India: Doing Litigation In India

Last Updated: 18 November 2014
Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Partner

Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India, New Delhi Mobile: +91 9810081079 Email: vpdalmia@vaishlaw.com

India has well defined substantive and procedural laws along with a well-established system of judicial enforcement of rights. An elaborate mechanism is provided for grievance redressal under Indian statutes. A complete hierarchy of courts and tribunals has been set up [http://indiancourts.nic.in/index.html]. India has three tier system of judiciary, which includes District Courts, at the first tier, comprising judges for adjudicating upon civil disputes and criminal cases at the lowest level. At the second tier, each state in India has a High Court which has the appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over all the courts and tribunals in such state. The Supreme Court of India [http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/], which is at the third tier, is the highest court of justice in India having appellate and supervisory jurisdiction over High Courts of all the states. The Supreme Court of India and all the High Courts also act as the custodians of the constitution of India. Government of India has also formed special tribunals to deal with matters of specific nature, such as Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) [http://www.ipab.tn.nic.in/], Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) [http://itat.nic.in/], Debt Recovery Tribunal(DRT) [http://www.drt.co.in/], Central Administrative Tribunal(CAT) [http://cgat.gov.in/], Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) [http://www.bifr.nic.in/] and Central Excise Service Tax Appellate Tribunal(CESTAT) [http://cestat.gov.in/].

Doing litigation in India may be an unending process, frustrating the entire purpose of litigation. Indian Judicial System is marred with exceptional judicial delays and slow process. The present sad scenario of Indian courts can be understood from the data derived from the website of the Supreme Court of India [http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/new_s/pendingstat.htm], pertaining to the pendency of cases in various Indian Courts. A glimpse at the data given hereinafter of the pending cases in the Indian courts is grave enough to pose caution. As of May 2010, 55,797 cases are pending with the Supreme Court of India, over 3 million cases are pending in the 21 High Courts and over 26.3 Million civil and criminal cases are pending in the District Courts [http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/HCquarterly_pendency_Dec2008.pdf].

The litigation in India should be initiated only after a well thought strategy about the entire process, time and cost involved. Litigation in India should not be initiated impulsively. Though it may not be possible to avoid litigation at all times but strategies can be formed to successfully end the litigation by achieving practical objects. It should also be kept in mind that Indian Courts are not very pro-active in granting heavy damages or compensation. Alternative Dispute Resolutions like arbitration is a well recognized method of avoiding litigation in India.

Time frame for Litigation

In view of the above data, it is very difficult to predict a time band within which litigation in India can be completed from the filing of the suit and till the appellate stages are over. However, a well thought strategy can definitely put an end to the unending and unpredictable litigation in India.

So, while doing business in India, the first endeavor should be to avoid litigation. However, there may be situations when a foreign entity may get embroiled in an unavoidable forced litigation in Indian Courts.

It has been observed that most of the litigation which takes place in India during the course of business by a foreign entity with an Indian, is a result of bad contracts, which could be avoided by  taking care of  and contemplating various contingencies which may arise during the course of business in India.

Cost of Litigation

Any peculiar civil action in the Court of law involves following components of costs i.e. Court Fee, Professional Fee and Miscellaneous Expenses and Disbursements.

In a Civil action, court fee is required to be paid at the time of the institution of the suit, which may be fixed or ad-valorem (a percentage of the amount claimed). Generally, the fixed court fee is negligible. However, any claim relating to recovery, damages, compensation or property etc. may attract a court fee which is based on a percentage of the claim amount or the valuation of the subject matter of the suit, e.g. for a suit for recovery of a sum of INR 60 Million (approx. US$ 1290000) in Delhi High Court, an amount equivalent to  1 % of the claim i.e. INR 0.6 Million (approx. US$ 12900) has to be paid as court fee at the time of the institution of the suit. In Criminal matters, only a trifling court fee is payable.

For any matter relating to litigation, the component of professional fee may include fee for advice, drafting of pleadings and appearances before the Court. In India, for professional fees, generally the system of lump-sum fee and fee on 'hourly rate' basis is followed. However, Indian law does not allow the payment of contingent fees or conditional fees, i.e., any fee for services provided where the fee is only payable if there is a favorable result. 

The third component of litigation cost, is usually not very high since the same pertains to miscellaneous issues related to litigation including typing, photocopying, postage and courier charges etc. 

Mechanism for Enforcement of Judgments

Indian judicial system is a creation of the Constitution of India. The distinguishing feature of the Indian Judiciary lies in its independence from the executive / government. The Central & State Governments and their functionaries are duty bound to obey and implement the orders of the Courts in India, and any noncompliance on their part results in the initiation of contempt proceedings against them. Besides coded laws, India also follows the common law principles. The judgments of the High Courts and Supreme Court of India, as precedents, have the same force as that of the "law of the land".

The Indian Government Machinery including the police is under an obligation to follow and implement the orders of the court. There are special provisions for the enforcement of the orders of the court, including Contempt of Court proceedings, which provides for a fine as well as imprisonment, in case of disobedience. There are also other legal means for execution / compliance of the orders of the court i.e. by way of appointment of Local Commissioner / Receivers.

As already stated that the Indian Judiciary does not suffer from a nationalistic approach, which is itself good to build confidence in foreign entities.

© 2014, Vaish Associates, Advocates,
All rights reserved with Vaish Associates, Advocates, 10, Hailey Road, Flat No. 5-7, New Delhi-110001, India.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The views expressed in this article are solely of the authors of this article.

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Vijay Pal Dalmia, Partner
 
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