Punjab and Haryana High Court: The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar and Avneesh Jhingan, JJ., dismissed the instant petition upon discovery of availability of alternate remedies to the petitioner.
In the present case, the petitioner has questioned the demand for concession fees to the tune of Rs 2,19,10,897 sought from the Petitioner by the Respondent/Airport Authority of India, through minutes of meeting dated 25-05-2020 and letter dated 01-07-2020.
During the course of the proceedings, Article 22.1 of the Concessionaire Agreement (CA) dated 11-12-2019, caught the attention of the Court which affirmed the liability of the petitioner to pay the respondent for actual advertisement area made available to it at Amritsar Airport. The Dispute Resolution clause is reproduced below for reference-
“22.1 – Dispute Resolution – Any dispute, difference or controversy of whatever nature howsoever arising under or out of or in relation to this Concession Agreement (including its interpretation) between the parties, shall be governed and regulated in accordance with the provisions contained at Clause 5.16 of the RFP and in accordance with the provisions of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 as amended from time to time.”
On perusal of the above stated Clause 22.1 along with Clause 5.16 of the Request For Proposal (RFP), the Court was successful in grasping that any grievance under the CA has to be resolved via a two-tier mechanism. The mechanism includes submission of a written application before the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC) and later, resolution under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, if the same remains unresolved.
The petitioner invoked the dispute resolution mechanism subsequent to which a meeting of DRC was held on 25-05-2020. Counsel for the respondent, Vivek Singla has asserted that the petitioner ought to have availed all the further remedies in terms of the CA.
When the counsel for the petitioner, Varun Singh was catechized over the maintainability of the present petition, he referred to a plethora of cases such as Harbanslal Sahnia v. Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd., (2003) 2 SCC 107, Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd. v. Super Highway Services, (2010) 3 SCC 321 and Union of India v. Tantia Construction (P) Ltd., (2011) 5 SCC 697. However, unfortunately, the Court found all of them to be of no assistance in the petitioner’s case. The Court was not content with the arguments advanced by the petitioner with respect to the maintainability of the present petition.
Thus, the Court declined to exercise its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India since an “efficacious and effective alternative remedy” is available to the petitioner in view of the CA. In the event of a dispute, the parties could also plead for interim relief under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
Given the circumstances, the Court declined to examine the factual dispute leaving it open for the parties to avail other remedies under the law.
In view of the above, the petition has been dismissed by the Court.[Proactive In and Out Advertising (P) Ltd. v. Airport Authority of India, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 1172, decided on 11-08-2020]