July 16, 2018:
The Author, Maahi Mayuri is a 3rd Year Student of New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune. She is currently interning with LatestLaws.com.
A court situated outside India which is not under the authority of the central government is a foreign court and a judgment by such court is a foreign judgment. Judgments by court in foreign countries like US, UK, France or German are foreign judgments.
The CPC (Sections 13 and 14) provide for res judicata when referring to foreign judgments which embodies the principle of Private International Law. The same is that a foreign judgment by a court of competent jurisdiction is enforceable in the courts of India and operates as res judicata with the exception of the situations of Sec. 13. Sec. 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides for when a foreign judgment is not conclusive. A foreign judgment though, is only valid between parties to the judgment and not third parties.
Section 13 of the C. P. C.
Sec. 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides for the conditions when a foreign judgment is conclusive between the parties except:
- when the foreign judgment is not delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction;
(b) when the judgment is not delivered based upon merit
(c) when the proceedings are prima face incorrect or a law prevalent in India is refused to be applied.
(d) when the proceedings were in contravention of the principles of natural justice.
(e) when the judgment arises out of fraud;
(f) when the same breaches a law in force in India;
Sec 14 of the C. P. C.
Sec. 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides for the presumptions as to foreign judgments. The court presumes as to a document pupating to be a certified copy of a foreign judgment that the same was delivered by a court of competent jurisdiction unless there is a proof of the contrary.
In Narsimha Rao v. Venkata Lakshmi, it was held by the apex court that just a copy of a decree of a foreign judgment isn’t sufficient and it is essential to be certified by the Central Government of America’s representative.
Object of Section 13 and 14 of the C. P. C
It is a vital fact that even though the rules of private international law of differ for each state but certain rules are common to the civil jurisdictions. When a claim is already adjudicated upon by a foreign court, the same must be satisfied. The same is due to the considerations of justice, equity and good conscience and not mere courtesy. Being aware of parallel jurisdiction is useful for justice.
Dicey states: that a judgment cannot be impeached either for an error of fact or of law and is conclusive to any matter adjudicated upon.
Let us now look into detail of each of the conditions which make a foreign judgment non conclusive:
- Foreign Judgment Not By A Competent Court
A fact that judgment passed by a court which lacks jurisdiction is null and void is a fundamental rule. The jurisdiction must be both related to the which has constituted it as well as must relate to the subject matter upon which it is pleaded as res judicata.
The landmark case of Gurdayal Singh v. Rajah of Faridkot, a suit was filed against B by A in the Native State of Faridkot which claimed misappropriation by B of Rs. 60,000 while he was in A’s service at Faridkot. An ex parte decree was passed against B. But B was not a resident of Faridkot nor was he domiciled there. Thus the Faridkot court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit. Just because the embezzlement took place at Faridkot, was not sufficient to give jurisdiction to the Faridkot court. Thus a foreign court lacks jurisdiction to pass a decree in respect of an immovable property in a foreign state.
- Foreign Judgment Not on Merits
For a foreign judgment to operate as res judicata, it must be based on merits. A judgment is based on merit when the judge decides the case one way or the other after examining the genuinity of the evidence. The real test is the truth or falsity of the claims of the parties.
(c)Foreign Judgment Against International or Indian Law
When a judgment is not in consonance with international or a national law of India, it is not conclusive.
“When a foreign judgment is founded on a jurisdiction or on a ground not recognized by Indian law or International Law, it is a judgment which is in defiance of the law.” Thus it is not found to be conclusive by the court.
(d) Foreign Judgments Opposed To Natural Justice
Each judgment must be essentially based on the principles of justice, equity and good conscience. Thus, a judicial process is to be followed. Justice essentially requires impartiality, fairness as well as good faith; Every party is to be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard and the case should be partial and unbiased. Otherwise, the judgment will be regarded as a nullity and the trial “corum non judice”.
(e)Foreign Judgment Obtained By Fraud
Lord Denning observed that a judgment cannot stand if obtained by fraud. ”
Cheshire rightly states: “It is firmly established that a foreign judgment is impeachable for fraud in the sense that upon proof of fraud it cannot be enforced by action in England.”
Thud, judgments obtained by fraud, whether delivered by domestic or foreign courts are null and void..
De Grey, C. J. stated regarding the nature of fraud that for a judgment to be considered obtained by fraud, it should be that the court was misled and not mistaken. There is a difference between mistake and trickery and an action to set aside based upon mistake is not valid.
In a landmark case of Satya v. Teja Singh, a decree was obtained by a husband against his wife in American court stating that he was domiciled in America. But in fact he was not a resident or domicile of America and the decree thus was obtained by fraud. The Apex Court held that the decree was null and void.
Similarly in, Narsimha Rao v. Venkata Kakshmi, the court held that the decree was unenforceable in India as the defendants were not a resident of America
In Chengalvaraya Naidu v. Jagannath, it was stated by the Hon’ble Apex Court that It is the settled proposition of law that a judgment or decree obtained by playing fraud on the court is a null and void. The decree, irrespective of whether it is by the lowest or highest court can be challenged even in collateral proceedings
(f) Foreign Judgment Founded on Breach of Indian Law
When a foreign judgments breaches any law of India which is in force, it is unenforceable. Thus, the rules of Private International law are not enforced blindly and the case is to be decided in accordance with Indian law. Thus a judgment related to a gaming debt is barred in India. The country’s public policy is not to be violated by the foreign judgment.
Submission To Jurisdiction Of Foreign Court
A person may submit to the jurisdiction of a foreign court expressly or impliedly. Foreign courts are thereby considered to be internationally competent due to the voluntary submission of parties. The same is due to the reason that a party cannot turn around when a judgment is not in his favour
To conclude, foreign judgments are enforceable and the same creates res judicata between the parties to the suit. The judgments must not come under the conditions of Sec 13, clauses (a) to (f) of the Code of Civil Procedure. The validity of foreign judgments in India is vital to the judiciary, especially from the point of view of private inter national law.
 Y. Narasimha Rao And Ors vs Y. Venkata Lakshmi