Indian court grants anti-execution order for the first time

18 May, 2021

In Interdigital Technology Corporation & Ors. vs. Xiaomi Corporation & Ors, the Delhi High Court was the first court in India to deal with the issue of an anti-execution injunction. The novelty of the issue was highlighted by HMJ Harishankar at paragraph 82 of the judgment:

“The tests which would govern consideration of an application for anti-execution injunction, as compared to anti-suit injunction, do not, so far as I am aware, find any authoritative delineation, at least in any decision of any Indian court. Learned Senior Counsel for the parties before me, too, with all their vast knowledge and experience of this branch of the law, have not been able to cite any such authority. The issue appears, therefore, to be in a sense res integra.”

The questions before HMJ Harishankar were:

  1. Whether the Wuhan Court was justified in granting anti-suit injunction, vide its order dated 23 September, 2020, and
  2. Whether the Delhi High Court would be justified in injuncting the respondent from enforcing that order against the plaintiffs.

The Court held that on an application of the triple-test of “prima facie case, balance of convenience and irreparable loss”, the grant of an anti-enforcement injunction, as sought by the plaintiffs, “would be eminently justified”. It was held that Interdigital had a clear prima facie case against enforcement of the order by the defendants as, in case the order were to be permitted to be enforced, irreparable loss was bound to occur to the plaintiffs as the plaintiffs would be unable to prosecute the only remedy available to them against the (perceived) infringement of their suit patents, and would also stand exposed to the fine imposed by the Wuhan Court for pursuing their legitimate legal remedies within India. As the plaintiffs were not seeking any restraint against the defendants continuing to prosecute their complaint before the Wuhan Court, whereas the order of the Wuhan Court brought the Delhi High Court proceedings to a halt, without due justification, the balance of convenience would also be in favour of grant of anti-enforcement injunction as sought.

Criticising the Defendants’ conduct as being “less than fair” and “intolerable” towards the Plaintiffs and the Delhi High Court alike, the Court observed that even in the proceedings before the Delhi High Court, the Defendants neither furnished copies of the anti-suit injunction application filed before the Wuhan Court despite numerous opportunities nor disclosed the fact of filing of the anti-suit injunction application. On the issue of the Wuhan Court imposing fines on the Plaintiff, the Court directed that Xiaomi compensate Interdigital for any such fines, following the principle of “restitution”.

The Court, invoking the Constitution of India, further remarked that:

“…The right of the citizen, in this country, to legal redressal to ventilate his legitimate rights, is hallowed, sacred, and fundamental. It is a sanctified and preambular constitutional goal, and derives sustenance from the most sublime of our fundamental rights, including those consecrated by Articles 14 and 21. It is an inviolable and inalienable facet of access to justice. It triumphantly carries forward the torch lit, over two centuries ago, by Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison which hailed the right to obtain civil redress as “the very essence of civil liberty”.

On Wuhan Court’s order, the Court observed:

What the order of the Wuhan Court does, unfortunately, is to deny, to the plaintiffs, the right to even flavour this essence, without due justification. Specifically in the Indian context, our Constitution guarantees “justice, social economic and political” to every citizen. This guarantee cannot be sacrificed at the altar of comity.

The learned Single Judge agreed with the following principles of law canvassed by the parties in relation to anti-suit and anti-enforcement proceedings at paragraph 88 of its judgment. Inter alia, it held as follows:

  1. An anti-suit injunction should be granted only in rare cases, and not for the mere asking. The Court should be mindful of the fact that even an injunction in personam interferes with the functioning of a sovereign forum, not subject to the writ of the court granting the injunction.
  2. An anti-suit injunction could only be granted by a Court possessing “sufficient interest” in the lis forming subject matter of the proceedings which it intends to injunct. In other words, qua the said lis, the Court was required to be the natural forum.
  3. The possibility of palpable and gross injustice, were injunction not to be granted, remains a definitive test. In doing justice in accordance with law, the Court will try and preserve the subject matter of the lis so that the beneficiary of the final verdict can enjoy the fruits thereof.
  4. Interference with the right to pursue one’s legal remedies, before the forum which was competent to adjudicate thereon, amounts to “oppression”, especially where there is no other forum which the litigant could approach.
  5. In patent infringement matters, it was the right of the patent holder to choose the patents which it desired to enforce. The only practical relief available to an SEP holder was by way of anti-infringement action. The right to seek legal redressal, against infringement, was a fundamental right. A proceeding, or an order, which resulted in divesting the patent holder of the authority to exercise this fundamental right, was ex facie oppressive in nature. Protection of the jurisdiction of the Court is also a guiding factor.
  6. Comity, as a concept, “was grating to the ear, when it proceeded from a court of justice. Where the proceeding or order, of which injunction was sought, was oppressive to the applicant seeking injunction, comity was of relatively little importance, as a factor telling against grant of such injunction. Even if grant of injunction, in such circumstances, was likely to offend the foreign Court, that consideration could not operate as a factor inhibiting against such grant. Considerations of comity were, moreover, subject to the condition that the foreign law, or the foreign proceeding or order was not offensive to domestic public policy or customary international law. Comity, in any event, was a two-way street
  7. There was no reason to treat anti-execution injunction applications as “exceptional”, to the extent that, even if grounds for grant of injunction were made out, the Court would hesitate.

Mr Gourab Banerji, Senior Advocate represented the Plaintiffs, Interdigital and was instructed by Anand and Anand.

Read the full judgment here.