PRESENCE AS A BASIS FOR THE RECOGNITION AND ENFORCEMENT OF FOREIGN JUDGMENT SOUNDING IN MONEY: THE “REAL AND SUBSTANTIAL CONNECTION” TEST CONSIDERED
Keywords:foreign court, jurisdiction
A somewhat contested basis of international competence in the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in South Africa is mere presence. Over the years, an academic debate has raged in South Africa over mere presence as a basis of jurisdiction for the enforcement of foreign judgments sounding in money. A recent decision by the Constitutional Court makes the topic worth revisiting.
Practical circumstances, social and political considerations as well as natural justice inevitably call for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. As Forsyth aptly puts it “[a] plaintiff may sue in one country and hear with pleasure judgment given in his favour, then discover, to his dismay, that the defendant, with his assets, has absconded to another country”. In such a situation, the judgment has become brutum fulmen in the court which pronounced it and the plaintiff is placed in a grossly prejudicial position. However, because of widely accepted values and principles, legal systems of the world recognize and appreciate that a judgment rendered by the courts of one country may be enforced elsewhere, provided certain conditions are satisfied.
Under South African common law one of the conditions for the enforcement of foreign judgments is that the court which pronounced the judgment must have had jurisdiction to entertain the case according to the principles of our law with reference to the jurisdiction of foreign courts. (In Reiss Engineering Co Ltd v Insamcor (Pty) Ltd 1983 (1) SA 1033 (W) 1037B the court stated that the mere fact that the foreign court may have had jurisdiction under its own laws, is not conclusive. Instead, the question of jurisdiction has to be determined in the light of the principles of our law on the jurisdiction of foreign courts. Other requirements for recognition and enforcement are that (i) the foreign judgment must be final and conclusive in its effect and not have become superannuated; (ii) the recognition and enforcement of the judgment by South African courts should not be contrary to public policy; (iii) the foreign judgment should not have been obtained by fraudulent means; (iv) the judgment must not involve the enforcement of a penal or revenue law of the foreign state; and (v) the enforcement of the foreign judgment must not be precluded by the provisions of the Protection of Business Act 99 of 1978, as amended. See Jones v Krok 1995 (1) SA 667 (AD) 685B−D.) This note is concerned only with the requirement that the foreign court that pronounced the judgment must have had jurisdiction to entertain the case according to the principles of our law with reference to the jurisdiction of foreign courts. The other four requirements are outside the scope of this paper and will not be discussed. It appears that the requirement that the foreign court must have had jurisdiction is a tenet central to the common law world. This requirement is a concept sui generis which is not affected by the internal jurisdiction rules of the foreign court, nor by the internal jurisdiction rules of the South African courts. Under South African common law there are, at least, two grounds which have been established with absolute clarity, that clothe a foreign court with international competence.
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