DELHI: The Supreme Court last week dismissed appeal of Oswal Agro Mills Ltd against the judgment of the Bombay High Court which had quashed the sanction accorded by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai for construction of a residential cum commercial complex in its land in Chembur, in the heart of the metropolis. The high court had asked the municipal commissioner to consider the objections raised by the Police Department, Ministry of Petroleum, Ministry of Environment and Intelligence Bureau and the Security Control Regulations issued under the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act.
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) objected to the sanctions granted since 2006 to Oswal as it feared that it would be a security threat to its refinery built in 1952 over 416 acres and 117 storage tanks, and also because of other industrial units in the neighbourhood which had become congested over the decades. Various authorities considered the issue and ultimately the municipal commissioner granted permission subject to certain conditions. HPCL took the matter to the high court which quashed the sanction. Oswal and the Municipal Corporation appealed to the Supreme Court. The majority in the three-judge bench upheld the high court view. They further stated that the municipal commissioner shall hear all parties before allowing conversion of industrial plot to residential-cum-commercial use. Oswal could
use the land for agro-based industries, the majority judgment said.
Tender once accepted is binding
The Supreme Court has set aside the judgment of the Calcutta High Court directing the Howrah Improvement Trust to call for a fresh bid for commercial plots after cancelling the earlier one. The high court passed the order on a writ petition moved by an individual, though the offer of the highest bidder was earlier accepted. "The notice inviting tender is no doubt an opportunity given to different bidders to submit their tenders and participate in the tender process but if an offer is made pursuant to the notice inviting tender and the same is accepted and the terms and conditions of the bid documents and the law provide that such acceptance will bind the authority inviting tenders, then the notice inviting tender cannot be cancelled at a later stage," the judgment stated in the case,
Dr Nagendra Rai vs O P Singh.
Trial for bounced cheque quashed
The Supreme Court last week quashed prosecution for issuing a cheque that bounced because the payee issued notice to the drawer only after 30 days and not within the statutory 15 days. The drawer, who was being prosecuted, moved the Patna High Court arguing that the complaint was not maintainable because the notice was issued late. The high court dismissed and refused to quash the prosecution, stating that the trial had already commenced and witnesses have been examined. Therefore, the trial could not be stopped at that stage. The drawer of the cheque appealed to the Supreme Court. In its judgment, Kamlesh Kumar vs State of Bihar, the Supreme Court
stated that even if the trial had started, the prosecution could not be maintained because of the delay in
Self-employed person is not 'worker'
A self-employed person trading in paints and hardware cannot be called an unskilled worker and compensation for his road death cannot be calculated according to the minimum wage fixed by the government, the Supreme Court stated in the appeal, Pushkar Mehra vs Brij Mohan. The trader was killed in a road accident. His widow and family moved the motor accident claims tribunal which awarded them Rs 3.84 lakh, computing his income according to the minimum wage law. The Delhi High Court dismissed the appeal of the widow stating that the amount was more than adequate. On appeal, the Supreme Court awarded Rs 9.60 lakh and found fault with the courts below for going by the minimum wage fixed for unskilled labour. Chiding them, it said: "The tribunal and the high court should have taken the wages of the deceased to be
that of a skilled worker or clerical and non-technical supervisory staff as he was self-employed and running his own business."
IPAB ruling on trade name set aside
The Supreme Court has set aside the ruling of the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) which had dismissed the petition of the proprietor of Kundan Cables India in a trademark dispute with Balar Marketing Ltd. Kundan Cables was using the trademark Kundan since 1980. It was also supplying its products with that name to Balar Marketing. In 1994, Kundan Cables came to know that Balar had been using the trade name Kundan, and obtained registration in that name. Kundan Cables immediately moved the Delhi High Court for cancellation of the registration. However, the plea was dismissed as the high court had no jurisdiction in the matter. The IPAB had come into being by then and the matter was taken there. The board, however, ruled that the petition before it was time-barred by ten years. On appeal, the board's decision was overruled by the Supreme Court which held that Kundan Cables had pursued its remedy with due diligence and if it had wrongly filed its petition in the Delhi High Court, instead of Madras High Court, the principles of limitation will not bar it from moving the board.
Consistency in arbitration decisions
The Supreme Court last week allowed arbitration of disputes arising from a power purchase agreement between Arasmeta Captive Power Co and Lafarge India to go on. The Chhattisgarh High Court had appointed an arbitrator, rejecting the opposition of Arasmeta. The parties disagreed on the terms of the agreement. Arasmeta maintained that the dispute was over billing and should be referred to experts. Lafarge wanted arbitration, according to its view of the agreement. The Supreme Court, while letting the arbitration proceedings to go forward, stated that the high court judge should not have decided disputed questions going into merits. They should be left to the arbitrator. "The part of the impugned order that reflects the expression of opinion on the merits of the disputes deserves to be set aside," the judgment said. The court also rejected the plea to reconsider some of its earlier arbitration judgments, which hold the field. The judgment said that there should be some finality and consistency to the decisions.
"It is not apposite to pick up a line from here and there" and ask for review of precedents, the court said and added: "That is most likely to pave one on the path of danger and it is to be scrupulously avoided."