Courts having original civil jurisdiction, can 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 of Civil Procedure, held by the Supreme Court of India. A Bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka allowed an appeal assailing the order of the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court, in the case of M/s. Griesheim GmbH (Now Called Air Liquide Deutschland GmbH v. Goyal MG Gases Pvt. Ltd. [Civil Appeal No. 521 of 2022], which held that High Courts have no jurisdiction to execute foreign decrees under Section 44A even when it falls within the pecuniary jurisdiction of the High Court, as Section 44A is an independent provision distinct from execution of domestic decrees.
The facts of the case are that appellant initiated the proceedings before the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court, United Kingdom, which is notified as a superior Court of a reciprocating territory by the Central Government under Section 44A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (“CPC”). Eventually a money decree amounting to US $ 5,824,567.74 was passed in favour of the appellant. Once the decree attained finality, execution petition was filed before the Delhi High Court in 2006 as the decretal amount exceeded Rs. 20 lakhs, which was then the pecuniary limits of the original civil jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court. The jurisdiction of the High Court was objected to in terms of Section 44A. Considering the pecuniary limit, the Single Judge decided that High Court had jurisdiction, but on appeal it was reversed by the Division bench.
The judgment authored by Justice Rastogi, while setting aside the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court, held:
“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 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 and 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.”
The Supreme Court referred to the definition of ‘district’ provided in Section 2(4) of the CPC, which reads as under “district” means the local limits of the jurisdiction of a principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction (hereinafter called a “District Court”), and includes the local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of a High Court.
Conjointly reading Sections 2(4) and 44A, the Court noted that it includes local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of a High Court. Though all High Courts do not have ordinary original civil jurisdiction, the Court opined, those that do are competent to exercise power for execution of decrees including foreign decrees under Section 44A. The Court emphasised that the execution which would otherwise fall within the jurisdiction of the High Court based on the pecuniary limit notified under section 5(2) cannot be executed by a Civil Court just because Section 44A mentions “District Court”.
Judgment reviewed by Meenakshi Jena