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High Court Refuses To Appoint Retd Judge To Inquire Into Assault Allegations Levelled By Bombay Presidency Radio Club Against Advocate Ravi Goenka

Sharmeen Hakim
15 Jun 2022 12:15 PM GMT
High Court Refuses To Appoint Retd Judge To Inquire Into Assault Allegations Levelled By Bombay Presidency Radio Club Against Advocate Ravi Goenka
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In a setback for the Bombay Presidency Radio Club Ltd., one of the oldest clubs in the city, the Bombay High Court refused to appoint a new inquiry officer to investigate allegations of assault against club-member and advocate - Ravi Goenka.

The club alleged that Goenka assaulted its employees on two occasions in 2018 and 2019 and an inquiry into these serious allegations were imperative. Moreover, Justice (Retd.) S.J. Vazifdar, who was initially appointed by the High Court as an inquiry officer, had withdrawn from the enquiry in 2019.

Refusing relief for the club, Justice Riyaz Chagla cited the delay on their part in approaching the High Court to substitute Justice (Retd.) S.J. Vazifdar. Justice Chagla rejected the club's justification, that since only very urgent matters were being taken up during the Covid-19 pandemic, they approached the court only in 2022.

He added that there was some correspondence between the parties in 2019 but the club failed to take constructive steps.

"This letter of the Advocates for the Plaintiff (Goenka) has not been responded to by the Applicants (club) and thus they have waived / given up their rights to appoint a new Inquiry Officer in substitution of the Inquiry Officer appointed by this Court," he ruled.

He added that Radio Club had sought relief through an IA in a disposed of suit without challenging the order of disposal, which was impermissible.

Case

Following allegations of assault, the club had conducted an internal enquiry in 2019, against Goenka, which recommended his removal. But before club members could vote his ouster, Goenka filed a suit in the High Court along with a Notice of Motion.

On April 15, 2019, the High Court appointed Justice Vazifdar to conduct the enquiry afresh with the consent of both parties. At the same, Goenka's counsels agreed to withdraw the suit and notice of motion with all contentions open.

Goenka said he wouldn't question the authority of the inquiry officer.

Meanwhile, after Justice Vazifdar withdrew from his appointment on May 3, the club recommended the name of two senior counsels. But Goenka refused in June, 2019 seeking someone of Justice Vazifdar's stature for appointment.

Finally, the club moved an interim application in the disposed of suit, in April 2022, seeking to appoint Ex-Principal District & Session Judge - Ravindra Malik as the inquiry officer.

Senior Advocate Rajendra Raghuvanshi submitted the onset of the pandemic and internal deliberations to justify the delay. He said that the earlier internal inquiry orders did not survive in view of a senior counsel's statement to the court, back then.

Conversely Advocate Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud for Goenka submitted that essentially the club wanted to recall the April 15, 2019 order, but there was a delay as the application has been made only after three years. He cited the Supreme Courts decision in Budhia Swain and Ors. Vs. Gopinath Deb and Ors regarding the court's power to recall its decisions.

Chandrachud submitted that the club has lost its right to seek a recall due to waiver, estoppel or acquiescence. He further said that the club had proceeded with legal action against others in these two years.

The court agreed with Chandrachud that there was unexplained delay in approaching the court "The explanation of the Applicants in the present Interim Application for not approaching this Court earlier for substitution of Inquiry Officer appears only to be that due to the pandemic, this Court was only hearing urgent matters and accordingly such application could not be made. This explanation cannot be accepted."

He also held that the club had failed to challenge the April 15 order, therefore the application in a disposed of suit couldn't be entertained.

Case Title : Ravi Goenka Versus The Bombay Presidency Radio Club Ltd. & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 217

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