The Expression District defined in Section 2(4) of the Code includes the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India
Source: Supreme Court of India
  • Post author:
  • Post published:January 28, 2022
  • Reading time:10 mins read

The Court while hearing a appeal arising out of the execution proceedings observed that the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court is always exercised, based on pecuniary limits. It would be impossible to read into Section 44A of the Code that even though the pecuniary jurisdiction of Civil Court is restricted, still for the purpose of execution of a foreign decree, it becomes the District Court in respect to those matters which fall within the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court and the expression “district” defined under Section 2(4) of the Code will have to be given its true effect.

The expression “District” as defined under Section 2(4) of the Code only lays down the limits of the jurisdiction of the principal civil Court of original jurisdiction and that includes the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court and once the pecuniary jurisdiction exceeds as being notified under the relevant statute, the jurisdiction vests exclusively with the High Court as an ordinary original civil jurisdiction for execution of a foreign decree under Section 44A subject to the just objections which are available to the parties/judgment debtor as envisaged under Section 13 of the Code, the bench of Justice Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S. Oka observed.

Concise Facts:

The appellant had filed a suit before the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court, United Kingdom(“English Court”) which is a superior Court of a reciprocating territory (namely, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island) notified under Section 44A of the Code vide Notification No. SRO 399 dated 1st March, 1953 issued by the Ministry of Law. The English Court after adjudication of the case granted a money decree for a principal sum of US $ 5,824,564.74.

Thereafter the appellant filed a petition for execution of money decree in the Delhi High Court as the Principal Court of original jurisdiction.

Findings of the Single Bench of the High Court of Delhi:

Learned Single Judge of the High Court held that taking value of the execution of the money decree of the English Court exceeding Rs. 20 lakhs, at given point of time, i.e., 27th April, 2006 (the day on which the execution petition was filed), High Court of Delhi holds the exclusive jurisdiction of ordinary original civil jurisdiction, however, the judgment was later assailed by the respondent­ judgment debtor before the Division Bench of the High Court.

Findings of the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi:

The Division Bench of the High Court, in the facts and circumstances, arrived at the conclusion that Section 44A is an independent right conferred on a foreign decree holder for enforcement of its decree in India. It is a fresh cause of action and has no co-­relation with jurisdictional issues.

The scheme of Section 44A of the Code is alien to the scheme of domestic execution as provided under Section 39(3) of the Code and finally held that the High Court of Delhi, not being a District Court, in terms of Section 44A of the Code, is not vested with the jurisdiction to entertain execution petition and directed to be transferred to the Court of District Judge within whose jurisdiction the property sought to be attached is situated for being dealt with in accordance with law, which is a subject matter of challenge in appeal before us

Also Read:  Grant of leave to defend is a rule and its denial is an exception under Order 37 CPC: Supreme Court

In Appeal Before the Supreme Court:

Submissions of the Counsel for the appellant:

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that the jurisdiction for execution of a foreign Court’s decree of a reciprocating territory vests with the High Court of Delhi, provided the value of the money decree exceeds the pecuniary limits as notified under Section 5(2) of the Act 1966.

Learned counsel further submitted that there can be two or more Courts which are concurrently a principal civil Court of original jurisdiction subject to their pecuniary limits as being envisaged under Section 5(2) of the Act 1966. If that being so, if pecuniary jurisdiction exceeds what is prescribed/notified under the Act, it is the High Court of Delhi which will be considered to be the principal Court of original civil jurisdiction as defined under Section 5(2) of the Act 1966 and the execution petition being a continuation of the suit proceedings, the Division Bench of the High Court has committed a manifest error in holding that the High Court of Delhi is not vested with the jurisdiction to entertain an execution petition as being a District Court defined in terms of Section 44A of the Code.

In response, Mr. Rakesh Dwivedi, learned senior counsel for the respondent, while supporting the finding recorded in the impugned judgment, submitted that Section 44A is an independent right conferred on a foreign decree holder for enforcement of its decree in India and the scheme of Section 44A of the Code is alien to the scheme of domestic execution as provided under Section 39(3) of the Code. The domestic decree can indeed be executed by the Court which passed the decree or Court of competent jurisdiction to which it is transferred for execution. So far as execution of foreign decree is concerned, it is being governed by an independent right conferred under Section 44A of the Code which unequivocally confers exclusive jurisdiction in this regard on a “District Court” and the words mandating the competence of the executing Court, to try the original cause, in which the decree was passed, are conspicuous by their absence, in this provision.

Observations:

The Court while making its observation confined itself to only one question for consideration i.e. whether the High Court of Delhi in exercise of its original jurisdiction is a competent Court to entertain a petition for executing a money decree (in excess of Rs.20 lakhs) of a foreign Court which is notified as a superior Court of reciprocating territory under Section 44A of the Code.

The Court after analyzing the relevant provisions of the Code particularly Section 2(4), Section 6, Section 13 and Section 44A made the following observations:

25. The expression ‘District” is defined under Section 2(4) of the Code and the term “District Court” referred under Section 44A of the Code although not defined, but on conjoint reading of the provision makes it clear that it refers to the local limits of the jurisdiction of a principal civil Court of original jurisdiction (provisions of the Code called a “District Court”) and it includes the local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of a High Court and it is not disputed that principal civil Court of original jurisdiction is normally a District Court (with whatever change in the nomenclature) and the High Courts in India exercising ordinary original civil jurisdiction are not too many, but where there is a split jurisdiction based on its pecuniary value, notified from time to time, the District Court or the High Court in its ordinary original civil jurisdiction is competent to exercise power for execution of decree, including money decree of the foreign Court of reciprocating jurisdiction, provided other conditions are complied with as contemplated under Section 44A of the Code.

27. The ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court is always exercised, based on pecuniary limits. It would be impossible to read into Section 44A of the Code that even though the pecuniary jurisdiction of Civil Court is restricted, still for the purpose of execution of a foreign decree, it becomes the District Court in respect to those matters which fall within the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court and the expression “district” defined under Section 2(4) of the Code will have to be given its true effect. To read the expression “District Court” in Section 44A for execution of foreign decree, it will be construed to be a Court holding ordinary original civil jurisdiction in terms of its pecuniary limits as being notified under Section 5(2) of the Act 1966.

28. It leaves no manner of doubt that once the pecuniary jurisdiction at the given point of time exceeded Rs. 20 lakhs as notified by the High Court under Section 5(2) of the Act 1966 (later vide notification dated 10th August, 2015 (w.e.f. 26th October, 2015) pecuniary limits has been revised to Rs.2 crores), it is the High Court of Delhi which holds its exclusive jurisdiction as ordinary original civil jurisdiction to execute a foreign decree under Section 44A of the Code and it goes without saying that execution always is in continuation of the proceedings.

30. The Division Bench has proceeded on the basis of the expression “District Court”, as being referred under Section 44A of the Code but it has not taken into consideration the other relevant provisions of which a reference has been made by us while coming to the conclusion that the expression “District” as defined under Section 2(4) of the Code only lays down the limits of the jurisdiction of the principal civil Court of original jurisdiction and that includes the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Court and once the pecuniary jurisdiction exceeds as being notified under the relevant statute, the jurisdiction vests exclusively with the High Court as an ordinary original civil jurisdiction for execution of a foreign decree under Section 44A subject to the just objections which are available to the parties/judgment debtor as envisaged under Section 13 of the Code.

The Court while allowing the appeal quashed the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi.

Also Read:  Section 69(2) of the Partnership Act is not a bar to a Suit filed by an unregistered firm, if the same is for enforcement of a statutory right or a common law right: Supreme Court

Click here to download the judgment

Case Details:
MESSER GRIESHEIM GmbH (NOW CALLED AIR LIQUIDE DEUTSCHLAND GmbH) vs GOYAL MG GASES PVT. LTD.
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 521 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(Civil) No(s). 22539 of 2014)
Coram: Justice AJAY RASTOGI and Justice ABHAY S. OKA

Date of Judgment: 28-01-2022