Recently, to a litigant appearing before him, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said that he will not permit forum shopping.
GS II: Polity and Governance
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Forum Shopping
- Criticism of Forum Shopping
- Supreme Court’s View on Forum Shopping
About Forum Shopping:
- Forum shopping refers to the deliberate attempt by litigants or lawyers to move their case to a specific judge or court where they believe they will receive a more favorable judgment.
- Webster’s dictionary defines forum shopping as the practice of selecting a court from among those that have jurisdiction to determine the case, based on the likelihood of obtaining the most favorable outcome.
Consideration in Litigation Strategy:
- Lawyers consider the choice of forum as part of their litigation strategy.
- They assess which court or judge is more likely to rule in their favor.
- Factors such as the judge’s expertise, the court’s track record, and the potential impact of the forum on the case are taken into account.
- For strategic reasons, litigants may choose to directly approach the Supreme Court through a public interest litigation case instead of filing it in the relevant High Court.
- This decision is based on the expectation that the issue will receive more attention and visibility in the Supreme Court
Criticism of Forum Shopping:
- Circumventing the Process: Forum shopping is seen as an obvious attempt to bypass the usual legal process or to avoid a particular judge, which undermines the integrity of the legal system.
- Injustice to the Other Party: Judges have expressed concerns about the unfairness caused to the opposing party when a case is deliberately moved to a particular forum, as it may disadvantage them and disrupt the balance of justice.
- Overburdening Courts: Forum shopping can lead to an imbalance in caseloads among different courts, with some courts becoming overwhelmed while others are underutilized. This puts strain on the judicial system and hampers the efficient dispensation of justice.
- Interference with Judicial Process: By selectively choosing a forum, litigants interfere with the natural progression of cases and the orderly functioning of the judicial process, which can lead to delays and inefficiencies.
- Criticism by US and UK Courts: The practice of forum shopping has drawn criticism even in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Courts in these jurisdictions have voiced their disapproval and have sought to discourage or prohibit such practices.
- Example of Patent Suits in the US: In the US, forum shopping in patent cases has been highlighted as a concern. A significant number of patent suits are reported to be concentrated in a specific Federal Court in East Texas, raising questions about the fairness and legitimacy of the chosen forum.
Supreme Court’s View on Forum Shopping:
- Definition Not Exclusive: The concept of forum shopping has not been specifically defined in any Indian statute.
- Chetak Construction Ltd. vs. Om Prakash (1988): In this case, the Supreme Court stated that a litigant cannot be allowed the choice of forum and emphasized that every attempt at forum shopping should be strongly discouraged.
- Vijay Kumar Ghai vs. State of W.B. (March 2022): The Supreme Court referred to forum shopping as a disreputable practice by the courts and stated that it has no legal sanction or paramountcy. The court expressed its disapproval of the practice and highlighted an instance where a respondent filed multiple complaints in different courts, indicating a malicious intent to harass the petitioners and extract monetary gains.
- Union of India & Ors. vs. Cipla Ltd. (2017): The Supreme Court established a “functional test” to identify forum shopping. The court examines whether there is functional similarity in the proceedings between different courts and whether there is any subterfuge or manipulative behavior on the part of the litigant.
-Source: Indian Express