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CJI condemns 'forum shopping'; here's all you need to know about it

The court stated that a classic example of forum shopping is when a litigant approaches one court but does not get desired relief and then approaches another court to obtain relief in the matter

Carte blanche to notify law requires reform

Swati Gandhi New Delhi

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The Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud on Friday said that he will not permit 'forum shopping'. 

The CJI made this remark to a litigant appearing before him, who sought a hearing, however, he (the litigant) mentioned the same case a day ago before Justice KM Joseph.
What is forum shopping?

According to a Supreme Court judgment, dated March 22, 2022, the term 'forum shopping' has not been rendered an exclusive definition in any Indian statute. The apex court cited Merriam Webster dictionary and said, "The practice of choosing the court in which to bring an action from among those courts that could properly exercise jurisdiction based on the determination of which court is likely to provide the most favourable outcome."

The SC further stated that a classic example of 'forum shopping' is when a litigant approaches one court but does not get desired relief and then approaches another court to obtain relief in the same matter.

According to an Indian Express report, as part of their litigation strategy, the lawyers think about which would be the appropriate forum to approach. For Instance, a litigant can directly approach the top court instead of the High Court through the route of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in order to grab more eyeballs for the issue.

The practice of forum shopping has also been criticised by the US and UK courts and has been termed as something that needs to be avoided or prohibited. However, according to the report, most common law countries use the ''forum non-conveniens” principle to prevent forum shopping. It gives the court discretionary powers to refuse to exercise its jurisdiction over a matter where another court, or forum, may more conveniently hear a case.

The top court in its 1988 ruling in 'Chetak Construction Ltd. vs. Om Prakash’ said, “A litigant cannot be permitted a choice of the forum,” and that every attempt at forum shopping “must be crushed with a heavy hand," the report added.

Apex Court's view

According to the court's judgment, 'forum shopping' has been termed a disreputable practice by the courts and has no sanction and paramountcy in law.

In the judgment, the court highlighted that one of the respondents filed three complaints, two in Delhi and one in Kolkata. Looking at the timeline of the complaints filed, the court said that it had specified the 'malafide intention' of the respondent, which was to harass the petitioners and “pressurise them into shelling out the investment.”

In its 2022 ruling, the court referred to a 2017 ruling in ‘Union of India & Ors. vs Cipla Ltd.’, in which a “functional test” was laid down to be adopted for forum shopping. “What has to be seen is whether there is any functional similarity in the proceedings between one court and another or whether there is some sort of subterfuge on the part of a litigant. It is this functional test that will determine whether a litigant is indulging in forum shopping or not,” the court said.

A similar practice to 'forum shopping' is 'bench hunting', which refers to petitioners managing to get their cases heard by a particular judge or court to ensure a favourable order.

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First Published: May 23 2023 | 11:36 PM IST

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