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Could a contract claim against an Indian employer proceed in England?

BY Margaret Anne Soderqvist-Clark
Employment law
BG Purple

The recent decision in the case of Wright v Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures Ltd and anor has discussed whether or not an employee could raise proceedings in England for a breach of contract, notwithstanding the fact that the employer is based in India.

In this case, Mr Wright was employed by DCSV Ltd, where his role was to develop the commercial interests of a cricket team based in Hyderabad, India, as well as creating a “sports city” in Hyderabad.  Although DCSV Ltd was an Indian company, the employment agreement stated that he would initially be based in London where an office would be set up and he would only travel to India and elsewhere as necessary.  The employment agreement stated that it was governed by English law.  

The relationship between Mr Wright and DCSV Ltd began to deteriorate significantly, especially when he was directed to relocate to Hyderabad.  He argued that this (as well as a number of other incidents) amounted to a breach of contract, which were sufficient enough to bring the employment agreement to an end.  

He sought to raise proceedings in England on the basis that the employment agreement was made in England and that it expressly stated that it was governed by English law.  DCSV Ltd disagreed and argued that India was the more appropriate forum.  

The High Court held that the correct jurisdiction to hear the complaint would be England and not India.  Although it was significant that the parties had chosen English law to govern their agreement, it was not be automatically assumed that English jurisdiction applied.  One of the factors which influenced the High Court’s decision was the fact that DCSV Ltd had agreed that Mr Wright should be resident in London and that an office would be established there to support him, even though DCSV Ltd did not follow through with this.  It was interesting to note that the High Court said that even if India was the most suitable forum, Mr Wright would not have received a fair trial there, due to the delays in the Indian courts and the fact that DCSV Ltd had obstructed his attempts to bring proceedings on a number of occasions.  

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