In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court clarified the jurisdiction of Indian courts to issue anti-suit injunctions in cases involving matrimonial disputes abroad, particularly concerning non-resident Indians (NRIs). A division bench comprising Justice V Kameswar Rao and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta emphasized the need to curtail the escalating practice of resorting to foreign courts by one party while the other prefers Indian jurisdiction under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The Court underscored that while Indian courts possess the authority to issue anti-suit injunctions over parties within their jurisdiction, this power must be judiciously exercised, mindful of the principle of comity. Anti-suit injunctions, though directed at an individual, directly impact the jurisdiction of another court. Therefore, these cases are governed by equity, and the Court employs the criterion of whether foreign proceedings are “oppressive or vexatious,” considering the imperative of justice in granting such injunctions.

The case in question involved a husband appealing a family court’s decision to vacate an ad-interim injunction restraining his wife from proceeding with a divorce petition filed in the USA. The couple married in 2018 and subsequently moved to the USA, where a child was born in 2021. The husband filed for divorce in India, alleging cruelty under Section 13(1)(ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act, while the wife initiated a similar plea in a court in the State of Michigan.

The husband sought an anti-injunction suit to restrain his wife from pursuing the divorce proceedings in the USA, obtaining an ex parte ad-interim injunction initially. However, this injunction was later vacated by the family court.

In its ruling, the Delhi High Court upheld the family court’s decision, emphasizing that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the husband would face substantial injustice if the anti-suit injunction restraining the wife’s divorce proceedings in the USA was not granted.

The Court determined that the wife’s actions in initiating proceedings in the USA were neither vexatious nor oppressive, leading to the dismissal of the husband’s appeal against the vacated injunction.

The Delhi High Court’s verdict highlights the delicate balance Indian courts must maintain while considering anti-suit injunctions in international matrimonial cases, emphasizing fairness and the absence of oppressive or vexatious conduct in foreign proceedings as crucial factors in determining the necessity of such injunctions.

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