Read Judgment: Messer Griesheim Gmbh (now Called Air Liquide Deutschland Gmbh) V.  Goyal Mg Gases Pvt. Ltd.

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, February 22, 2022: While considering a case where the decree holder was able to get a money decree of a foreign Court way back on February 7, 2006 and after 16 years it was still not clear as to which was the forum where he could approach for execution of a decree, the Supreme Court has clarified that the Delhi High Court 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 u/s 44A of the CPC

A Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S. Oka observed that once the pecuniary jurisdiction at the given point of time exceeded Rs.20 lakhs as notified by the High Court u/s 5(2) of the Delhi High Court Act, 1966 and the 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 u/s 44A of the Code. 

Going by the background of the case, Griesheim Gmbh (Appellant) initiated proceedings before the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court, United Kingdom, notified u/s 44A of the CPC, 1908 vide Notification No. SRO 399 dated March 1, 1953 issued by the Ministry of Law. Earlier, a default decree was passed due to nonappearance of Goyal Mg Gases (Respondent/judgment debtor) in UK Court. Thereafter, the appellant issued a winding up notice to the respondent, who objected the same on ground of default decree. Later, the respondent entered appearance and the English Court granted a money decree for a principal sum of US $5,824,564.74. Since no appeal was filed by respondent, the money decree attained finality.

Alleging that the decretal amount at the face value may come to approximately Rs. 99 crores on January 20, 2022, the appellant filed a petition for execution of money decree in the Delhi High Court. The respondent raised an objection that the High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the execution petition in view of Section 44A of CPC. The Single Judge however overruled the preliminary objections and taking value of the execution of the money decree dated February 07, 2006 of the English Court exceeding Rs. 20 lakhs, decided the execution petition by a judgment dated November 29, 2013. 

On appeal, the Division Bench arrived at the conclusion that Section 44A is an independent right conferred on a foreign decree holder for enforcement of its decree in India, and it is a fresh cause of action and has no correlation with jurisdictional issues. Observing that the scheme of Section 44A is alien to the scheme of domestic execution as provided u/s 39(3) of CPC, the Division Bench 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. Hence, present appeal. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court observed that the decree of the High Court of England would be considered to be a decree of superior Court of a reciprocating territory, as the judgment and decree dated February 7, 2006 has been passed by the notified superior Court of the reciprocating territory, namely, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland within the meaning of Section 44A of the Code vide notification dated March 1, 1953 issued by the Ministry of Law. 

The expression ‘District” is defined u/s 2(4) of the Code and the term “District Court” referred u/s 44A of the Code, 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 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 u/s 44A of the Code”, added the Top Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Rastogi observed that 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 u/s 44A subject to the just objections which are available to the parties/judgment debtor as envisaged u/s 13 of the Code.

Therefore, the Apex Court restored the matter to the file of Division Bench of the High Court of Delhi to decide on priority, observing that the present being an old matter where the foreign decree could not have been executed for almost 16 years by this time. 

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