Emperor of Austria v Day and Kossuth: 1861

The defendants had printed banknotes in London. Kossuth intended to use the notes in Hungary after overthrowing the Emperor of Austria by revolution. The Emperor obtained an injunction restraining the defendants from continuing to manufacture them. The defendants appealed.
Held: The injunction was upheld. One of the defences advanced was that the injunction should be refused because the proceedings were brought to protect the Emperor’s political power and prerogatives. Lord Campbell LC:’if the suit were instituted merely to support his political power and prerogatives’ he would have denied the Emperor the right to maintain the suit.
Lord Justice Turner agreed and noted that the bill put the plaintiff’s case on three grounds: (i) violation of the rights and prerogative of the plaintiff as King of Hungary ‘by promotion of revolution and disorder and otherwise’; (ii) injury to the State of Hungary by the introduction of a spurious circulation into that kingdom; and (iii) injury to the subjects of the plaintiff by the same cause. There was no doubt that the court did not have jurisdiction to interfere on the grounds that the notes were intended to be used for the purpose of promoting revolution and disorder. He rejected the second ground saying the right of coining and issuing paper money is the prerogative of a sovereign: ‘so far, therefore, as this bill is founded upon the prerogative rights of the Plaintiff, or upon the political rights of his subjects’ the injunction should be refused: ‘the prerogative rights of sovereigns seem to me, as at present advised, to stand very much upon the same footing as acts of State and matters of that description, with which the municipal courts of this country do not and cannot interfere’.
But the court upheld the injunction on the third ground on which the bill was based. Lord Campbell was of the opinion that ‘if the acts meditated by the defendants and forbidden by this injunction were actually done, a pecuniary loss would be sustained by the plaintiff and by all his subjects, holders of the existing currency’. The court has jurisdiction to protect property from an act which, if completed, would give a right of action. Lord Justice Turner said that the third ground on which the bill was based alleged a case of injury to the subjects of the kingdom, ‘an injury not to the political but to the private rights of the plaintiff’s subjects’. He concluded: ‘I agree that the jurisdiction of this Court in a case of this nature rests upon injury to property actual or prospective, and that this Court has no jurisdiction to prevent the commission of acts which are merely criminal or merely illegal, and do not affect any rights of property, but I think there are here rights of property quite sufficient to found jurisdiction in this Court.’


Lord Campbell LC, Lord Justice Turner


(1861) 2 Giff 628


England and Wales

Cited by:

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Domestic Offence requires Domestic Defence
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CitedKingdom of Spain v Christie, Manson and Woods Ltd 1986
The court questioned the basis of the cause of action asserted in Austria -v- Day. . .
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CitedMbasogo, President of the State of Equatorial Guinea and Another v Logo Ltd and others CA 23-Oct-2006
Foreign Public Law Not Enforceable Here
The claimant alleged a conspiracy by the defendants for his overthrow by means of a private coup d’etat. The defendants denied that the court had jurisdiction. The claimants appealed dismissal of their claim to damages.
Held: The claims were . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, International

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.239959