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Section 13. When foreign judgment not conclusive: 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-
- where it has not been pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction;
- where it has not been given on the merits of the case;
- where it appears on the face of the proceedings to be 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;
- where the proceedings in which the judgment was obtained are opposed to natural justice;
- where it has been obtained by fraud;
- where it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India.
Section 14. Presumption as to foreign judgments: The Court shall presume upon the production of any document purporting to be a certified copy of a foreign judgment that such judgment was pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction, unless the contrary appears on the record; but such presumption may be displaced by proving want of jurisdiction.
Sections 13 and 14 of the Code embody the principle of private international law that a judgment delivered by a foreign Court of competent jurisdiction can be enforced by an Indian Court and will operate as res judicata between the parties thereto except in the cases mentioned in section 13.
Foreign Court means those Courts who are not within the authority of Central Govt.
The section is not confined in its application to plaintiffs. A defendant is equally entitled to non suit the plaintiff on the basis of a foreign judgment.
It is based on international conventions and on considerations of justice, equity and good conscience.
The jurisdiction which is important in such matters is only the competence of the Court i.e., territorial competence over the subject matter and over the defendant. Its competence or jurisdiction in any other sense is not regarded as material by the Courts in this country.
Foreign judgments when not binding: -
While the recognition of foreign judgments is a fundamental aspect, Section 13 of the CPC outlines specific conditions under which a foreign judgment shall not be considered conclusive. These conditions include:
- Lack of Competent Jurisdiction: A foreign judgment must be pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction to be conclusive. Competent jurisdiction implies authority over the parties and the subject matter. Jurisdiction may arise when the defendant is a resident in the foreign country, is a subject or citizen of that country, or has voluntarily submitted to the foreign court's jurisdiction.
- Not on Merits: For a foreign judgment to be conclusive, it must be based on merits, involving a thorough consideration of the case rather than being a mere formality or penalty.
- Contrary to Indian or International Law: A foreign judgment should not be founded on an incorrect view of international law or a refusal to recognize the law of India when applicable. The mistake must be evident on the face of the proceedings.
- Opposed to Natural Justice: The foreign judgment must adhere to the principles of natural justice, providing reasonable notice to the parties and an adequate opportunity to present their cases. Irregularities in procedure, rather than merits, fall under the purview of natural justice.
- Obtained by Fraud: Fraudulent procurement of a foreign judgment renders it inconclusive. Fraud impacting jurisdictional facts vitiates the validity of the judgment, and it may be challenged in Indian courts.
- Founded on Breach of Indian Law: A foreign judgment based on a breach of any law in force in India, even if the foreign court's procedure differs, will not be enforced in India.
Notable Judicial Decisions: The judiciary has played a pivotal role in shaping the understanding and application of provisions related to foreign judgments. In the case of Bharat Nidhi Limited v. Megh Raj Mahajan (1964), the Supreme Court emphasized the necessity for a foreign judgment to be passed by a court of competent jurisdiction to operate as res judicata in Indian courts.
In Sankaran v. Lakshmi (1974), the Supreme Court clarified that the expression "natural justice" pertains to procedural irregularities rather than the merits of the case, ensuring a nuanced interpretation of Section 13(d).
Satya v. Teja Singh (1975) exemplifies the principle that fraudulent procurement of foreign judgments, specifically misleading a foreign court regarding jurisdiction, renders such judgments inconclusive in Indian courts.
Presumption as to Foreign Judgments (Section 14): Section 14 of the CPC establishes a presumption that a foreign judgment, when supported by a certified copy, was pronounced by a court of competent jurisdiction. However, this presumption can be rebutted by proving a lack of jurisdiction.
Conclusion: The provisions related to foreign judgments under the CPC are crucial for maintaining a harmonious relationship between the Indian legal system and the global legal community. Recognizing the importance of competent jurisdiction, procedural fairness, and the avoidance of fraud, these provisions strive to strike a balance between enforcing foreign judgments and safeguarding domestic legal principles. Judicial decisions further refine the application of these provisions, contributing to the evolving jurisprudence surrounding the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in India. As the legal landscape continues to develop, practitioners and litigants must remain abreast of these provisions and their interpretations to navigate the complexities of cross-border disputes effectively.