IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI + C.R.P.148/2011 % Date of Decision: April 22, 2013 PRITAM ASHOK SADAPHULE ..... Petitioner Through: Mr.Rakesh Taneja, Advocate versus HIMA CHUGH .... Respondent Through: Mr.Prashant Mendiratta, Adv. CORAM: HON'BLE MS. JUSTICE VEENA BIRBAL VEENA BIRBAL, J.
"12. 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 judgment 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 acquiscence 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 cine under which the parties are married, and no other law. When, therefore, a foreign judgment is founded on a jurisdiction or on a 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 be 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 filed 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 if 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 nor 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 (supra) it must be understood that the fraud need not be only in relation to the merits of the matter 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 ground 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 Le as follows: (i) where the matrimonial action is filed in the forum where the respondent is domiciled 01 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 certainly in the most vital field of national life and conformity with pubic 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 vulnerablesection 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 domiciliary law which determines the jurisdiction and judges the merits of the case."