that English Court has no connection with either of the parties or the subject-matter and it is not a court of natural jurisdiction. This reason can be taken note of when strong reasons are shown to disregard the contractual obligation. It cannot be a good and sufficient reason in itself to justify the court of natural jurisdiction to interdict action in a foreign court of choice of the parties.


From the above discussion the following principles emerge :


(1) In exercising discretion to grant an anti-suit injunction the court must be satisfied of the following aspects : -


(a) the defendant, against whom injunction is sought, is amenable to the personal jurisdiction of the court;


(b) if the injunction is declined the ends of justice will be defeated and injustice will be perpetuated; and


(c) the principle of comity - respect for the court in which the commencement or continuance of action/proceeding is sought to be restrained - must be borne in mind;


(2) in a case where more forums than one are available, the Court in exercise of its discretion to grant anti-suit injunction will examine as to which is the appropriate forum (forum conveniens) having regard to the convenience of the parties and may grant anti-suit injunction in regard to proceedings which are oppressive or vexatious or in a forum non-conveniens;


(3) Where jurisdiction of a court is invoked on the basis of jurisdiction clause in a contract, the recitals therein in regard to exclusive or non-exclusive jurisdiction of the court of choice of the parties are not determinative but are relevant factors and when a question arises as to the nature of jurisdiction agreed to between the parties the court has to decide the same on a true interpretation of the contract on the facts and in the circumstances of each case;


(4) a court of natural jurisdiction will not normally grant anti-suit injunction against a defendant before it where parties have agreed to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of a court including a foreign court, a forum of their choice in regard to the commencement or continuance of proceedings in the court of choice, save in an exceptional case for good and sufficient reasons, with a view to prevent injustice in circumstances such as which permit a contracting party to be relieved of the burden of the contract; or since the date of the contract the circumstances or subsequent events have made it impossible for the party seeking injunction to prosecute the case in the court of choice because the essence of the jurisdiction of the court does not exist or because of a vis major or force majeure and the like; (5) where parties have agreed, under a non- exclusive jurisdiction clause, to approach a neutral foreign forum and be governed by the law applicable to it for the resolution of their disputes arising under the contract, ordinarily no anti- suit injunction will be granted in regard to proceedings in such a forum conveniens and favoured forum as it shall be presumed that the parties have thought over their convenience and all other relevant factors before submitting to non-exclusive jurisdiction of the court of their choice which cannot be treated just an alternative forum; (6) a party to the contract containing jurisdiction clause cannot normally be prevented from approaching the court of choice of the parties as it would amount to aiding breach of the contract; yet when one of the parties to the jurisdiction clause approaches the court of choice in which exclusive or non- exclusive jurisdiction is created, the proceedings in that court cannot per se be treated as vexatious or oppressive nor can the court be said to be forum non-conveniens; and (7) the burden of establishing that the forum of choice is a forum non-conveniens or the proceedings therein are oppressive or vexatious would be on the party so contending to aver and prove the same.



We, therefore, find no valid reasons to grant anti-suit injunction in favour of the appellants, in disregard of jurisdiction clause, to restrain the respondent from prosecuting the case in the foreign forum of the choice of the parties - the English Court.










In Oil and Natural Gas Commission vs. Western Company of North America [1987 (1) SCC 496], this Court considered the question of granting anti- suit injunction. The appellant, Oil and Natural Gas Commission, entered into a drilling contract with the respondent Western Company of USA. Pursuant to the contract the parties referred their disputes to arbitration, governed by the Indian Arbitration Act, 1940. A non-speaking award was made which was followed by supplementary award without affording any hearing to the parties. At the instance of the foreign company the awards were filed in the Bombay High Court. But thereafter the foreign company filed a plaint in the US District Court, New York, seeking an order confirming the awards and a judgment for payment of interest till the date of judgment and costs. The ONGC filed an application under the Indian Arbitration Act for setting aside the awards of the umpire in the Indian Court and further prayed for an interim anti-suit injunction restraining the foreign company from proceeding further with the plaint filed in the US Court. At the initial stage an interim injunction was granted by a learned Single Judge of the High Court but the same was vacated after contest. From the said order an appeal was taken to this Court. It was held by this Court that when it was necessary or expedient to do so or when the ends of justice so required, the High Court had undoubted jurisdiction to grant such an injunction and that it would be unfair to refuse the restraint order because the action in the foreign court would be oppressive in the facts and circumstances of the case. It was pointed out that although the Supreme Court would sparingly exercise its jurisdiction to restrain a party from proceeding further with an action in a Foreign Court, that case was one of those rare cases where the Court would be failing in its duty if it hesitated to grant the order of injunction. It was observed that since under the contract the parties were governed by the Indian Arbitration Act, and as such the Indian Courts had exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity and enforceability of the awards, the American Court had no jurisdiction in that behalf. The appellant invoked the jurisdiction of the New York Court to pronounce on the same question which was required to be pronounced upon by the Indian Court and if the restraint order was not granted serious prejudice would be occasioned and a party violating the very arbitration clause on the basis of which the award had come into existence would also secure an order enforcing the award from a foreign court. However, it may be pointed out that in that case there was no stipulation agreeing to non-exclusive jurisdiction in the Foreign Court.


In British Indian Steam Navigation Co.Ltd. vs. Shanmughavilas Cashew Industries & Ors. [1990 (3) SCC 481], the respondent purchased from East Africa a specified quantity of raw cashewnuts which were shipped in a vessel chartered by the appellant-company incorporated in England. The bills of lading incorporated a clause to the effect that the contract evidenced by it shall be governed by English law and disputes determined in England or, at the option of the carrier, at the port of destination according to English law to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the courts of any other country. There was short supply of cashewnuts so the first respondent filed a suit in the Court of Subordinate Judge, Cochin, seeking damages for the short supply. The appellant defended the suit on the ground that it was a mere charterer of the vessel and not the owner and that as per the bills of lading the court at Cochin had no jurisdiction and only the English Courts had jurisdiction. The suit was dismissed by the trial court, so also the appeal of the appellant by the High Court. On further appeal to this Court, it was held that for purposes of jurisdiction the action of the first respondent was an action in personam in Private International Law and that such action might be decided upon the parties themselves. The chosen court may be a court in the country of one or both the parties, or it may be a neutral forum. The jurisdiction clause may provide for submission to the courts of a particular country or to a court identified by a formula. It is a question of interpretation, governed by the proper law of the contract, whether a jurisdiction clause is exclusive or non- exclusive, or whether the claim which is the subject-matter of the action falls within its terms. If there is no express choice of the proper law of the contract, the law of the country of the chosen court will usually, but not invariably, be the proper law.


In SNI Aerospatiale's case (supra), the Privy Council laid down the principles to be applied by a Court in deciding whether to restrain foreign proceeding. They are as follows :


"The principles applicable to the grant by an English Court of an injunction to restrain the commencement or continuance of proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction were not the same as those applicable to the grant of a stay of English proceedings in favour of a more appropriate foreign forum, and where a remedy for a particular wrong was available both in an English Court and a foreign court the English Court would normally only restrain the plaintiff from pursuing the foreign proceedings if it would be vexatious or oppressive for him to do so."


In that case, a passenger in a helicopter was killed when it crashed in Brunei. The helicopter was manufactured in France by a French Company which had a subsidiary in Texas to whom the helicopter was sold. At the time of the crash, the helicopter was owned by an English company and operated and serviced by its Malaysian subsidiary under contract to a Brunei subsidiary of an international oil company. The widow of a passenger filed suits against the defendants in both Brunei and Texas. The defendants applied in Brunei for an injunction restraining the plaintiffs from continuing the Texas proceeding. The Trial Court did not grant injunction. In the Court of Appeal both sides agreed to accept that in any trial in Texas the liability of the defendants would be determined according to the law of Brunei. The Appeal Court held that Texas had become the natural forum by reason of the pre- trial discovery and in that forum the case could be more suitably tried, therefore, it dismissed the appeal. On further appeal to the Privy Council, it was held that Brunei was the natural forum at the time of the commencement of the proceedings because the fatal accident had occurred there, the deceased and the plaintiffs were resident there and the law governing the claim was the law of Brunei and there was nothing to connect the action with Texas, and pre-trial discovery and other steps taken by the attorneys in Texas would not change its position and had not made Texas the natural forum. The Court in Brunei remained the natural forum for the action and it would be oppressive for the plaintiffs to proceed in Texas because the defendants might well be unable to pursue in those proceedings their own contribution claim against the Malaysian company which serviced and operated the helicopter. The appeal was thus allowed. Though, in that case also there was no jurisdiction agreement for resolution of disputes the discussion suggests that a suit in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause is in itself not conclusive of being 'vexatious and oppressive'. It will be useful to refer to the following observations of Lord Goff : "In the opinion of their Lordships, in a case such as the present where a remedy for a particular wrong is available both in the English (or, as here, the Brunei) court and in a foreign court the English (or Brunei) court will, generally speaking, only restrain the plaintiff from pursuing proceedings in the foreign court if such pursuit would be vexatious or oppressive. This presupposes that, as a general rule, the English or Brunei court must conclude that it provides the natural forum for the trial of the action, and further, since the court is concerned with the ends of justice that account must be taken not only of injustice to the defendant if the plaintiff is allowed to pursue the foreign proceedings, but also of injustice to the plaintiff if he is not allowed to do so. So, as a general rule, the court will not grant an injunction if, by doing so, it will deprive the plaintiff of advantages in the foreign forum of which it would be unjust to deprive him."


In regard to the test laid down in this case, in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies*, Vol.17, it is rightly commented :


"The focus is on the interests of the parties not just the appropriateness of the forum. Injunctions will henceforth be available only on a more limited basis; but that basis expressly balances both the fairness to the parties and the naturalness of the forum. It is open, sufficiently narrow in scope, even- handed and fair. In short, an entirely suitable contemporary test."


In Spiliada Maritime's case (supra), the House of Lords laid down the following principle: "The fundamental principle applicable to both the stay of English proceedings on the ground that some other forum was the appropriate forum and also the grant of leave to serve proceedings out of the jurisdiction was that the court would choose that forum in which the case could be tried more suitably for the interests of all the parties and for the ends of justice".


The criteria to determine which was more appropriate forum, for the purpose of ordering stay of the suit, the court would look for that forum with which the action had the most real and substantial connection in terms of convenience or expense, availability of witnesses, the law governing the relevant transaction and the places where the parties resided or carried on business. If the court concluded that there was no other available forum which was more appropriate than the English Court it would normally refuse a stay. If, however, the court concluded that there was another forum which was prima facie more appropriate, the court would normally grant a stay unless there were circumstances militating against a stay. It was noted that as the dispute concerning the contract in which the proper law was English law, it meant that England was the appropriate forum in which the case could be more suitably tried.


In Airbus Industrie GIE vs. Patel & Ors. [(1998) 2 All ER 257], some British citizens of Indian origin travelled in an Airbus-320 aircraft when it crashed at Bangalore airport. They commenced proceedings in Texas against the plaintiff-company. A similar claim was made by the American claimants in Texas court. The plaintiffs obtained a declaration from the City Civil Court, Bangalore that the defendants were not entitled to proceed against them in any court of the world other than in Bangalore, India. Thereafter, they approached the English Court to enforce the judgment obtained from the Bangalore court and to obtain an injunction restraining the defendants, who were resident in England, from continuing their action in Texas on the grounds that the pursuit of that action would be contrary to justice and/or vexatious or oppressive. The learned Judge at the first instance dismissed the application but the Court of Appeal allowed the plaintiff's appeal and granted injunction prayed for. On appeal of the defendants, the House of Lords held that as a general rule, before an anti- suit injunction could be granted by an English Court to restrain a person from pursuing proceedings in a foreign jurisdiction, comity required that the English forum should have a sufficient interest in, or connection with, the matter in question to justify the indirect interference with the foreign court which such an injunction entailed. However, in cases where the conduct of the foreign state exercising jurisdiction was such as to deprive it of the respect normally required by comity, no such limit was required in the exercise of the jurisdiction to grant an anti-suit injunction. Since, in the instant case, the English Court had no interest in, or connection with the matter in question the Court could not grant injunction sought as it would be inconsistent with the principles of comity. The injunction granted by the Court of Appeal was set aside and the appeal of the defendants was allowed. Two aspects underlying this decision are worth noticing - the first is the requirement of ends of justice and the second is respect for other court's jurisdiction (comity).


British Aerospace Plc vs. Dee Howard Co. [1993 (1) LLR 368], deals with stay of English action. In that case, a British Company (BAe) entered into an agreement with an American Company (DHC) to provide assistance and information in connection with a re-engining programme which it was undertaking. It was provided that the agreement should be governed by and be construed according to the English law and that the courts of law in England should have jurisdiction to entertain any action in respect thereof. The DHC suspended further work on the re-engining programme claiming that the BAe failed to carry out its obligation under the agreement. The DHC initiated action in Texas State Court. After service of notice of that action the BAe applied to the American Court to dismiss the proceedings in view of the jurisdiction clause in the agreement. The BAc also initiated proceedings in English Court duly impleading the parent company (Alenia) of the DHC, with the leave of the Court. While so, the DHC applied to the English Court for the following reliefs: (i) to set aside the leave and (ii) to stay the proceedings against the parent company in the English Court as the action was pending in American Court which was the appropriate forum. Waller,J. on construing the jurisdiction clause in the agreement held that the parties had agreed that the English Court should have exclusive jurisdiction and that even if it was not an exclusive jurisdiction clause, it showed that the parties had freely negotiated agreeing not to object to the English Court's jurisdiction, therefore, it should not be open to the DHC to argue the relative merits of contesting the case in Texas as compared with contesting the case in London as the relevant factors would have been eminently foreseeable at the time of entering into the contract and that the contentions that there would be two sets of proceedings one in Texas and another in London and that there would be inconvenience for witnesses having regard to the location of documents, the timing of a trial and all such like matters to support stay of English action could not be permitted to be urged. In Donohue vs. Armco Inc and others [2002 (1) All.ER 749], there were three contracts for the sale of shares in the Armco insurance group of companies (for short, 'the A group') containing exclusive jurisdiction clauses providing that the parties irrevocably submit themselves to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts to settle any dispute which might arise out of or in connection with the agreement. Disputes having arisen the 'A group' initiated proceedings in New York against D and others. D applied to the English Court for an anti-suit injunction preventing the 'A group' from bringing claims arising from the sale of the shares against D in any forum other than England. The learned Judge at the first instance declined to grant the injunction prayed for but the Court of Appeal granted the prayer of anti-suit injunction. On the appeal of D to the House of Lords, it was held that where the parties had bound themselves by an exclusive jurisdiction clause, effect should ordinarily be given to that obligation in the absence of strong reasons for departing from it. The question whether strong reasons exist to displace the claim under the contract would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Lord Bingham of Cornhill with whom other Law Lords agreed held thus:


"Where the dispute was between two contracting parties, one of which sued the other in a non-contractual forum, and the claims fell within the scope of the exclusive jurisdiction clause in their contract, and the interests of other parties were not involved, effect would in all probability be given to the clause. However, the court might well decline to grant an injunction or a stay where the interests of parties other than parties bound by the exclusive jurisdiction clause were involved or grounds of claim not the subject of the clause were part of the relevant dispute so that there was a risk of parallel proceedings and inconsistent decisions. In the instant case, D's strong prima facie right to be sued in England on claims made by the other parties to the exclusive jurisdiction clause insofar as those claims fell within that clause was matched by the clear prima facie right of the A group to pursue other claims in New York. The crucial question was whether, on the facts, the A group could show strong reasons why the court should displace D's prima facie entitlement. Moreover, if strong reasons were found, such reasons would have to lie in the prospect, if an injunction was granted, of litigation continuing partly in England and partly in New York, and that was a consideration to which great weight should be given."


A decision of Court of Appeal in SABAH Shipyard (Pakistan) Ltd. Vs. (1) Islamic Republic of Pakistan (2) Karachi Electrics Supply Corporation Ltd.(2002) (2002 EWCA Civ 1643). In that case SABAH, a limited Company incorporated in Pakistan by its Malaysian parent, entered into an agreement with a state owned corporation - KESC, in regard to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a barge-mounted electricity generation facility at Karachi. The Government of Pakistan (GOP) entered into a guarantee in favour of SABAH which, inter alia, provided that the parties consented to the jurisdiction of the Courts of England for any action under the agreement to resolve any dispute between them and waived the defence of inconvenience of forum in any action or proceeding between them in the Courts of England. The GOP brought an action in the Court of Senior Judge, Islamabad and obtained an anti-suit injunction against SABAH. However, SABAH also brought an action in English Court and sought an anti-suit injunction which was granted restraining the GOP from continuing proceeding in the Court of Senior Judge, Islamabad. Against the order continuing the injunction, the GOP went in appeal before the Court of Appeal. Waller, L.J. with whom the other members of the Court of Appeal agreed in reaffirmation of the principles laid down in SNI Aerospatiale's case (supra), held that the learned judge in the first instance was right in construing that the clause in the agreement was a non-exclusive jurisdiction clause and that as GOP had agreed to submit any disputes between the parties to the jurisdiction of the English Court and to waive any objection that any action brought in England was in an inconvenient forum, therefore, it could not have been the intention of the parties that if proceedings were commenced in England, parallel proceedings could be pursued elsewhere unless there was some exceptional reason for doing so. The action of GOP in seeking to prevent SABAH in commencing proceedings in the agreed jurisdiction was construed as a clear breach of contract and it was observed that the proceedings in Pakistan might also be vexatious if commenced after the English proceedings and/or simply to attempt to frustrate the jurisdiction clause which expressly dealt with the forum conveniens aspect so as to enable England to be the most likely forum for resolution of disputes and that England was the agreed jurisdiction to which neither party could object. It was noted that the GOP could not show any exceptional reason why parallel proceedings were justified and that the fact that the GOP commenced the proceedings first, did not change the position because they did so as a pre-emptive strike.



Supreme Court of India

M.V.A.L. Quamar vs Tsavliris Salvage ... on 17 August, 2000


A foreign judgment shall be conclusive as to any matter thereby directly adjudicated upon between the same parties or between parties under whom they or any of them claim litigating under the same title except


(a) where it has not been pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction;


(b) where it has not been given on the merits of the case;


(c) where it appears on the face of the proceedings to be founded on an incorrect view of international law or a refusal to recognise the law of India in cases in which such law is applicable;


(d) where the proceedings in which the judgment was obtained are opposed to natural justice;


(e) where it has been obtained by fraud;


(f) where it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India.


As a matter of fact this is a scheme (under S. 44A) alien to the scheme of domestic execution as is provided under Section 39 (3) of the Code. The scheme under the latter section is completely a different scheme wherein the transferee Court must be otherwise competent to assume jurisdiction and the general rule or the principle that one cannot go behind the decree is a permissible proposition of law having reference to Section 39 (3) of the Code. Section 44A however is having a in-built scheme of execution which is not in any comparable situation with the scheme in terms of Section 39 (3). One can thus from the above conclude that whereas the domestic law, execution scheme is available under Sections 37, 38, 39, 41 and 42, Section 44A depicts an altogether different scheme for enforcement of foreign judgments through Indian courts. Reference in this context may also be made to the provisions as contained in Order 21 Rule 22 of the Code which expressly provide that in the event of their being an application for execution and the same been taken out beyond a period of two years after the date of the decree, there is existing a mandatory obligation to serve a notice to show cause against the execution. Such a requirement of the decree being more than 2 years old is not mentioned as regards the provisions of execution of decree filed under Section 44A. This is a new introduction in the 1976 Code and in our view substantiates the reasonings as above and supports the contention of Mr. Desai as regards two separate and independent Schemes for execution.


On the wake of the aforesaid, it can thus be safely concluded that while it is true that action in rem and in personam have lost much of significance in the present day world but in the facts of the matter under consideration, we are not really concerned therewith and as such we are not expressing any definite opinion in regard thereto suffice however, to record that we are inclined to lend our concurrence with the views expressed by the Australian and the New Zealand courts apropos judgment in personam and in rem as noticed above.



Supreme Court of India

M/S Alcon Electronics Pvt. Ltd vs Celem S.A. Of Fos 34320 Roujan, ... on 9 December, 2016


Whether the order passed by the Foreign Court amounts to a “decree” and the same is executable?


If answer to issue No. 2 is in affirmative, whether the decree for costs would fall within the ambit of Explanation 2 of Section 44A (3) of CPC and makes it inexecutable?


In International Woollen Mills v. Standard Wool (UK) Ltd.[1], this Court observed :


“...Even where the defendant chooses to remain ex parte and to keep out, it is possible for the plaintiff to adduce evidence in support of his claim (and such evidence is generally insisted on by the Courts in India), so that the Court may give a decision on the merits of his case after a due consideration of such evidence instead of dispensing with such consideration and giving a decree merely on account of the default of appearance of the defendant.


In the former case the judgment will be one on the merits of the case, while in the latter the judgment will be one not on the merits of the case. Thus it is obvious that the non-appearance of the defendant will not by itself determine the nature of the judgment one way or the other. That appears to be the reason why Section 13 does not refer to ex parte judgments falling under a separate category by themselves...” The principles of comity of nation demand us to respect the order of English Court. Even in regard to an interlocutory order, Indian Courts have to give due weight to such order unless it falls under any of the exceptions under Section 13 of the CPC. Hence we feel that the order in the present case passed by the English Court does not fall under any of the exceptions to Section 13 of the CPC and it is a conclusive one. The contention of the appellant that the order is the one not on merits deserves no consideration and therefore liable to be rejected. Accordingly, Issue No. 1 is answered.


In re Issue No. 2 — The next ground put forth by the appellant is that the order being an interlocutory order does not have the shades of a ‘judgment’ to be executed before the Indian Court and hence the order not being a ‘decree’ is in executable. To appreciate this, it is appropriate to have a look at Section 44A of CPC 44A. Execution of decrees passed by Courts in reciprocating territory— Where a certified copy of decree of any of the superior Courts of any reciprocating territory has been filed in a District Court, the decree may be executed in India as if it had been passed by the District Court.


Together with the certified copy of the decree shall be filed a certificate from such superior Court stating the extent, if any, to which the decree has been satisfied or adjusted and such certificate shall, for the purposes of proceedings under this section, be conclusive proof of the extent of such satisfaction or adjustment.


The provisions of section 47 shall as from the filing of the certified copy of the decree apply to the proceedings of a District Court executing a decree under this section, and the District Court shall refuse execution of any such decree, if it is shown to the satisfaction of the Court that the decree falls within any of the exceptions specified in clauses (a) to (f) of section 13.


Explanation 1— "Reciprocating territory" means any country or territory outside India which the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be a reciprocating territory for the purposes of this section; and "superior Courts", with reference to any such territory, means such Courts as may be specified in the said notification.


Explanation 2.— "Decree" with reference to a superior Court means any decree or judgment of such Court under which a sum of money is payable, not being a sum payable in respect of taxes or other charges of a like nature or in respect to a fine or other penalty, but shall in no case include an arbitration award, even if such an award is enforceable as a decree or judgment.


As far as the explanation with regard to reciprocal territory is concerned, there is no dispute that England is a reciprocating territory for the purpose of above Section. Section 44A of CPC indicates an independent right conferred on a foreign decree holder for enforcement of a Decree/Order in India. Section 44A was inserted by Section 2 of the Civil Procedure Code (Amendment) Act, 1937 (Act No. 8 of 1937). This Section is meant to give effect to the policy contained in the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, 1933. It is a part of the arrangement under which on one part decrees of Indian Courts are made executable in United Kingdom and on the other part, decrees of Courts in the United Kingdom and other notified parts of Her Majesty’s dominions are made executable in India. It is to be seen that as United Kingdom is a reciprocating territory and the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, England being a recognized superior Court in England. Therefore, the order passed by that Court is executable in India under Section 44A of the CPC. Now we come to the next limb of the argument put forth by the appellant that the order passed by the English Court does not amount to a decree and hence it is not executable. It is no doubt correct, Section 44A of CPC deals with “execution of decrees passed by Courts in reciprocating territory”. Before we further decide this issue it is appropriate to have a look at how decree, order and foreign judgment are defined under the CPC.


As per Section 2(2) of the CPC, "decree" means the formal expression of an adjudication which, so far as regards the Court expressing it, conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to all or any of the matters in controversy in the suit and may be either preliminary or final. It shall be deemed to include the rejection of a plaint and the determination of any question within Section 144 of CPC but shall not include (a) any adjudication from which an appeal lies as an appeal from an order, or (b) any order of dismissal for default.


Then a “foreign judgment” is defined under Section 2(6) as judgment of a foreign Court. “Judgment” as per Section 2(9) of C.P.C. means the statement given by the Judge on the grounds of a decree or order. Order is defined under Section 2(14) of CPC as a formal expression of any decision of the Civil Court which is not a ‘decree’. Then Explanation 2 to Section 44A (3) says "decree" with reference to a superior Court means any ‘decree’ or ‘judgment’. As per the plain reading of the definition ‘Judgment’ means the statement given by the Judge on the grounds of decree or order and order is a formal expression of a Court. Thus “decree” includes judgment and “judgment” includes “order”. On conjoint reading of ‘decree’, ‘judgment’ and ‘order’ from any angle, the order passed by the English Court falls within the definition of ‘Order’ and therefore, it is a judgment and thus becomes a “decree” as per Explanation to Section 44A(3) of CPC. In this case, the Court at England, after following the principles of natural justice, by recording reasons and very importantly basing on the application of the appellant itself, has conclusively decided the issue with regard to jurisdiction and passed the order coupled with costs. Hence in our considered opinion, the order passed by the Foreign Court is conclusive in that respect and on merits. Hence executable as a decree and accordingly the issue is answered.


In re Issue Nos. 3 & 4 — The next contention advanced is that the decree for costs does not attract the Explanation II of Section 44A which concerns itself with taxation or other charges of like nature or in respect of fine or other penalty. We have to first see the nature of the costs imposed by the decree for interpreting the relevant explanation. Before referring to the principles/guidelines in the decisions cited, it would be apposite to advert to the concept of ‘costs’ and the general principles governing the award of costs. Law Commission in its 240th Report on “Costs on Civil Litigation” provides valuable resource on nature of costs in India as well as England.


The ‘costs’ signifies the sum of money which the Court orders one party to pay to another party in respect of the expenses of litigation incurred. Except where specifically provided by the statute or by rules of the Court, the costs of proceedings are in the Court’s discretion.


In Johnstone v. The Law Society of Prince Edward Island [2], the Canadian Court of Appeal speaking through McQuaid, J described costs in the following words :


“… the sum of money which the court orders one party to pay another party in an action as compensation for the expense of litigation incurred. The definition continues to the effect that costs are awarded as compensation (i.e. reimbursement); there is, unlike damages, no restitution in integrum, that is to say, no concept in costs, as there exists in damages, that the injured person should be placed, in so far as money can do so, in the same position as he occupied before the injury was suffered”.


Under the Federal Rules of Civil Proceeding (USA), “costs shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs.” In most of the States in US, the attorney’s fee is not allowed as litigation cost. Costs can even be on interim Application. A bill of costs is a certified, itemized statement of the amount of the expenses incurred in bringing or defending a law suit/proceeding. The charges/expenses claimed are taxed by the Court or its officer according to the procedural rules and set of norms.


The basis of assessment of costs in UK has been explained thus in Halsbury’s Laws of England:


“Where the court is to assess the amount of costs (whether by summary or detailed assessment) it will assess those costs on the standard basis or on the indemnity basis, but the court will not in either case allow costs which have been unreasonably incurred or are unreasonable in amount. Where the amount of costs is to be assessed on the standard basis, the court will only allow costs which are proportionate to the matters in issue and will resolve any doubt which it may have as to whether costs were reasonably incurred or reasonable and proportionate in amount in favour of the paying party. Where the amount of costs is to be assessed on the indemnity basis, the court will resolve any doubt which it may have as to whether costs were reasonably incurred or were reasonable in amount in favour of the receiving party. Where the court makes an order about costs without indicating the basis on which the costs are to be assessed, or makes an order for costs to be assessed on a basis other than the standard basis or the indemnity basis, the costs will be assessed on the standard basis.” The Part 44 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in the USA contains general rules about costs and entitlement to costs. The rules are supplemented by practice direction. However, part 44 does not apply to the assessment of costs to the extent different provisions exist, for eg, Access to Justice Act, 1999 and the Legal Aid Act, 1988. Further, the general rule that the unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party unless the court makes a different order does not apply to family proceedings.


It is important to note that a penalty in this sense normally means a sum payable to the State, not to a private claimant, so the costs imposed on the basis of the indemnity is not a penalty or tax. Therefore, the Explanation II to Section 44A does not refer to the costs as contemplated under Section 35 of the CPC. The costs having been quantified have assumed the character of a money decree for costs and cannot be equated, either with a fine or penalty which is imposed on a party by the Court or taxes claimed and are taxes payable to a local authority, Government, or other charges of a like nature.


The appellant has advanced an argument that as per Section 35A of the CPC, no Court should pass any order for the payment of compensatory costs exceeding Rs.3,000/- or exceeding the limits of its pecuniary jurisdiction of the said Court whichever amount is less. It is thus argued by the appellant that in the present case, since the costs imposed exceed the bar imposed by Section 35A, therefore, the order of the English Court is not executable in the present case.


This argument lacks merit and deserves to be rejected. A bare perusal of Section 35A shows that bar operates on the Indian Courts with regard to imposition of costs in respect of false or vexatious claims or defences. The bar is not attracted in the present case as the Court that has ordered the costs is the High Court of Justice in England which is not governed by the provisions of the CPC and that the respondent merely approached the Indian Courts for the satisfaction of a foreign decree. Moreover, the nature of compensatory costs prescribed in Section 35A of the CPC are different from ‘costs’ dealt with in Section 35 of the CPC as the former are limited to the claims of defences of a party which are frivolous or vexatious. It is settled that before awarding costs under Section 35A of the CPC, the Court should satisfy itself that the claim was false or vexatious to the knowledge of the party who put it forward and that the interests of justice require the award of such compensatory costs. In the present case, no claim has been advanced by the appellant that the claim filed by the respondents is false or vexatious, therefore, the bar in Section 35A is not applicable. Accordingly the issue is answered. In re Issue No. 5 — It is the case of the appellant that the claim for interest on costs is not recognized in the Indian law. It is to be noted that matters of procedure are to be governed by the lex fori, whereas the matters of the substance are governed by lex causae. In this case, the question whether the interest on sum of decree of costs to be executed in India is a matter of substance as the interest on decree is a substantive right of the decree holder and does not concern itself with the procedural law of the forum.

It is to the reciprocal advantage of the Courts of all nations to enforce foreign rights as far as practicable. To this end, broad recognition of substantive rights should not be defeated by some vague assumed limitations of the Court. When substantive rights are so bound up in a foreign remedy, the refusal to adopt the remedy would substantially deprive parties of their rights. The necessity of maintaining the foreign rights outweighs the practical difficulties involved in applying the foreign remedy. In India, although the interest on costs are not available due to exclusion of Section 35(3), the same does not mean that Indian Courts are powerless to execute the decree for interest on costs. Indian Courts are very much entitled to address the issue for execution of the interest amount. The right to 8% interest as per the Judgments Act, 1838 of UK can be recognized and as well as implemented in India.


Kerala High Court

Manoj Moolekkudi Subramanyan vs Rajesh Palliparambil Ravi on 4 November, 2020


Substantive law is that part of the law which creates, defines and regulates rights in contrast to what is called adjective or remedial law which provides the method of enforcing rights. Substantive law refers to a body of rules that creates, defines and regulates rights and liabilities. Procedural law establishes a mechanism for determining those rights and liabilities and a machinery for enforcing them. Every litigant has a vested right in substantive law but no such right exists in procedural law. Therefore, unless the language used plainly manifests in express terms or by necessary implication a contrary intention a statute divesting vested rights is to be construed as prospective, a statute merely procedural is to be construed as retrospective and a statute which while procedural in its character, affects vested rights adversely is to be construed as prospective (See Thirumalai Chemicals Limited v. Union of India : AIR 2011 O.P.(C) No.950/2020 SC 1725).


37. Section 44A of the Code cannot be construed as merely procedural in nature. It is procedural in its character but it affects vested rights of a litigant. It is a provision which deals with the right of a person to execute a foreign decree in India. It is a provision which deals with the enforceability of a foreign decree in India. When a notification regarding reciprocating territory is issued by the Central Government, it affects the executability and enforceability of a money decree passed by a court specified in that notification. Section 44A of the Code indicates an independent right conferred on to a decree-holder of a foreign decree for enforcement of the decree in India. It is a fresh cause of action and has no correlation with jurisdictional issues (See M.V.A.L. Quamar v. Tsavliris Salvage International Limited : AIR 2000 SC 2826). A law relating to right of action, though remedial, is substantive in nature. The question whether the decree-holder of a foreign decree can enforce his rights under the decree by execution as also by suit or only by a suit under Section 13 of the Code is not a pure question of procedure but is O.P.(C) No.950/2020 a question of substantive law.

A decree-holder who seeks execution of the decree under Section 44A of the Code shall file certified copy of a decree. What is contemplated under Section 44A(1) of the Code is the filing of a certified copy of the decree of the superior court of a reciprocating territory. It cannot be found that the copy of the decree filed by the respondent, along with the application for execution of the decree, is a copy of the decree of a superior court of a reciprocating territory as envisaged under Section 44A of the Code. The reason is that, on the date of filing the O.P.(C) No.950/2020 execution petition, the decree sought to be executed by the respondent was not a decree of any superior court of a reciprocating territory. A decree-holder who seeks execution under Section 44A of the Code must be armed with a money decree passed by any of the superior court of any reciprocating territory, being any foreign country or territory which the Central Government, by notification in the Official Gazette, has declared to be a reciprocating territory for the purpose of the section (See M.V.A.L. Quamar v. Tsavliris Salvage International Limited : AIR 2000 SC 2826).






CHILD CUSTODY AN FOREIGN JUDGMENT :

Supreme Court of India

Ruchi Majoo vs Sanjeev Majoo on 13 May, 2011


Re: Question No.2 Recognition of decrees and orders passed by foreign courts remains an eternal dilemma in as much as whenever called upon to do so, Courts in this country are bound to determine the validity of such decrees and orders keeping in view the provisions of Section 13 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1908 as amended by the Amendment Act of 1999 and 2002. The duty of a Court exercising its Parens Patraie jurisdiction as in cases involving custody of minor children is all the more onerous. Welfare of the minor in such cases being the paramount consideration; the court has to approach the issue regarding the validity and enforcement of a foreign decree or order carefully. Simply because a foreign court has taken a particular view on any aspect concerning the welfare of the minor is not enough for the courts in this country to shut out an independent consideration of the matter. Objectivity and not abject surrender is the mantra in such cases. That does not, however, mean that the order passed by a foreign court is not even a factor to be kept in view. But it is one thing to consider the foreign judgment to be conclusive and another to treat it as a factor or consideration that would go into the making of a final decision. Judicial pronouncements on the subject are not on virgin ground. A long line of decisions of the court has settled the approach to be adopted in such matters. The plentitude of pronouncements also leaves cleavage in the opinions on certain aspects that need to be settled authoritatively in an appropriate case.


A survey of law on the subject would, in that view, be necessary and can start with a reference to the decision of this Court in Smt. Satya V. Shri Teja Singh, (1975) 1 SCC


120. That was a case in which the validity of a decree for divorce obtained by the husband from a Court in the State of Naveda (USA) fell for examination. This Court held that the answer to the question depended upon the Rules of private International Law. Since no system of Private International Law existed that could claim universal recognition, the Indian Courts had to decide the issue regarding the validity of the decree in accordance with the Indian law. Rules of Private International Law followed by other countries could not be adopted mechanically, especially when principles underlying such rules varied greatly and were moulded by the distinctive social, political and economic conditions obtaining in different countries. This Court also traced the development of law in America and England and concluded that while British Parliament had found a solution to the vexed questions of recognition of decrees granted by foreign courts by enacting "The recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations Act, 1971" our Parliament had yet to do so. In the facts and circumstances of that case the Court held that the husband was not domiciled in Naveda and that his brief stay in that State did not confer any jurisdiction upon the Naveda Court to grant a decree dissolving the marriage, he being no more than a bird of passage who had resorted to the proceedings there solely to find jurisdiction and obtain a decree for divorce by misrepresenting the facts as regards his domicile in that State. This Court while refusing to recognize the decree observed:


"True that the concept of domicile is not uniform throughout the world and just as long residence does not by itself establish domicile, a brief residence may not negative it. But residence for a particular purpose falls to answer the qualitative test for, the purpose being accomplished the residence would cease. The residence must answer "a qualitative as well as a quantitative test", that is, the two elements of factum et animus must concur. The respondent went to Naveda forum-hunting, found a convenient jurisdiction which would easily purvey a divorce to him and left it even before the ink on his domiciliary assertion was dry. Thus the decree of the Naveda Court lacks jurisdiction. It can receive no recognition in our courts."

In Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde 1998(1) SCC 112, one of the questions that fell for consideration was whether the bringing away of a child to India by his mother contrary to an order of US Court would have any bearing on the decision of the Courts in India while deciding about the custody and the welfare of the child. Relying upon McKee v.

KcKee, 1951 AC 352: 1951(1) All ER 942 and J v. C 1970 AC 668:1969(1) All ER 788, this Court held that it was the duty of the Courts in the country to which a child is removed to consider the question of custody, having regard to the welfare of the child. In doing so, the order passed by the foreign court would yield to the welfare of the child and that Comity of Courts simply demanded consideration of any such order issued by foreign courts and not necessarily their enforcement. This court further held that the conduct of a summary or elaborate inquiry on the question of custody by the Court in the country to which the child has been removed will depend upon the facts and circumstance of each case. For instance summary jurisdiction is exercised only if the court to which the child had been removed is moved promptly and quickly, for in that event, the Judge may well be persuaded to hold that it would be better for the child that the merits of the case are investigated in a court in his native country, on the expectation that an early decision in the native country would be in the interests of the child before the child could develop roots in the country to which he had been removed. So also the conduct of an elaborate inquiry may depend upon the time that had elapsed between the removal of the child and the institution of the proceedings for custody. This would mean that longer the time gap, the lesser the inclination of the Court to go for a summary inquiry. The court rejected the prayer for returning the child to the country from where he had been removed and observed:


"31. The facts of the case are that when the respondent moved the courts in India and in the proceedings of 1986 for habeas corpus and under Guardians and Wards Act, the courts in India thought it best in the interests of the child to allow it to continue with the mother in India, and those orders have also become final. The Indian courts in 1993 or 1997, when the child had lived with his mother for nearly 12 years, or more, would not exercise a summary jurisdiction to return the child to USA on the ground that its removal from USA in 1984 was contrary to orders of US courts."

We must at this stage refer to two other decisions of this Court, reliance upon which was placed by the learned counsel for the parties. In Sarita Sharma v. Sushil Sharma (2000) 3 SCC 14 this Court was dealing with an appeal arising out of a habeas corpus petition filed before the High Court of Delhi in respect of two minor children aged 3 years and 7 years respectively. It was alleged that the children were in illegal custody of Sarita Sharma their mother. The High Court had allowed the petition and directed the mother to restore the custody of the children to Sushil Sharma who was in turn permitted to take the children to U.S.A. without any hindrance. One of the contentions that was urged before this Court was that the removal of children from U.S.A. to India was against the orders passed by the American Court, which orders had granted to the father the custody of the minor children.


Allowing the appeal and setting aside the judgment of the High Court, this Court held that the order passed by the U.S.


courts constituted but one of the factors which could not override the consideration of welfare of the minor children.


Considering the fact that the husband was staying with his mother aged about 80 years and that there was no one else in the family to lookafter the children, this Court held that it was not in the interest of the children to be put in the custody of the father who was addicted to excessive alcohol.


Even this case arose out of a writ petition and not a petition under the Guardians and Wards Act.


In V. Ravi Chandran (Dr.) (2) v. Union of India and Ors. (2010) 1 SCC 174 also this Court was dealing with a habeas corpus petition filed directly before it under Article 32 of the Constitution. This Court held that while dealing with a case of custody of children removed by a parent from one country to another in contravention of the orders of the court where the parties had set up their matrimonial home, the court in the country to which the child has been removed must first consider whether the court could conduct an elaborate enquiry on the question of custody or deal with the matter summarily and order the parent to return the custody of the child to the country from which he/she was removed, leaving all aspects relating to child's welfare to be investigated by Court in his own country. This Court held that in case an elaborate enquiry was considered appropriate, the order passed by a foreign court may be given due weight depending upon the circumstances of each case in which such an order had been passed. Having said so, this Court directed the child to be sent back to U.S. and issued incidental directions in that regard.


In Shilpa Aggarwal (Ms.) v. Aviral Mittal & Anr. (2010) 1 SCC 591 this Court followed the same line of reasoning. That was also a case arising out of a habeas corpus petition before the High Court of Delhi filed by the father of the child. The High Court had directed the return of the child to England to join the proceedings before the courts of England and Wales failing which the child had to be handed over to the petitioner-father to be taken to England as a measure of interim custody leaving it for the court in that country to determine which parent would be best suited to have the custody of the child. That direction was upheld by this Court with the observation that since the question as to what is in the interest of the minor had to be considered by the court in U.K. in terms of the order passed by the High Court directing return of the child to the jurisdiction of the said court did not call for any interference.


We do not propose to burden this judgment by referring to a long line of other decisions which have been delivered on the subject, for they do not in our opinion state the law differently from what has been stated in the decisions already referred to by us. What, however, needs to be stated for the sake of a clear understanding of the legal position is that the cases to which we have drawn attention, as indeed any other case raising the question of jurisdiction of the court to determine mutual rights and obligation of the parties, including the question whether a court otherwise competent to entertain the proceedings concerning the custody of the minor, ought to hold a summary or a detailed enquiry into the matter and whether it ought to decline jurisdiction on the principle of comity of nations or the test of the closest contact evolved by this Court in Smt. Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu and Anr. (1984) 3 SCC 698 have arisen either out of writ proceedings filed by the aggrieved party in the High Court or this Court or out of proceedings under the Guardian & Wards Act. Decisions rendered by this Court in Mrs. Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw and Anr. (1987) 1 SCC 42, Sarita Sharma's case (supra), V. Ravi Chandran's case (supra), Shilpa Aggarwal's case (supra) arose out of proceedings in the nature of habeas corpus. The rest had their origin in custody proceedings launched under the Guardian & Wards Act. Proceedings in the nature of Habeas Corpus are summary in nature, where the legality of the detention of the alleged detenue is examined on the basis of affidavits placed by the parties. Even so, nothing prevents the High Court from embarking upon a detailed enquiry in cases where the welfare of a minor is in question, which is the paramount consideration for the Court while exercising its parens patriae jurisdiction. A High Court may, therefore, invoke its extra ordinary jurisdiction to determine the validity of the detention, in cases that fall within its jurisdiction and may also issue orders as to custody of the minor depending upon how the court views the rival claims, if any, to such custody. The Court may also direct repatriation of the minor child for the country from where he/she may have been removed by a parent or other person; as was directed by this Court in Ravi Chandran's & Shilpa Agarwal's cases (supra) or refuse to do so as was the position in Sarita Sharma's case (supra). What is important is that so long as the alleged detenue is within the jurisdiction of the High Court no question of its competence to pass appropriate orders arises. The writ court's jurisdiction to make appropriate orders regarding custody arises no sooner it is found that the alleged detenue is within its territorial jurisdiction.


In cases arising out of proceedings under the Guardian & Wards Act, the jurisdiction of the Court is determined by whether the minor ordinarily resides within the area on which the Court exercises such jurisdiction. There is thus a significant difference between the jurisdictional facts relevant to the exercise of powers by a writ court on the one hand and a court under the Guardian & Wards Act on the other. Having said that we must make it clear that no matter a Court is exercising powers under the Guardian & Wards Act it can choose to hold a summary enquiry into the matter and pass appropriate orders provided it is otherwise competent to entertain a petition for custody of the minor under Section 9(1) of the Act. This is clear from the decision of this Court in Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde (1998) 1 SCC 112, which arose out of proceedings under the Guardian & Wards Act. The following passage is in this regard apposite:


"We may here state that this Court in Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw (1987) 1 SCC 42 while dealing with a child removed by the father from USA contrary to the custody orders of the US Court directed that the child be sent back to USA to the mother not only because of the principle of comity but also because, on facts, -- which were independently considered -- it was in the interests of the child to be sent back to the native State. There the removal of the child by the father and the mother's application in India were within six months. In that context, this Court referred to H. (infants), Re (1966) 1 ALL ER 886 which case, as pointed out by us above has been explained in L. Re (1974) 1 All ER 913, CA as a case where the Court thought it fit to exercise its summary jurisdiction in the interests of the child. Be that as it may, the general principles laid down in McKee v. McKee (1951) 1 All ER 942 and J v. C (1969) 1 All ER 788 and the distinction between summary and elaborate inquiries as stated in L. (infants), Re (1974) 1 All ER 913, CA are today well settled in UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. The same principles apply in our country. Therefore nothing precludes the Indian courts from considering the question on merits, having regard to the delay from 1984 -- even assuming that the earlier orders passed in India do not operate as constructive res judicata."

It does not require much persuasion for us to hold that the issue whether the Court should hold a summary or a detailed enquiry would arise only if the Court finds that it has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter. If the answer to the question touching jurisdiction is in the negative the logical result has to be an order of dismissal of the proceedings or return of the application for presentation before the Court competent to entertain the same. A Court that has no jurisdiction to entertain a petition for custody cannot pass any order or issue any direction for the return of the child to the country from where he has been removed, no matter such removal is found to be in violation of an order issued by a Court in that country. The party aggrieved of such removal, may seek any other remedy legally open to it. But no redress to such a party will be permissible before the Court who finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings.



Supreme Court of India

Surya Vadanan vs State Of Tamilnadu & Ors on 27 February, 2015

. The principle of the comity of courts is essentially a principle of self-restraint, applicable when a foreign court is seized of the issue of the custody of a child prior to the domestic court. There may be a situation where the foreign court though seized of the issue does not pass any effective or substantial order or direction. In that event, if the domestic court were to pass an effective or substantial order or direction prior in point of time then the foreign court ought to exercise self- restraint and respect the direction or order of the domestic court (or vice versa), unless there are very good reasons not to do so.


If an interim or an interlocutory order passed by a foreign court has to be disregarded, there must be some special reason for doing so. No doubt we expect foreign courts to respect the orders passed by courts in India and so there is no justifiable reason why domestic courts should not reciprocate and respect orders passed by foreign courts. This issue may be looked at from another perspective. If the reluctance to grant respect to an interim or an interlocutory order is extrapolated into the domestic sphere, there may well be situations where a Family Court in one State declines to respect an interim or an interlocutory order of a Family Court in another State on the ground of best interests and welfare of the child. This may well happen in a case where a person ordinarily resident in one State gets married to another person ordinarily resident in another State and they reside with their child in a third State. In such a situation, the Family Court having the most intimate contact and the closest concern with the child (the court in the third State) may find its orders not being given due respect by a Family Court in the first or the second State. This would clearly be destructive of the equivalent of the principle of comity of courts even within the country and, what is worse, destructive of the rule of law.

What are the situations in which an interim or an interlocutory order of a foreign court may be ignored? There are very few such situations. It is of primary importance to determine, prima facie, that the foreign court has jurisdiction over the child whose custody is in dispute, based on the fact of the child being ordinarily resident in the territory over which the foreign court exercises jurisdiction. If the foreign court does have jurisdiction, the interim or interlocutory order of the foreign court should be given due weight and respect. If the jurisdiction of the foreign court is not in doubt, the "first strike" principle would be applicable. That is to say that due respect and weight must be given to a substantive order prior in point of time to a substantive order passed by another court (foreign or domestic).

There may be a case, as has happened in the present appeal, where one parent invokes the jurisdiction of a court but does not obtain any substantive order in his or her favour and the other parent invokes the jurisdiction of another court and obtains a substantive order in his or her favour before the first court. In such an event, due respect and weight ought to be given to the substantive order passed by the second court since that interim or interlocutory order was passed prior in point of time.

a violation of an interim or an interlocutory order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction ought to be viewed strictly if the rule of law is to be maintained. No litigant can be permitted to defy or decline adherence to an interim or an interlocutory order of a court merely because he or she is of the opinion that that order is incorrect - that has to be judged by a superior court or by another court having jurisdiction to do so.

If as a general principle, the violation of an interim or an interlocutory order is not viewed seriously, it will have widespread deleterious effects on the authority of courts to implement their interim or interlocutory orders or compel their adherence. Extrapolating this to the courts in our country, it is common knowledge that in cases of matrimonial differences in our country, quite often more than one Family Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter in issue. In such a situation, can a litigant say that he or she will obey the interim or interlocutory order of a particular Family Court and not that of another? Similarly, can one Family Court hold that an interim or an interlocutory order of another Family Court on the same subject matter may be ignored in the best interests and welfare of the child? We think not. An interim or an interlocutory is precisely what it is - interim or interlocutory - and is always subject to modification or vacation by the court that passes that interim or interlocutory order. There is no finality attached to an interim or an interlocutory order. We may add a word of caution here - merely because a parent has violated an order of a foreign court does not mean that that parent should be penalized for it. The conduct of the parent may certainly be taken into account for passing a final order, but that ought not to have a penalizing result.

However, if there is a pre-existing order of a foreign court of competent jurisdiction and the domestic court decides to conduct an elaborate inquiry (as against a summary inquiry), it must have special reasons to do so. An elaborate inquiry should not be ordered as a matter of course. While deciding whether a summary or an elaborate inquiry should be conducted, the domestic court must take into consideration:


(a) The nature and effect of the interim or interlocutory order passed by the foreign court.


(b) The existence of special reasons for repatriating or not repatriating the child to the jurisdiction of the foreign court.


(c) The repatriation of the child does not cause any moral or physical or social or cultural or psychological harm to the child, nor should it cause any legal harm to the parent with whom the child is in India. There are instances where the order of the foreign court may result in the arrest of the parent on his or her return to the foreign country.[35] In such cases, the domestic court is also obliged to ensure the physical safety of the parent.


(d) The alacrity with which the parent moves the concerned foreign court or the concerned domestic court is also relevant. If the time gap is unusually large and is not reasonably explainable and the child has developed firm roots in India, the domestic court may be well advised to conduct an elaborate inquiry.


09. Foreign Judgement
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