#JudgmentReserved: SC delivers judgment five months after reserving it

Bar & Bench January 23 2018
Judgment Reserved

The judgment in the case of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd v. M/s Datar Switchgear, an arbitration matter heard by Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, took more than five months to be delivered after getting reserved. It was reserved on August 10 last year, but could be delivered only on January 18.

The timeline of the case itself indicates a huge delay. The respondent was awarded a contract for installation of Low Tension Load Management Systems (LTLMS) at various locations by the appellant during the year 1993-1994. Because of complaints that the LTLMS supplied by the respondents were defective, they offered to replace them with new technology LTLMS. The respondent terminated the contract in 1999 alleging breach on the part of the appellant. The respondent was aggrieved that the appellant did not supply the list of locations where the contract objects were to be installed. The tribunal had directed the appellant to pay Rs.185 crore as damages to the respondent.

The Arbitral Award in the case was dated June 18, 2004. The Award was delivered by the Arbitral Tribunal consisting of eminent retired Judges, after holding 125 sittings, over a period of five years. The Single Judge of the Bombay High Court affirmed the Award on April 30, 2009. The Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal against the order of the Single Judge on October 19, 2013. The Sikri-Bhushan JJ. Bench has now upheld the Division Bench’s order.

Although the SLP in the case was filed in 2013 and heard by different benches earlier, the Sikri-Bhushan JJ. Bench began hearing the matter only from May 2 last year, and heard it seven times, before reserving its verdict. Considering that the appeal had invoked Section 34 of the Arbitration Act, 1996, which stipulates conditions for setting aside Arbitral Award, and has given rise to several litigations, it is debatable whether the delay in the delivery of the judgment by the Supreme Court was justified.

Among the other highlights of the week, the Bench of Justices RK Agrawal and AM Sapre reserved judgments in eight cases. The rest of the Benches reserved judgments in thirteen cases. Thus, the Supreme Court reserved judgment in 21 cases in all. Of the eight cases in which Justices Agrawal and Sapre reserved their verdicts, a civil appeal filed in 2007 is the oldest [Flora Elias Nahoum v. Idrish Ali Laskar].

Another long pending case, filed in 2006, and which had grabbed a few headlines because of the observations of the presiding judge against the non-utilisation and misuse of the funds meant for the welfare of construction labour, is the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour v. Union of India, heard by the Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, which reserved its judgment, on January 18.

State of Gujarat v. Utility Users Welfare Association Through Its President, heard by Justices J Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, was also reserved on the same day, after hearing a number of parties. The CJI-led three judge Bench also reserved its judgment in three civil SLPs.

The Arun Mishra-Shantanagoudar JJ. Bench delivered judgments in two cases, in which it had reserved its judgment the same week. They were State of Punjab v. Thuru Ram, and Sunita Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, both authored by Shanatanagouder J.

Of the 11 judgments delivered last week, Justice DY Chandrachud authored three, while Justices Kurian Joseph, AK Sikri, Shantanagoudar and Khanwilkar authored two each.

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