Can Indian courts take notice of conviction of Indian national for offence abroad?

Published: March 29, 2018

The bench of the Bombay High court has held that the courts in India can take notice of the conviction of an Indian by a foreign Court for the offence committed overseas while exercising their judicial and/or quasi judicial powers. But the conviction abroad will not ipso facto be binding on the Indian courts adjudicating matters against the same person.
The bench considered two questions:

  • Whether the conviction of an Indian by a foreign Court for the offence committed in that country can be taken notice of by the Courts or authorities in India while exercising their judicial or quasi judicial powers.
  • Whether such a conviction would be binding on the Courts and authorities in India while exercising these powers.

Answering these questions the Bombay High court said:

  • If the judgment and order of conviction and acquittal passed by the foreign Court cannot at all be looked into by Indian Courts then it may result in depriving a person of his right under Article 20(2) and under Section 300 of Cr.P.C.
  • While exercising their judicial and quasi judicial powers, it cannot be said that the same will be ipso facto binding on such Courts and authorities. No hard and fast rule can be laid for that purpose. The Courts and authorities, while exercising their judicial and quasi judicial powers will have to take a call on the facts and circumstances of each case and take a decision as to what is the effect of such judgment and order of conviction.

Article 20(2) of the Constitution of India says, no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once and Section 300 of Criminal Procedure Code says, a person once convicted or acquitted should not be tried for the same offence.
The world is a global village. Hence there cannot be a complete ban on the Indian courts to take notice of the conviction of an Indian by a foreign Court for the offence committed overseas while exercising their judicial and/or quasi judicial powers.
Court took an illustration of the case of an Indian citizen, who while residing in a foreign nation commits a crime involving moral turpitude and is sentenced for that offence by a foreign court and returns to India after undergoing his sentence. Then that person may want to contest elections for which conviction for an offence involving moral turpitude is a disqualification. If the argument of the Appellant that the judgment and order of conviction cannot be looked into is to be accepted, not only it would be contrary to public policy of not permitting a person convicted for offence involving moral turpitude to contest elections, it would also be against the breach of the comity which should exist between the countries.
Thus the courts must be empowered to look cognizance of the situation on case by case basis.

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