The world’s largest democracy. An ancient and intriguing land with no equal on the spectrum of diverse and exotic destinations. Seriously– India is not a single culture. It’s dozens of them, if not hundreds. Serving process in India is subject to the strictures of the Hague Service Convention, regardless of which U.S. or Canadian venue is hearing the matter. But brace yourself… it’s gonna take a while.
Some background is in order…
- The roadmap to the overall process—the recipe to our Secret Sauce.
- The structure of the Convention itself is discussed in this four-part series.
- And an absolutely critical note: the Hague Service Convention does not pertain to subpoenas. Repeat after me—you can’t just SERVE a subpoena in India. You have to file a Hague Evidence Request. Dramatically different from serving a summons or notice.
Here’s how service is effected in India:
Article 5 Service
- Translate the documents? Logically, if service is effected in an English-speaking country– which India is, at least officially– documents must be in English. So, game over, right? [Yay! Pack up and go home!] Not so fast, counsel… make sure your defendant actually speaks English, because his U.S. Due Process rights follow him to India. Anybody sued in a U.S. court must be served in a language they understand, so if they don’t speak English, translation is still necessary. And there are hundreds of languages spoken in India, so be very meticulous about getting it right.
- Fill out a USM-94. Be very careful about ensuring that it is complete and concise, and make sure that it is signed by a court official or an attorney. If it is not, make sure that the person signing is commissioned by the court.
- Send to the appropriate Central Authority. And know that in a country of 1.3 billion people, they’ve got one guy working in their Central Authority. One. So…
- Sit tight. It may take a while—likely a year from submission to return of proof. That is not a typo. Patience is absolutely critical, on the part of the plaintiff and on the part of the court– always bearing in mind that specific deadlines generally don’t apply to service abroad precisely because of inefficient foreign bureaucracies. All that said, if you have local counsel involved, the time could be trimmed considerably.*
Article 10 alternative methods
- Forget it. They simply aren’t available, because India objects to them all. Article 5 is the only way it can be done.
Seriously—that’s all there is to it. The method is straightforward and simple. India’s declarations and Central Authority information—as well as those of all the other countries in the treaty—can be found here.
Bonus practice tip… if you’re defense counsel, always question the validity of service effected on your overseas client. The plaintiff may not have done it correctly.
* Not just any local counsel will do, for the record. They must actually know how to shepherd things through the labyrinth, as it were, and it helps if they know that one guy in the Central Authority office– much of the lag time in India service comes in the form of unopened mail on one guy’s desk. Once the wheels are turning, local counsel can monitor the request to make sure that it doesn’t spend several more months waiting to be opened on some other guy’s desk. [I exaggerate. It’s not just one guy– but the office is incredibly understaffed.]