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. Simply put, 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 as 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.
Section 41 of the Specific Relief Act
In this backdrop, it is worthwhile to quote Section 41 of the SR Act which provides for various instances and circumstances under which injunction cannot be granted.
“41. Injunction when refused.—An injunction cannot be granted—
(a) to restrain any person from prosecuting a judicial proceeding pending at the institution of the suit in which the injunction is sought, unless such restraint is necessary to prevent a multiplicity of proceedings;
(b) to restrain any person from instituting or prosecuting any proceeding in a court not subordinate to that from which the injunction is sought;
(c) to restrain any person from applying to any legislative body;
(d) to restrain any person from instituting or prosecuting any proceeding in a criminal matter;
(e) to prevent the breach of a contract the performance of which would not be specifically enforced;
(f) to prevent, on the ground of nuisance, an act of which it is not reasonably clear that it will be a nuisance;
(g) to prevent a continuing breach in which the plaintiff has acquiesced;
(h) when equally efficacious relief can certainly be obtained by any other usual mode of proceeding except in case of breach of trust;
(i) when the conduct of the plaintiff or his agents has been such as to disentitle him to the assistance of the court;
(j) when the plaintiff has no personal interest in the matter.”
In Oil and Natural Gas Commission vs. Western Company of North America (1987) 1 SCC 496, the Court, while interpreting the provision of Section 41(b) of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 has held as follows:-
“18….This provision, in our opinion, will be attracted only in a fact-situation where an injunction is sought to restrain a party from instituting or prosecuting any action in a court in India which is either of coordinate jurisdiction or is higher to the court from which the injunction is sought in the hierarchy of Courts in India…..”
In Modi Entertainment Network and Another vs. WSG Cricket PTE Ltd. 2003 (4) SCC 341, wherein this Court while dealing with the matter laid down certain principles required to be taken into consideration by any court while granting an anti-suit injunction. These principles are as under:-
- “The defendant, against whom injunction is sought, is amenable to the personal jurisdiction of the court.
- If the injunction is declined, the ends of justice will be defeated and injustice will be perpetuated and;
- The principle of comity-respect for the court in which the commencement or continuation of action/proceeding is sought to be restrained-must be borne in mind.”
In Modi Entertainment Networks (supra), the Court has reiterated the position by holding 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.
In Vivek Rai Gupta vs. Niyati Gupta, Civil Appeal No. 1123 of 2006, decided on February 10, 2016, the Court has held as under:-
“If the execution proceedings are filed by the respondent-wife for executing the aforesaid decree dated 18.09.2012 passed by the Court of Common Pleas, Cuyahoga Country, Ohio, USA against any other movable/immovable property in India it would be open to the appellant-husband to resist the said execution petition on any grounds available to him in law taking the position that such a decree is not executable.”
Further, in Harmeeta Singh vs. Rajat Taneja 2003 (67) DRJ 58, the Delhi High Court considering the fact that the parties have lived together for a very short time in the United States of America had granted anti suit injunction.
In Y. Narasimha Rao & Others vs. Y. Venkata Lakshmi and Another (1991) 3 SCC 451, this Court has held as under:-
“20. From the aforesaid discussion the following rule can be deduced for recognising a foreign matrimonial judgment in this country. The jurisdiction assumed by the foreign court as well as the grounds 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 be as follows:
(i) where the matrimonial action is filed in the forum where the respondent is domiciled or 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.”