Tag Archives: Inconvenient Forum

Jurisdiction of State – Which has most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case

 The Hon’ble Apex Court in Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu, (1984) 3 SCC 698 was concerned with the custody of a child who was British citizen by birth whose parents had been settled in England after their marriage. The child was removed by the husband from the house and was brought to India. The wife obtained a judicial order from the UK court whereby the husband was directed to hand over the custody of the child to her. The said order was later confirmed by the court of England and thereafter the wife came to India and filed a writ petition in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana praying for custody and production of the child which came to be dismissed against which the wife appealed to the Apex Court. The Apex Court keeping in view the “welfare of the child”, “comity of courts” and “jurisdiction of the State which has most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case” held thus:

“We may add that the spouses had set up their matrimonial home in England where the wife was working as a clerk and the husband as a bus driver. The boy is a British citizen, having been born in England, and he holds a British passport. It cannot be controverted that, in these circumstances, the English Court had jurisdiction to decide the question of his custody. The modern theory of Conflict of Laws recognises and, in any event, prefers the jurisdiction of the State which has the most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case. Jurisdiction is not attracted by the operation or creation of fortuitous circumstances such as the circumstance as to where the child, whose custody is in issue, is brought or for the time being lodged. To allow the assumption of jurisdiction by another State in such circumstances will only result in encouraging forum-shopping. Ordinarily, jurisdiction must follow upon functional lines. That is to say, for example, that in matters relating to matrimony and custody, the law of that place must govern which has the closest concern with the well-being of the spouses and the welfare of the offspring of marriage. The spouses in this case had made England their home where this boy was born to them. The father cannot deprive the English Court of its jurisdiction to decide upon his custody by removing him to India, not in the normal movement of the matrimonial home but, by an act which was gravely detrimental to the peace of that home. The fact that the matrimonial home of the spouses was in England, establishes sufficient contacts or ties with that State in order to make it reasonable and just for the courts of that State to assume jurisdiction to enforce obligations which were incurred therein by the spouses. (See International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington  90 L Ed 95 : 326 US 310 (1945) , which was not a matrimonial case but which is regarded as the fountainhead of the subsequent developments of jurisdictional issues.) It is our duty and function to protect the wife against the burden of litigating in an inconvenient forum which she and her husband had left voluntarily in order to make their living in England, where they gave birth to this unfortunate boy.”  In  Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw, (1987) 1 SCC 42, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that it is the duty of courts in all countries to see that a parent doing wrong by removing children out of the country does not gain any advantage by his or her wrongdoing and was guided by the factors such as the longer time spent by the child in the US in which the child was born and became US citizen and also the fact that the child has not taken roots in India and was still not accustomed and acclimatised to the conditions and environment obtaining in the place of his origin in the United States of America. The Court took note of the fact that the child’s presence in India is the result of an illegal act of abduction and the father who is guilty of the said act cannot claim any advantage by stating that he has already put the child in some school in Pune.  Lahari Sakhamuri v. Sobhan Kodali, (2019) 7 SCC 311.

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