Supreme Court: The bench of UU Lalit and Indira Banerjee, JJ has held that the existence of an arbitration clause does not debar the court from entertaining a writ petition.
Stating that the availability of an alternative remedy does not prohibit the High Court from entertaining a writ petition in an appropriate case, the Court highlighted that the High Court may entertain a writ petition, notwithstanding the availability of an alternative remedy, particularly
(i) where the writ petition seeks enforcement of a fundamental right;
(ii) where there is failure of principles of natural justice or
(iii) where the impugned orders or proceedings are wholly without jurisdiction or
(iv) the vires of an Act is under challenge.
The Court was hearing a dispute between Uttar Pradesh Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (UPPTCL) and CG Power and Industrial Solutions Limited arising out of a Framework Agreement with UPPTCL for construction of 765/400 KV Substations, at Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. UPPTCL had directed CG Power to remit Labour Cess amounting to Rs.2,60,68,814/-, computed at 1% of the contract value, under Sections 3 sub-section (1) and (2) of the Building and Other 1 Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996, hereinafter referred to as the “Cess Act”, read with Rules 3 and Rule 4 (1), (2) (3) and (4) of the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Rules, 1998, hereinafter referred to as the “Cess Rules” and also Section 2 (1)(d), (g) and (i) of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act, 1996.
This direction had come after, in the Audit Report, the Accountant General pointed out the lapse on the part of UPPTCL, in not deducting labour cess from the bills of the contractor, that is Respondent No.1, in respect inter alia of the First Conract, observing that every employer was required to levy and collect cess at a rate not exceeding 2% and not less than 1% of the cost of construction incurred by an employer and to deposit the same with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board.
When CG Power filed a writ petition before the Allahabad High Court challenging the same, UPPTCL did not oppose the writ petition on the ground of existence of an arbitration clause. Nor was there any whisper of any arbitration agreement in the Counter Affidavit filed by UPPTCL to the writ petition in the High Court.
In such circumstances, the Supreme Court held that the existence of an arbitration clause does not debar the court from entertaining a writ petition and that relief under Article 226 of the Constitution of India may be granted in a case arising out of contract. However, the writ jurisdiction under Article 226, being discretionary, the High Courts usually refrain from entertaining a writ petition which involves adjudication of disputed questions of fact which may require analysis of evidence of witnesses.
[Uttar Pradesh Power Transmission Corporation Ltd v. CG Power and Industrial Solutions Limited, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 383, decided on 12.05.2021]
Judgment by: Justice Indira Banerjee