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Dinesh Singh Thakur Vs. Sonal Thakur - (Supreme Court) (17 Apr 2018)

Anti-suit injunction should be granted sparingly and not as a matter of routine



In instant case, the marriage between Appellant-husband and Respondent-wife was solemnized on 20th February, 1995 as per Hindu rites and two children were born out of the said wedlock. The Appellant-husband was working in United States of America (USA) at the time of marriage and he took the Respondent-wife to USA on Dependent Visa. Both the parties got the citizenship of USA in May, 2003. They obtained "PIO" status (Person of India Origin) in June 2003 and "OCI" status (Overseas Citizens of India) in July 2006.

The Appellant-husband filed a petition under Sections 13 and 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 against the Respondent-wife at the Family Court, Gurugram which is pending adjudication before the Court. Subsequently, the Respondent-wife filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Florida, USA for divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and other reliefs. Thereafter, the Appellant-husband filed Civil Suit before the District Judge, Family Court, Gurugram, under Section 7 of the Act for permanent injunction and declaration to restrain the Respondent-wife from pursuing the petition for divorce before the Court in USA.

Learned District Judge, vide order granted ex parte ad interim injunction to the Appellant-husband. Being aggrieved, the Respondent-wife filed an application for vacation and modification of the order. Learned District Judge, vide order vacated the injunction granted vide order. Aggrieved by the order vacating injunction, the Appellant-husband preferred Revision before the High Court. The High Court, vide order dismissed the petition filed by the Appellant-husband. Aggrieved by the judgment, the Appellant-husband has filed present appeal by way of special leave before this Court. The only point for consideration before this Court is whether in the present facts and circumstances of the case, the Appellant-husband is entitled to the decree of anti-suit injunction against the Respondent-wife.

Anti-Suit Injunctions are meant to restrain a party to a suit/proceeding from instituting or prosecuting a case in another Court, including a foreign Court. An anti-suit injunction is a judicial order restraining one party from prosecuting a case in another Court outside its jurisdiction. The principles governing grant of injunction are common to that of granting anti-suit injunction. The cases of injunction are basically governed by the doctrine of equity. It is a well-settled law that, the Courts in India have power to issue anti-suit injunction to a party over whom it has personal jurisdiction, in an appropriate case. However, before passing the order of anti-suit injunction, Courts should be very cautious and careful, and it should be granted sparingly and not as a matter of routine because such orders involve a Court impinging on the jurisdiction of another Court, which is not entertained very easily specially, when the it restrains the parties from instituting or continuing a case in a foreign Court.

In Modi Entertainment Networks and Anr. v. WSG Cricket PTE Ltd. , present Court observed that, the Courts in India like Court in England are Courts of law and equity. The principles governing the grant of anti-suit injunction being essentially an equitable relief; the Courts in India have the powers to issue anti-suit injunction to a party over whom it has personal jurisdiction in an appropriate case; this is because the Courts of equity exercise jurisdiction in personam; this power has to be exercised sparingly where such an injunction is sought and if not granted, it would amount to the defeat of ends of justice and injustice would be perpetuated.

Further, during the course of hearing, various documents such as pan card, Aadhar card of the Respondent-wife, lease deed which was executed by her in 2015 etc., which are also placed on record, are sufficient to show that, Respondent-wife is ordinarily living in India. Further, as it appears from the proceedings recorded before the US Court that, the Respondent herself has admitted that the Family Court, Gurugram has jurisdiction in the given case. The evidence placed on record is sufficient enough to show that, the Respondent is amenable to the personal jurisdiction of Gurugram Family Court. Though the Respondent-wife is amenable to the jurisdiction of Family Court, Gurugram, there is nothing on record to hold that, the other party will suffer grave injustice, if the injunction is not granted.

There is no dispute to the fact that both the parties are permanent citizens of U.S. Undisputedly, the Circuit Court, Florida, USA is also having the concurrent jurisdiction in the given case. The contention that, the Appellant-husband will suffer grave injustice, if the proceedings are allowed to be continued in the Circuit Court, Florida USA doesn't stand to the ground as the Appellant himself has been residing there after 2007 and the proceedings for grant of anti-suit injunction were initiated by him in India through another person by empowering him through a power of attorney to file and pursue the disputed litigation on his behalf. Further, there is nothing brought on record to show how the Appellant-husband would suffer grave injustice, if the injunction restraining the Respondent-wife from pursuing the divorce petition in Florida, is not granted. Still further, even if the injunction is declined, it cannot be said that, the ends of justice will be defeated and injustice will be perpetuated.

Foreign Court cannot be presumed to be exercising its jurisdiction wrongly even after the Appellant being able to prove that the parties in the present case are continued to be governed by the law governing Hindus in India in the matter of dispute between them. The proceedings in the Foreign Court cannot be said to be oppressive or vexatious. The appeal is accordingly dismissed.

Relevant : Modi Entertainment Network and Anr. v. WSG Cricket PTE Ltd. MANU/SC/0039/2003 : 2003 (4) SCC 341


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