From arbitration appeals to coal e-auction, here're the top court orders

The question of choosing the court where an appeal against an arbitration award is to be filed came up again in the Supreme Court.
A construction worker registered under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Act is a ‘beneficiary’ of the scheme made under it and also a “consumer”, who can move consumer fora, the Supreme Court ruled last week. The judgment is significant because it will extend to all beneficiaries of statutory welfare schemes like employees’ provident fund. The case also showed how ordinary people are harassed by demanding dozens of documents, which normally they are not expected to have. In this appeal case, Joint Labour Commissioner vs Kesar Lal, the worker had obtained a Labour Beneficiary ID after paying a fee. When he sought financial assistance for his daughter’s marriage, the commissioner rejected it after nine months with a long list of defects in the application — it did not have a valid date of birth, the affidavit was not proper, the application form was incomplete in details, and the certificate of the planner was not attached. After the rejection of 327 such applications from construction workers, the matter was taken to the consumer fora. These fora accepted the claim of Kesar Lal, and the commissioner’s appeal was dismissed.

Jurisdiction in arbitration appeals

The question of choosing the court where an appeal against an arbitration award is to be filed came up again in the Supreme Court and it shifted the case from Faridabad in Haryana to the Delhi High Court. In this appeal, Hindustan Construction vs NHPC, the commercial special court in Faridabad decided that the seat of adjudication is Faridabad. According to the contract, Delhi, as well as Faridabad courts, would have jurisdiction as the contract was executed between the parties at Faridabad, and part of the cause of action arose there, and the Faridabad court was invoked first. Section 42 of the Arbitration and Conciliation is meant to avoid conflicts in the jurisdiction of courts by placing the supervisory jurisdiction over all arbitral proceedings in connection with the arbitration in one court exclusively. If the agreement is clear on the jurisdiction of the court, there is no problem. But conflict arises when the contract is vague on the seat or venue of the arbitration and the cause of action arise in several states. In this case, though the Faridabad court was invoked first, the Supreme Court, citing its 2019 judgment involving NHPC again, ruled that the Delhi High Court will hear the appeal.

Coal e-auction in Jharkhand upheld

 The Supreme Court last week set aside the judgment of the Jharkhand High Court, which had quashed the e-auction of coal extraction in Kusunda area. The high court had further directed new e-auction and ordered a vigilance inquiry into the matter. In this appeal case, Bharat Coking Coal vs AMR Dev Prabha, the auction was conducted by C1 India with technical assistance from Tata Communications. The online bidding was marred at one stage by technical hitch and time had to be extended. The award was finally given to R K Transport. AMR Dev Prabha, the rival bidder, challenged the e-auction in the high court with success. The coal company appealed to the Supreme Court. It did not go into the technical problems like that of limited bandwidth, as it maintained that they were questions of fact. Moreover, there were concurrent findings of technical experts like CERTIn and TCL, as well as the CVC, holding that there were no technical difficulties.

All building planners are not architects

 The Architects Act does not prohibit individuals not registered under it from undertaking the practice of architecture and related activities. However, if a person has to use the title ‘architect’, he must hold a degree in architecture and register himself before the Council of Architecture. The Supreme Court declared so in its judgment last week in the appeal case, Council of Architecture vs Mukesh Goyal. The court stated that a plain reading of Section 37 of the Act made it clear that it prohibited individuals not registered with the Council of Architecture from using the title and style of ‘architect’. But it did not prohibit unregistered individuals from practising activities, such as design, supervision, and construction of buildings. The court was dealing with an appeal against the judgment of the Allahabad High Court in which the promotion of departmental architects was challenged by one group. This necessitated the interpretation of the term architect. A government department may change its name avoiding the word architect and function with the normal activity of town planning and construction..

Post office not liable for stolen IVPs

The Supreme Court has asserted that the postal authorities are not liable to pay the maturity value of Indira Vikas Patras, which were allegedly stolen from their holders. Two persons complained that their IVPs were stolen and the matter was reported to the Odisha police. When they claimed the amounts from the post office, the authorities refused to pay them, arguing that in case the IVPs were purchased by cash, the identity of the purchaser would not be recorded and that all IVPs were bearer instruments like currency notes. When the holders approached the consumer forum, the postal authorities were directed to pay them the maturity value as no one had claimed it for a long time. Their appeals were dismissed. But the Supreme Court exonerated the postal authorities of any liability (Supt vs Jambu Kumar).

Disney gets copyright protection

The Delhi High Court has restrained more than 130 websites from infringing the copyright of Disney Enterprises, which complained of illegal and unauthorised distribution, broadcasting, rebroadcasting, and streaming of its motion pictures. The global entertainment company has also added ISPs of these websites and the Department of Telecommunications as parties to the injunction suit requiring them to disable access to the websites. The company engaged an investigative agency and found that these “rogue websites”, according to it, were facilitating the use of their websites to download and stream original films, television programmes and audio-visual content. It also alleged these websites are primarily engaged in making available contents from entertainment giants like Paramount Pictures Corporation, Columbia Pictures, Universal City Studios, and Netflix Entertainment Services India. This was an infringement of copyright. The high court passed injunction stating that Disney has established prima case of infringement of copyright and it would suffer irreparable damage if this activity was not stopped. It listed tests to find out whether they are “rogue” websites. The websites named have to pay the costs of litigation to Disney.

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