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.

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3878 2018

( Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 10078 of 2018)

@ CC No.22197/2016

Dinesh Singh Thakur ………Appellant(s)

Versus

Sonal Thakur ….…Respondent(s)

J U D G M E N T

R.K.Agrawal, J.

1) Leave granted.

2) The present appeal has been filed against the impugned

judgment and order dated 03.11.2016 passed by the High Court

of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh in CR No. 7190 of 2016

whereby learned single Judge of the High Court dismissed the

revision filed by the appellant-husband against the order dated

18.10.2016 passed by the District Judge, Family Court, Gurgaon

in Civil Suit No. 15 of 2016 whereby ad-interim injunction

granted against the respondent-wife, vide order dated 26.09.2016

has been vacated.

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Brief facts:-

3) Having regard to the nature and circumstances of the case,

we do not intend to discuss all the facts in detail at this stage.

Hence, the facts are stated in a summarized way only to

appreciate the issue involved in this instant appeal.

(a) The marriage between Dinesh Singh Thakur-the

appellant-husband and Sonal Thakur – respondent-wife was

solemnized on 20.02.1995 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.

(b) The appellant-husband filed a petition being H.M.A. No. 601

of 2016 under Sections 13 and 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act,

1955 (in short ‘the Act’) against the respondent-wife at the Family

Court, Gurgaon which is pending adjudication before the Court.

Subsequently, the respondent-wife filed a petition being Case No.

2016-008918-FD in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial

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Circuit in and for Pinellas County, Florida, USA for divorce on the

ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage and other reliefs.

Thereafter, the appellant-husband filed Civil Suit No. 15 of 2016

before the District Judge, Family Court, Gurgaon, under Section

7 of the Act for permanent injunction and declaration inter alia to

restrain the respondent-wife from pursuing the petition for

divorce before the Court in USA.

(c) Learned District Judge, vide order dated 26.09.2016,

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 dated 26.09.2016. Learned

District Judge, vide order dated 18.10.2016, vacated the

injunction granted vide order dated 26.09.2016.

(d) Aggrieved by the order vacating injunction, the

appellant-husband preferred CR No. 7190 of 2016 before the

High Court. Learned single Judge of the High Court, vide order

dated 03.11.2016 dismissed the petition filed by the

appellant-husband.

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(e) Aggrieved by the judgment and order dated 03.11.2016, the

appellant-husband has filed this appeal by way of special leave

before this Court.

4) Heard Ms. Indu Malhotra, learned senior counsel for the

appellant-husband and Mr. V. Giri, learned senior counsel for the

respondent-wife and perused the record.

Point(s) for consideration:-

5) 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?

Rival submissions:-

6) Learned senior counsel for the appellant-husband

contended that as the appellant herein had already filed a

petition seeking dissolution of marriage of the parties in which

the respondent-wife was served on 04.08.2016 and she had

caused appearance on 16.09.2016, the proceedings initiated by

the respondent-wife seeking a decree of divorce in a Foreign

Court on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage

which is not a ground for divorce under the Act are liable to be

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stayed. Further, the respondent-wife, along with her minor

children is residing in India since 2003 and filing of petition for

divorce in the Court at USA, after receipt of notice in the divorce

petition filed by the appellant-husband in India, is an abuse of

process of law and amounts to multiplicity of proceedings.

7) Learned senior counsel further contended that the

respondent-wife is admittedly residing at Gurgaon, therefore, the

court at Gurgaon would be the forum convenient to both the

parties. She further contended that the trial Court has only

considered the provisions of Section 41(b) of the Specific Relief

Act, 1963 (in short ‘the SR Act’) and the decision in the case of

Rakesh Kumar vs. Ms. Ashima Kumar – AIR 2007 P&H 63 but

did not take into consideration the provisions of Section 41(a) of

the SR Act, relevant in the present context. Learned senior

counsel for the appellant-husband finally contended that the

High Court was not right in upholding the order of the court

below on vacating the ad-interim injunction and interference in

this regard is sought for by this Court.

8) Learned senior counsel for the respondent-wife while

refuting the claims made by learned senior counsel for the

appellant-husband submitted that the petition that has been

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filed before the Court at Florida is not only for dissolution of

marriage of the parties but also for claiming various other reliefs

such as equitable distribution of marital assets, child support,

alimony, partition and other reliefs that are not available under

the Indian Law. Learned senior counsel further submitted that

the irreparable loss or injury shall be caused to the

respondent-wife and to the children in case the petition pending

in the Court at Florida is stayed.

Discussion

9) 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.

10) 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

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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.

11) 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;

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(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.”

12) The appellant – husband argued that Section 41(b) is not

applicable to the instant case rather it is applicable only to those

cases where question is regarding the injunction for proceedings

in the Indian court. In support of this argument, learned senior

counsel placed reliance on Oil and Natural Gas Commission

vs. Western Company of North America (1987) 1 SCC 496,

wherein this 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…..”

13) Learned senior counsel for the appellant-husband further

placed reliance on 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:-

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 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.

14) In Modi Entertainment Networks (supra), this Court has

reiterated this 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.

15) In Vivek Rai Gupta vs. Niyati Gupta, Civil Appeal No.

1123 of 2006, decided on February 10, 2016, this Court has held

as under:-

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“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.”

16) 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.

17) 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.”

18) Further, during the course of hearing, various documents

such as pan card, Aadhar card of the respondent-wife, lease

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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 Gurgaon 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, Gurgaon, 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

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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.

19) The contention that the respondent-wife has filed the

petition for divorce in the court at USA on the ground of

irretrievable breakdown of marriage which is not the ground

provided for divorce under the Act requires consideration. The

mere fact that the respondent-wife has filed the case on the

ground which is not available to her under the Act, doesn’t

means that there are likelihood of her being succeeding in

getting a decree for divorce. Specifically, in view of the fact that

the appellant has raised this contention before the Circuit Court,

Florida and both the parties will produce evidence with regard to

the question whether their marriage is governed by the Act or

any other law.

20) Foreign court cannot be presumed to be exercising its

jurisdiction wrongly even after the appellant being able to prove

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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.

21) In view of above discussion and after having regard to the

nature of case and other peculiar facts, we do not deem it

appropriate to interfere with the decision rendered by the High

Court. We are of the opinion that the proceedings in the Foreign

Court cannot be said to be oppressive or vexatious. The appeal

is accordingly dismissed with no order as to costs.

……………………………………J.

(R.K. AGRAWAL)

…………………………………….J.

(R. BANUMATHI)

NEW DELHI

APRIL 17, 2018

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