The Delhi High Court on Monday levied costs of Rs. 50,000 on a private company which, it opined, indulged in “forum hunting” by filing a Writ Petition indirectly against an order delivered in an Appeal under Section 37 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru reiterated that a Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not maintainable against any order of the arbitrator, and that the order under challenge was a continuation of the arbitral proceedings. It then ordered payment of costs to the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee within one week.
The Court was hearing a Writ Petition filed by Rosmerta HSRP Ventures Pvt. Ltd., challenging a direction to appear before the Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi for consideration of Rosmerta’s representation against an order passed by the Secretary and Commissioner (Transport), Govt. of NCT of Delhi.
The impugned direction was issued by Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Transport Department of the State, in furtherance of an order passed by a coordinate Bench of the Court, directing that Rosmerta’s representation was to be heard by “an authority higher to the one who took the decision on the cure notice”. This was for consideration of Rosmerta’s representation on a show-cause notice issued by the State in accordance with a Concession Agreement executed between the parties.
Rosmerta had now submitted that the Governor of Delhi would be authority to consider her representation and not the Chief Secretary. With regard to the maintainability of the Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, it submitted that since the matter related to implementation of an order passed by the Court, a Writ Petition under Article 226 would be the preferred route.
The Court, however, noted that the controversy, in fact, related to the interpretation of the order passed by the Single Judge in the Arbitral Appeal. It then opined that any clarification as to the order passed by the High Court should have been obtained by filing an application in the disposal of appeal.
“However, it appears that the endeavour of Rosmerta was to avoid approaching the concerned bench by way of a clarification and it does appear that this is a case of forum hunting,” it observed.
Filing of a Writ Petition for this purpose “would be inapposite”, it said, adding, “By filing the present petition, Rosmerta seeks to indirectly secure intervention of this Court in respect of such disputes, which is otherwise impermissible. There is little scope of recourse to public law remedies in matters of arbitration. The subject matter of disputes being contractual and subject to arbitration, all facets of disputes, are outside the scope of interference by courts.”