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Foreign Judgement: Nature and Scope in CPC

Updated: May 5

Foreign Judgement: Nature and Scope in CPC


Sections 13 and 14 establish a framework for the application of res judicata to foreign judgments.

These provisions encapsulate a fundamental tenet of private international law, stipulating that a judgement rendered by a foreign court possessing jurisdiction can be recognized and enforced by an Indian court, thereby serving as res judicata between the parties involved, with certain exceptions outlined in Section 13.

Foreign Court and Foreign Judgement

A "foreign court" is defined as a court situated outside India and not established or maintained by the authority of the Central Government.

On the other hand, a "foreign judgement" refers to a judgement issued by a foreign court. In simpler terms, it denotes a decision rendered by a court outside India on a matter brought before it.

Therefore, judgments pronounced by courts in countries like England, France, Germany, the USA, among others, are considered foreign judgments.


Scope and Object

Section 13 of the law encompasses the principle of res judicata regarding foreign judgments. This provision embodies a key aspect of private international law, stipulating that a judgement rendered by a foreign court with proper jurisdiction can be enforced in India.

It's important to note that the rule outlined in Section 13 constitutes substantive law rather than merely a procedural regulation.

Additionally, the application of this section is not restricted to plaintiffs; defendants also have the right to invoke a foreign judgement to counter the plaintiff's claims.

The enforcement of a judgement from a foreign court is grounded on the principle that when a court with competent jurisdiction adjudicates a claim, a legal obligation arises to fulfil that claim.

While the rules of private international law may vary between states, certain principles are recognized as common across civilised jurisdictions through the comity of nations.

These common rules are adopted by judicial systems to resolve disputes involving foreign elements and to uphold judgments from foreign courts, either through international conventions or customary practice.

Such recognition is not merely a matter of courtesy but is driven by considerations of justice, equity, and good conscience.

Understanding foreign law in a comparable jurisdiction serves as a valuable reference point in shaping our notions of justice and public policy. While sovereignty is maintained within our territory, acknowledging foreign law does not diminish our sovereignty; rather, it reflects a broader perspective.

As aptly noted by a renowned jurist, rejecting foreign judicial processes should only occur if they contravene fundamental principles of justice, common moral standards, or deeply ingrained traditions of the public welfare.

Case laws

In the landmark case of Moloji Nar Singh Rao v. Shankar Saran (1962), the Indian judiciary highlighted the significance of foreign judgments while acknowledging their limitations.

The court emphasised that a foreign judgement would be conclusive on matters adjudicated upon between the same parties, subject to the exceptions outlined in Section 13 of the CPC.

This ruling demonstrates the Indian courts' willingness to recognize foreign judgments while ensuring adherence to domestic legal standards.


Presumption as to Foreign Judgement

Section 14 of the Code establishes a presumption regarding foreign judgments. According to this provision, when any document purportedly a certified copy of a foreign judgement is presented, the court shall presume that such judgement was rendered by a court with competent jurisdiction, unless evidence to the contrary is present on the record or is proven otherwise.

However, if additional conditions are necessary for the admissibility of such a copy, it can only be admitted into evidence if those conditions are satisfied.

In the case of Narasimba Rao v. Venkata Lakshmi, the Supreme Court clarified that merely producing a photocopy of a decree from a foreign court is insufficient.

It must be certified by a representative of the Central Government in America for it to be considered admissible.

Foreign Judgment and Res Judicata

A foreign judgement holds conclusive authority over any matter decided upon by a competent foreign court. Section 13 of the Code essentially establishes a principle akin to res judicata concerning foreign judgments.

Therefore, if a foreign judgement is rendered by a court possessing jurisdiction over the matter, it will function as res judicata, carrying binding force in subsequent legal proceedings.

Conclusiveness of Foreign Judgment

A foreign judgement carries conclusive authority and serves as res judicata between the parties and their privies, though not extended to strangers. It's firmly established that a foreign judgement can be scrutinised regarding its jurisdictional competence but not for errors in its findings or conclusions.

When assessing the conclusiveness of a foreign court's judgement, Indian courts refrain from delving into the correctness of the conclusions reached by the foreign court or the validity of its findings.

Essentially, the court is precluded from delving into the merits of the original claim, and the foreign judgement stands as conclusive regarding any matter directly adjudicated upon between the same parties.

This principle is subject to exceptions outlined in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 13 of the Code.

Enforcement of Foreign Judgement

Enforcing a foreign judgement in India can be achieved through two main avenues: by initiating a suit on the foreign judgement or by commencing execution proceedings.

(a) To enforce a foreign judgement, one can initiate a suit based on that judgement. However, the foreign decision must first be converted into a decree by an Indian court to be enforceable in the country. (b) In such a suit, the court doesn't re-examine the merits of the original claim; instead, it recognizes the matters already adjudicated upon by the foreign court. (c) This suit must be filed within three years from the date of the foreign judgement.

2. Execution Proceedings

(a) Alternatively, a foreign judgement can be enforced through execution proceedings, as outlined in Section 44-A of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(b) Section 44-A allows for the execution of decrees from superior courts of reciprocating territories, treating them as if they were passed by Indian District Courts.

(c) When executing a foreign judgement under Section 44-A, the judgement-debtor can raise objections similar to those allowed under Section 13 if a suit were filed on the judgement.

(d) However, successful execution under Section 44-A necessitates compliance with all conditions specified in Section 13(a) to (f). Partial compliance or non-violation of certain exceptions doesn't suffice for execution under Section 44-A. All conditions must be met for the decree to be executed.


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