The immunity from civil, criminal and administrative liabilities would be available to foreign missions in India only if the activity concerned is connected with sovereign functions of the foreign country, the Bombay high court ruled recently.
“It would be unsafe to lay down any straightjacket formula for arriving at a conclusion that any activity of a foreign mission invariably enjoys immunity,” justice Girish Godbole observed while dismissing a plea filed by Eva Drdakova, Consul General of Czech Republic seeking outright rejection of a tenancy litigation filed against them by Khemka Exports Pvt Ltd.
Four years ago, Khemka Exports had filed a suit in the small causes court challenging purportedly illegal dispossession and seeking declaration that their tenancy was protected under provisions of the Maharashtra Rent Control Act, 1999.
Acting on a plea filed by the consulate, the trial court had rejected the plaint in December 2007. Two years later, an appellate court reversed the trial court order, following which the consulate approached the high court.
The consulate sought dismissal of the suit relying on a certificate issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 19, 2009 recognising “Marcopia”, building housing the consulate, as Consulate for Czech Republic and granting immunity to the Consul General from the jurisdiction of Union of India.
Apart from raising other contentions, their counsel SK Sen had argued the immunity granted under the Diplomatic Relations (Vienna Convention Act), 1972 was complete and beyond the purview of any court.
Godbole, however, held that availability of the immunity would depend on facts and circumstances of each case and would be available to the foreign mission, only if the activity was connected with sovereign functions of the foreign nation.
The judge remanded the matter back to the trial court stating the trial court would be required to ascertain if the activity fell within the excepted category.