Tag Archive for: private international law

HCCH Monthly Update: April 2024

Meetings & Events

From 8 to 12 April 2024, the Working Group on Parentage / Surrogacy met for the second time. Pursuant to its mandate, the Working Group continued its consideration of draft provisions for one new instrument on legal parentage generally, including legal parentage resulting from an international surrogacy agreement. More information is available here.

 

Vacancies

Applications are now open for a Communications and Outreach Internship at the Permanent Bureau of the HCCH. The deadline for the submission of applications is 20 May 2024 (18:00 CEST). More information is available here.

 

These monthly updates are published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), providing an overview of the latest developments. More information and materials are available on the HCCH website.

No role for anti-suit injunctions under the TTPA to enforce exclusive jurisdiction agreements

Australian and New Zealand courts have developed a practice of managing trans-Tasman proceedings in a way that recognises the close relationship between the countries, and that aids in the effective and efficient resolution of cross-border disputes. This has been the case especially since the implementation of the Agreement on Trans-Tasman Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement, which was entered into for the purposes of setting up an integrated scheme of civil jurisdiction and judgments.  A key feature of the scheme is that it seeks to “streamline the process for resolving civil proceedings with a trans-Tasman element in order to reduce costs and improve efficiency” (Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (TTPA), s 3(1)(a)). There have been many examples of Australian and New Zealand courts working to achieve this goal.

Despite the closeness of the trans-Tasman relationship, one question that had remained uncertain was whether the TTPA regime allows for the grant of an anti-suit injunction to stop or prevent proceedings that have been brought in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement. The enforcement of exclusive jurisdiction agreements is explicitly protected in the regime, which adopted the approach of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements in anticipation of Australia and New Zealand signing up to the Convention. Section 28 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (NZ) and s 22 of the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth) provide that a court must not restrain a person from commencing or continuing a civil proceeding across the Tasman “on the grounds that [the other court] is not the appropriate forum for the proceeding”. In the secondary literature, different opinions have been expressed whether this provision extends to injunctions on the grounds that the other court is not the appropriate forum due to the existence of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement: see Mary Keyes “Jurisdiction Clauses in New Zealand Law” (2019) 50 VUWLR 631 at 633-4; Maria Hook and Jack Wass The Conflict of Laws in New Zealand (LexisNexis, 2020) at [2.445].

The New Zealand High Court has now decided that, in its view, there is no place for anti-suit injunctions under the TTPA regime: A-Ward Ltd v Raw Metal Corp Pty Ltd [2024] NZHC 736 at [4]. Justice O’Gorman reasoned that the TTPA involves New Zealand and Australian courts applying “mirror provisions to determine forum disputes, based on confidence in each other’s judicial institutions” (at [4]), and that anti-suit injunctions can have “no role to play where countries have agreed on judicial cooperation in the allocation and exercise of jurisdiction” (at [17]).

A-Ward Ltd, a New Zealand company, sought an interim anti-suit injunction to stop proceedings brought against it by Raw Metal Corp Pty Ltd, an Australian company, in the Federal Court of Australia. The dispute related to the supply of shipping container tilters from A-Ward to Raw Metal. A-Ward’s terms and conditions had included an exclusive jurisdiction clause selecting the courts of New Zealand, as well as a New Zealand choice of law clause. In its Australian proceedings, Raw Metal sought damages for misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA). A-Ward brought proceedings in New Zealand seeking damages for breach of its trade terms, including the jurisdiction clause, as well as an anti-suit injunction.

O’Gorman J’s starting point was to identify the different common law tests that courts had applied when determining an application to the court to stay its own proceedings, based on the existence (or not) of an exclusive jurisdiction clause. While Spiliada principles applied in the absence of such a clause, The Eleftheria provided the relevant test to determine the enforceability of an exclusive jurisdiction clause: at [16]. The alternative to a stay was to seek an anti-suit injunction, which, however, was a controversial tool, because of its potential to “interfere unduly with a foreign court controlling its own processes” (at [17]).

Having set out the competing views in the secondary literature, the Court concluded that anti-suit injunctions were not available to enforce jurisdiction agreements otherwise falling within the scope of the TTPA, based on the following reason (at [34]):

  1. The term “appropriate forum” in ss 28 (NZ) and s 22 (Aus) of the respective Acts could not, “as a matter of reasonable interpretation”, be restricted to questions of appropriate forum in the absence of an exclusive jurisdiction agreement. This was not how the term had been used in the common law (see The Eleftheria).
  2. The structure of the TTPA regime reinforced this point, because it is on an application under s 22 (NZ)/ s 17 (Aus), for a stay of proceedings on the basis that the other court is the more appropriate forum, that a court must give effect to an exclusive jurisdiction agreement under s 25 (NZ)/ s 20 (Aus).
  3. Sections 25 (NZ) and 20 (Aus) already provided strong protection to exclusive choice of court agreements, and introducing additional protection by way of anti-suit relief “would only create uncertainty, inefficiency, and the risk of inconsistency, all of which the TTPA regime was designed to avoid”.
  4. The availability of anti-suit relief would “rest on the assumption that the courts in each jurisdiction might reach a different result, giving a parochial advantage”. This, however, would be “inconsistent with the entire basis for the TTPA regime – that the courts apply the same codified tests and place confidence in each other’s judicial institutions”.
  5. Australian case law (Great Southern Loans v Locator Group [2005] NSWSC 438), to the effect that anti-suit injunctions continue to be available domestically as between Australian courts, was distinguishable because there was no express provision for exclusive choice of court agreements, which is what “makes a potentially conflicting common law test unpalatable”.
  6. Retaining anti-suit injunctions to enforce exclusive jurisdiction agreements would be inconsistent with the concern underpinning s 28 (NZ)/ s 22 (Aus) about “someone trying to circumvent the trans-Tasman regime as a whole”.
  7. The availability of anti-suit relief would defeat the purpose of the scheme to prevent duplication of proceedings.
  8. More generally, anti-suit injunctions “have no role to play where countries have agreed on judicial cooperation in the allocation and exercise of jurisdiction”.

The Court further concluded that, even if the TTPA did not exclude the power to order an anti-suit injunction, there was no basis for doing so in this case in relation to Raw Metal’s claim under the CCA (at [35]). There was “nothing invalid or unconscionable about Australia’s policy choice” to prevent parties from contracting out of their obligations under the CCA, even though New Zealand law (in the form of the Fair Trading Act 1986) might now follow a different policy. The TTPA regime included exceptions to the enforcement of exclusive jurisdiction agreements. Here, A-Ward seemed to have anticipated that, from the perspective of the Australian court, enforcement of the New Zealand jurisdiction clause would have fallen within one of these exceptions, and the High Court of Australia’s observations in Karpik v Carnival plc [2023] HCA 39 at [40] seemed to be consistent with this. The “entirely orthodox position” seemed to be that the Federal Court in Australia “would regard itself as having jurisdiction to determine the CCA claim, unconstrained by the choice of law and court” (at [35]).

Time will tell whether Australian courts will agree with the High Court’s emphatic rejection of anti-suit relief under the TTPA as being inconsistent with the cooperative purpose of the scheme. The parallel debate within the context of the Hague Choice of Court Convention – which does not specifically exclude anti-suit injunctions – may be instructive here: Mukarrum Ahmed “Exclusive choice of court agreements: some issues on the Hague Convention on choice of court agreements and its relationship with the Brussels I recast especially anti-suit injunctions, concurrent proceedings and the implications of BREXIT” (2017) 13 Journal of Private International Law 386. Despite O’Gorman J’s powerful reasoning, her judgment may not be the last word on this important issue.

From a New Zealand perspective, the judgment is also of interest because of its restrained approach to the availability of anti-suit relief more generally. Even assuming that the Australian proceedings were, in fact, in breach of the New Zealand jurisdiction clause, O’Gorman J would not have been prepared to grant an injunction as a matter of course. In this respect, the judgment may be seen as a departure from previous case law. In Maritime Mutual Insurance Association (NZ) Ltd v Silica Sandport Inc [2023] NZHC 793, for example, the Court granted an anti-suit injunction to compel compliance with an arbitration agreement, without inquiring into the foreign court’s perspective and its reasons for taking jurisdiction. O’Gorman J’s more nuanced approach is to be welcomed (for criticism of Maritime Mutual, see here on The Conflict of Laws in New Zealand blog).

A more challenging aspect of the judgment is the choice of law analysis, and the Court’s focus on the potential concurrent or cumulative application of foreign and domestic statutes (at [28]-[31], [35]). The Court said that, to determine whether a foreign statute is applicable, the New Zealand court can ask whether the statute applies on its own terms (following Chief Executive of the Department of Corrections v Fujitsu New Zealand Ltd [2023] NZHC 3598, which I criticised here on The Conflict of Laws in New Zealand blog, also published as [2024] NZLJ 22). It is not entirely clear how this point was relevant to the issue of the anti-suit injunction. The Judge’s reasoning seemed to be that, from the New Zealand court’s perspective, the Australian court’s application of the CCA was appropriate as a matter of statutory interpretation and/or choice of law, which meant that the proceedings were not unconscionable or unjust (at [35]).

Lex Fori Reigns Supreme: Indian High Court (Finally) Confirms Applicability of the Indian Law by ‘Default’ in all International Civil and Commercial Matters

Written by Shubh Jaiswal, student, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat (India) and Professor Saloni Khanderia, JGLS. 

In the landmark case of TransAsia Private Capital vs Gaurav Dhawan, the Delhi High Court clarified that Indian Courts are not automatically required to determine and apply the governing law of a dispute unless the involved parties introduce expert evidence to that effect. This clarification came during the court’s examination of an execution petition stemming from a judgment by the High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court. The Division Bench of the Delhi High Court invoked the precedent set by the United Kingdom Supreme Court in Brownlie v. FS Cairo, shedding light on a contentious issue: the governing law of a dispute when parties do not sufficiently prove the applicability of foreign law.

The Delhi High Court has established that in the absence of evidence proving the applicability of a foreign law identified as the ‘proper law of the contract’, Indian law will be applied as the default jurisdiction. This decision empowers Indian courts to apply Indian law by ‘default’ in adjudicating international civil and commercial disputes, even in instances where an explicit governing law has been selected by the parties, unless there is a clear insistence on applying the law of a specified country. This approach aligns with the adversarial system common to most common law jurisdictions, where courts are not expected to determine the applicable law proactively. Instead, the legal representatives must argue and prove the content of foreign law.

This ruling has significant implications for the handling of foreign-related civil and commercial matters in India, highlighting a critical issue: the lack of private international law expertise among legal practitioners. Without adequate knowledge of the choice of law rules, there’s a risk that international disputes could always lead to the default application of Indian law, exacerbated by the absence of codified private international law norms in India. This situation underscores the need for specialized training in private international law to navigate the complexities of international litigation effectively.

Facts in brief

As such, the dispute in Transasia concerned an execution petition filed under Section 44A of the Indian Civil Procedure Code, 1908, for the enforcement of a foreign judgment passed by the High Court of Justice Business and Property Courts of England and Wales Commercial Court. The execution petitioner had brought a suit against the judgment debtor before the aforementioned court for default under two personal guarantees with respect to two revolving facility loan agreements. While these guarantee deeds contained choice of law clauses and required the disputes to be governed by the ‘Laws of the Dubai International Finance Centre’ and ‘Singapore Law’ respectively, the English Court had applied English law to the dispute and decided the dispute in favour of the execution petitioner. Accordingly, the judgment debtor opposed the execution of the petition before the Delhi HC for the application of incorrect law by the Court in England.

It is in this regard that the Delhi HC invoked the ‘default rule’ and negated the contention of the judgment debtor. The Bench relied on the decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Brownlie v. FS Cairo, which postulated that “if a party does not rely on a particular rule of law even though it would be entitled to do so, it is not generally for the court to apply the rule of its own motion.

The HC confirmed that foreign law is conceived as a question of fact in India. Thus, it was for each party to choose whether to plead a case that a foreign system of law was applicable to the claim, but neither party was obliged to do so, and if neither party did, the court would apply its own law to the issues in dispute. To that effect, the HC also relied on Aluminium Industrie Vaassen BV, wherein the English Court had applied English law to a sales contract even when a provision expressly stipulated the application of Dutch law—only because neither party pleaded Dutch law.

Thus, in essence, the HC observed that courts would only be mandated to apply the chosen law if either party had pleaded its application and the case was ‘well-founded’. In the present dispute, the judgment debtor had failed to either plead or establish that English law would not be applicable before the Court in England and had merely challenged jurisdiction, and thus, the Delhi HC held that the judgment could not be challenged at the execution stage.

Choosing the Proper Law

The mechanism employed to ascertain the applicable law under Indian private international law depends on whether the parties have opted to resolve their dispute before a court or an arbitral tribunal. In arbitration matters, the identification of the applicable law similarly depends on the express and implied choice of the parties. Similarly, in matters of litigation, courts rely on the common law doctrine of the ‘proper law of the contract’ to discern the applicable law while adjudicating such disputes on such obligations. Accordingly, the proper law depends on the express and implied choice of the parties. When it comes to the determination of the applicable law through the express choice of the parties, Indian law, despite being uncodified, is coherent and conforms to the practices of several major legal systems, such as the UK, the EU’s 27 Member States, and its BRICS partners, Russia and China – insofar as it similarly empowers the parties to choose the law of any country with which they desire their disputes to be settled. Thus, it is always advised that parties keen on being governed by the law of a particular country must ensure to include a clause to this effect in their agreement if they intend to adjudicate any disputes that might arise by litigation because it is unlikely for the court to regard any other factor, such as previous contractual relationships between them, to identify their implied choice.

Questioning the Assumed: Manoeuvring through the Intricate Terrain of Private International Law and Party Autonomy in the Indian Judicial System

By reiterating the ‘default rule’ in India and presenting Indian courts with another opportunity to apply Indian law, this judgment has demonstrated the general tendency on the part of the courts across India to invariably invoke Indian law – albeit in an implicit manner – without any (actual) examination as to the country with which the contract has its closest and most real connection. Further, the lack of expertise by the members of the Bar in private international law-related matters and choice of law rules implies that most, if not all, foreign-related civil and commercial matters would be governed by Indian law in its capacity as the lex fori. Therefore, legal representatives should actively advocate for disputes to be resolved according to the law specified in their dispute resolution clause rather than assuming that the court will automatically apply the law of the designated country in adjudicating the dispute.

Foreign parties may not want Indian law to apply to their commercial contracts, especially when they have an express provision against the same. Apart from being unclear and uncertain, the present state of India’s practice and policy debilitates justice and fails to meet the commercial expectations of the parties by compelling litigants to be governed by Indian law regardless of the circumstance and the nature of the dispute—merely because they failed to plead the application of their chosen law.

This would inevitably lead to foreign parties opting out of the jurisdiction of the Indian courts by concluding choice of court agreements in favour of other forums so as to avoid the application of the Republic’s ambiguous approach towards the law that would govern their commercial contracts. Consequently, Indian courts may rarely find themselves chosen as the preferred forum through a choice of court agreement for the adjudication of such disputes when they have no connection to the transaction. In circumstances where parties are unable to opt out of the jurisdiction of Indian courts – perhaps because of the lack of agreement to this effect, the inconsistencies would hamper international trade and commerce in India, with parties from other jurisdictions wanting to avoid concluding contracts with Indian businessmen and traders so as to avert plausible disputes being adjudicated before Indian courts (and consequently being governed by Indian law).

Therefore, Indian courts should certainly reconsider the application of the ‘default rule’, and limit the application of the lex fori in order to respect party autonomy.

Cross-Border Litigation and Comity of Courts: A Landmark Judgment from the Delhi High Court

Written by Tarasha Gupta, student, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat (India) and Saloni Khanderia, Professor, Jindal Global Law School

 

In its recent judgment in Shiju Jacob Varghese v. Tower Vision Limited,[1] the Delhi High Court (“HC”) held that an appeal before an Indian civil court was infructuous due to a consent order passed by the Tel Aviv District Court in a matter arising out of the same cause of action. The Court deemed the suit before Indian courts an attempt to re-litigate the same cause of action, thus an abuse of process violative of the principle of comity of courts.

In doing so, the Court appears to have clarified confusions arising in light of the explanation to Section 10 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (“CPC”), on one side, and parties’ right to choice of court agreements and forum non conveniens on the other. The result is that, as per the Delhi HC, Indian courts now ought to stay proceedings before them if the same cause of action has already been litigated before foreign courts.

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HCCH Monthly Update: February 2024

Conventions & Instruments

On 1 February 2024, the 2007 Child Support Convention entered into force for Canada. At present, 49 States and the European Union are bound by the 2007 Child Support Convention. More information is available here.

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Call For Papers: Second Postgraduate Law Conference of the Centre for Private International Law

The Centre for Private International Law (CPIL) of the University of Aberdeen is announcing its 2nd Postgraduate Law Conference of the Centre for Private International Law, which will take place online on 6 May 2024. Researchers are invited to submit abstracts by 29 February.

The Conference aims to provide young scholars with the opportunity to present their research before panels with relevant expertise and receive valuable feedback for further development of their work.

It has four panels, respectively on international family law, civil and commercial law, artificial intelligence and human rights linked to private international law.

For more information, please see the Centre’s website.

From Theory to Practice in Private International Law: Gedächtnisschrift for Professor Jonathan Fitchen

Written by Justin Borg-Barthet, Katarina Trimmings, Burcu Yüksel Ripley and Patricia Živkovic

Note: This post is also available via the blog of the European Association of Private International Law.

When our colleague and friend Prof Jonathan Fitchen passed away on 22nd January 2021, we were comforted in our grief by an outpouring of messages of condolence from private international lawyers around the world. We had known, of course, of the impact and importance of Jonathan’s work to the world of private international law scholarship. His monograph on authentic instruments, for example, will remain an essential reference on that subject for many years to come. Jonathan’s impact on the world of private international law scholars was, to a degree, less obvious. He was an unassuming man. He did not seek to command the attention of every gathering he attended, and he might have been surprised to realise how often he did just that. He was tremendously well-liked and well-respected for his wit, his self-deprecating sense of humour, and his empathy.

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Rivista di diritto internazionale privato e processuale (RDIPP) No 4/2023: Abstracts

The fourth issue of 2023 of the Rivista di diritto internazionale privato e processuale (RDIPP, published by CEDAM) was just released. It features:

Cristina Campiglio, Professor at the University of Pavia, Giurisdizione e legge applicabile in materia di responsabilità medica (ovvero a proposito di conflitti di qualificazioni) [Jurisdiction and Applicable Law in Matters of Medical Liability (Namely, on the Issue of Conflicts of Characterisation); in Italian]

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First Issue for Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly in 2024

The first issue for Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly in 2024 was published recently. It contains the following articles and case notes.

Articles:

Andrew Dickinson, “Electronic trade documents and the conflict of laws in the United Kingdom”

The Electronic Trade Documents Act 2023, which entered into force on 20 September 2023, seeks to facilitate the use of trade documents (including bills of exchange, promissory notes and bills of lading) in electronic form by assimilating these instruments, and their legal effects, to the equivalent paper trade documents, provided that the systems used to process the relevant information meet certain technological requirements. However, the Act contains no provision that expressly addresses the legislation’s cross-border dimension or its relationship to the United Kingdom’s conflict of laws rules. This article considers how these matters should best be addressed in order to secure the Act’s promised economic benefits.

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