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Foreign Judgement When Not Binding in CPC

Updated: May 5

Foreign Judgement When Not Binding in CPC


Foreign Judgment CPC

The Code of Civil Procedure stipulates that a foreign judgement shall be conclusive regarding any matter directly adjudicated upon between the same parties or parties claiming under them, litigating under the same title, except in the following circumstances:

a) Where it has not been pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction.

b) Where it has not been decided on the merits of the case.

c) Where it appears on the face of the proceedings to be based on an erroneous interpretation of international law or a refusal to acknowledge Indian law when applicable.

d) Where the proceedings leading to the judgement were contrary to principles of natural justice.

e) Where the judgement was obtained through fraudulent means.

f) Where it upholds a claim rooted in the violation of any law in force in India.

Foreign Judgement not by a Competent Court

It is a foundational legal principle that a judgement or order issued by a court lacking jurisdiction is void. Therefore, for a foreign court judgement to be binding between the parties, it must be rendered by a court possessing competent jurisdiction.

This entails that the judgement must be delivered by a court authorised both by the laws of the state in which it operates and in an international context.

Moreover, the judgement must directly address the specific "matter" asserted as res judicata. It's important to note that what carries conclusive weight is the judgement itself, not the rationale provided by the foreign court.

For instance, if A initiates legal proceedings against B in a foreign jurisdiction and the suit is dismissed, this decision will prevent A from filing a fresh suit in India on the same grounds.

Conversely, if a foreign court issues a decree in favour of A against B, and A subsequently sues B based on this judgement in India, B will be barred from disputing matters that were directly addressed and adjudicated upon by the foreign court.


Foreign Judgement Not On Merits

For a foreign judgement to be recognized as res judicata, it must have been rendered on the merits of the case. A judgement is considered to have been given on merits when the judge, after considering the evidence and evaluating the truth or falsity of the plaintiff's case, renders a decision.

However, judgments that are not rendered on merits include those issued when the suit is dismissed due to the plaintiff's default of appearance, non-production of documents by the plaintiff before the defendant files a written statement, or when a decree is passed due to the defendant's default in furnishing security or after refusing leave to defend.

It's crucial to note that a judgement being ex parte does not automatically indicate that it was not rendered on merits.

The key criterion for determining whether a judgement was rendered on merits is to ascertain whether it was simply passed as a routine matter, as a penalty for the defendant's conduct, or based on a thorough consideration of the truth or falsity of the plaintiff's claim, even if evidence was presented by the plaintiff in the defendant's absence.


Foreign judgement against International or Indian law

A judgement that is based on an incorrect interpretation of international law or a refusal to acknowledge Indian law, where applicable, is not considered conclusive. However, the mistake must be evident from the proceedings themselves.

For example, if a suit is filed in England based on a contract made in India, and the English court incorrectly applies English law instead of recognizing Indian law, the judgement falls under this clause.

According to the general principle of Private International Law, the rights and obligations arising from a contract are governed by the law of the place where the contract was made (lex loci contractus).

When a foreign judgement relies on a jurisdiction or a legal basis that is not recognized by Indian or international law, it is considered a judgement that contravenes the law.

Consequently, such a judgement is not conclusive regarding the matters adjudicated therein and is therefore unenforceable in India.

Foreign Judgement Opposed to Natural Justice

The cornerstone of any court judgement is the adherence to the principles of natural justice. This entails that the court must follow the minimum procedural requirements, including being composed of impartial individuals who act without bias and in good faith.

Additionally, the court must provide reasonable notice to the parties involved and allow each party sufficient opportunity to present their case. A judgement resulting from bias or lack of impartiality on the part of the judge is considered null and void, rendering the trial "coram non judice."

Judgments rendered without proper notice to the defendant or without affording them a fair opportunity to present their case are contrary to natural justice.

Similarly, judgments against parties who were not adequately represented in the proceedings or where the judge exhibited bias are deemed contrary to natural justice and therefore do not have the effect of res judicata.

It's important to note that in the context of Section 13 clause (d), "natural justice" primarily pertains to procedural irregularities rather than the merits of the case.

Consequently, a foreign judgement from a competent court remains conclusive even if it is based on an erroneous interpretation of evidence or law, as long as the minimum requirements of the judicial process are met. The correctness of the judgement in terms of law or evidence is not a prerequisite for its recognition as conclusive by the domestic court.

Therefore, a foreign judgement cannot be challenged on the basis of disagreement with the foreign court's conclusion, as long as the principles of natural justice have been observed.

Foreign Judgement Obtained by Fraud

In Private International Law, it's firmly established that a foreign judgement obtained through fraud will not be recognized as res judicata. This principle stems from the notion that fraud and justice cannot coexist, and fraudulent actions should not be allowed to benefit anyone.

Lord Denning emphasised that no judgement or order, whether from a court or a government authority, should stand if it's tainted by fraud.

The legal perspective is clear: any judgement, whether domestic or foreign, is nullified if it's proven to be obtained through fraudulent means.

Fraud undermines the integrity of the judicial process, rendering even the most solemn court proceedings invalid.

Explaining the nature of fraud, de Grey, C.J., highlighted the distinction between mistake and trickery. While a judgement cannot be set aside simply because it was decided incorrectly on the merits, it can be invalidated if the court was deceived or misled into issuing the judgement.

The Supreme Court, in A.V. Papayya Sastry v. Govt. of A.P., defined fraud as a deliberate act of deception aimed at unfairly benefiting oneself at the expense of another.

It emphasised that even the most solemn legal proceedings are tainted if they are influenced by fraud. The principle of finality of litigation cannot be misused by dishonest litigants to oppress others through fraudulent means.

Breach of Indian Law

A foreign judgement founded on a breach of Indian law holds no sway in India's legal jurisdiction. While Private International Law offers guidelines, it's essential to interpret them with an understanding of Indian legal principles.

Each case presented before an Indian court must be adjudicated according to Indian law, and it's inherent that foreign laws must align with Indian public policy.

Consequently, if a foreign judgement arises from actions that contravene Indian laws, it lacks enforceability within India.

For instance, a foreign judgement based on a gaming debt or a claim barred by Indian Limitation Law wouldn't hold weight.

Similarly, if a foreign court grants a divorce where Indian law deems the marriage indissoluble, an Indian court would not uphold such a decree.

The underlying principle is to ensure that foreign laws and judgments do not run counter to India's public policy. This safeguard ensures that foreign legal determinations that clash with fundamental Indian legal norms are not recognized or enforced within the country.


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