Leading Corporate and Commercial Law Cases in June 2023

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  1. Subhash Waman Bavishkar and Ors. V. Adinath Hambirrao Budhwant and Anr.

Citation: Subhash Waman Bavishkar and Ors. V. Adinath Hambirrao Budhwant and Anr (18.04.2023 – High Court at Bombay); Decided by Hon’ble Judge Shivkumar Dige.

Ratio: Appeal arises out of order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Pune exonerating the Insurance Company from paying compensation on grounds that operator of the vehicle at the time was driving with an expired license.

Held, if driver of offending vehicle was not holding effective and valid driving licenses at the time of the accident, Insurance Company must pay compensation first and recover it from the owner of the offending vehicle.

Obiter: Motor Vehicles Act empowers any person aggrieved by an award of a Claims Tribunal can file Appeal. Therefore, even though the owner of the vehicle had not challenged the impugned order, it cannot be said that the Claimants cannot challenge it.

  1. Harikisan Vithaldasji Chandak and Ors.Harikisan Vithaldasji Chandak and Ors. vs. Syed Mazaruddin Syed Shabuddin and Ors.

Citation: Harikisan Vithaldasji Chandak and Ors. Vs. Syed Mazaruddin Syed Shabuddin and Ors. (28.04.2023 – Hight Court of Bombay (Nagpur)); Decided by Hon’ble Justice G.A. Sanap.

Ratio: A curable infirmity or defect can be removed by amending the complaint. The amendment cannot be allowed to change the basic core, crux, and tenor of the complaint. The amendment, which results in prejudice to the other side, cannot be allowed.

In the present case, the partners of a partnership were impleaded as Accused but the partnership firm was not. If the cheque is drawn on the account of company or firm, then the principal offender is the company or firm and therefore, in the absence of the company or firm being arraigned as accused in the complaint, the prosecution against the Directors or Partners cannot be maintained. The same in an incurable defect. The quashing application u/ Section 482 Cr.P.C. was granted.

Obiter: The mistake has been committed by the draftsman of the notice before filing the complaint as well as by the draftsman of the complaint. The unfortunate complainant, despite having all these facts on his side, seems to have been placed in the wrong hands. He did not get the proper legal advice. The litigant has a choice in selecting the advocate. Once the litigant chooses an advocate, he reposes complete faith in the advocate. The advocate has to give justice to the cause of the litigant. The advocate must always be conscious that on account of his mistake, the litigant should not suffer. The advocate is required to bear in mind that the fundamental mistake while conducting the litigation at any stage can cause irreparable loss and harm to the litigant.

  1. Chatter Pal and Ors. V. State and Ors.

Citation: Chatter Pal and Ors. vs. State and Ors. (Decided on 16.05.2023 – High Court of Delhi) MANU/DE/3313/2023; Decided by Hon’ble Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma.

Ratio: In the present case, a mediation agreement between two divorcees had failed to include the relatives of the husband who were arraigned as accused in dowry harassment and domestic violence case. Thus, the police still acted on chargesheet filed against relatives despite the settlement between husband and wife. Since, the agreement had already been negotiated and agreed to and no violation of the agreement was noted, despite the objections of the complainant, quashing application was allowed. Since divorce had already been granted and amount had been paid, the complainant should bring before this Court the reasons and circumstances which reflect that they can make significant departure from the settlement agreement.

Further, the Hon’ble High Court laid down the following guidelines in drafting of mediation agreements:

  • Specify Names of Parties: The agreement must specifically contain names of all the parties to the agreement.
  • Avoid Ambiguous Terms: The terms such as ‘respondent’, ‘respondents’, ‘petitioner’ or ‘petitioners’, in absence of their names in the agreement must be avoided in an agreement as it leads to ambiguities and further litigation.
  • Include All Details: The terms and conditions of the agreement reached between the parties, howsoever small and minute they may be, must be incorporated in the agreement.
  • Timeline For Compliance: The timeline of the fulfilment of terms and conditions as well as their execution must be clearly mentioned. There should be no tentative dates as far as possible.
  • Default Clause: A default clause should be incorporated in the agreement and the consequences thereof should be explained and enlisted in the agreement itself.
  • Mode of Payment: In case any payment is to be made as per settlement, the agreement should specify the method of payment agreed upon between the parties which should also be as per their convenience i.e., electronic mode, by way of a Demand Draft or FDR and the necessary details for fulfilment of this condition.
  • Follow-Up Documents: The agreement should also stipulate as to which Follow-up documents are to be prepared and signed by which party. It may also be mentioned as to when, where, how and at whose cost such documents are to be prepared in furtherance of the terms of the agreement, as far as possible.
  • Cases involving 498A IPC: Further, especially in cases of matrimonial disputes, where one of the conditions in the Agreement is to cooperate in quashing of FIR, such as those under Section 498A IPC, and filing of affidavit and appearing in the Court for the purpose of the same, it is advisable that the agreement must stipulate the names of all the parties concerned who have been named in the FIR specifically and the fact that the claims have been settled in totality for quashing of entire FIR and proceedings emanating therefrom qua all persons named in the FIR. It be also clarified specifically that the FIR will be quashed in totality against all the persons arrested, not arrested, charge sheeted, not charge sheeted, with their names and whether the entire FIR will be quashed against all of them upon payment by husband or any other person on behalf of the husband.
  • Criminal Complaints/Cross-cases: Criminal Complaints filed by parties against each other, pending trial or investigation should also find specific mention with names of all the parties, the Court concerned, and as to how the parties intend to deal with them. The number/details of the complaint, FIR, Sections under which they have been filed, should also be mentioned specifically.
  • Read and Understood: The agreement should necessarily mention that all the parties have read and understood the contents of the settlement agreement in their vernacular language.
  • Signing of Agreement: In case only one or some parties are present during mediation proceedings and only their signatures are obtained on the agreement, it be clearly mentioned and clarified that the agreement is being signed on behalf of those relatives or parties also even in case they are not present, in case the agreement is qua them too and they are not present in person due to age, ailment, distance or any other reason. It is important to do so since in matrimonial offences, the near and distant relatives may, due to above reasons, not be present in person but agreements are reached in totality, especially regarding quashing of FIRs and criminal proceedings and withdrawal of complaints.
  • Clarity of Language: At last, the language used in a settlement agreement must be definite enough to understand the real intention of the parties and the goals they wish to achieve by entering into the agreement.
  1. K. Rajagopalan V. Periasamy Palani Gounder and Ors.

Citation: M.K. Rajagopalan v. Periasamy Palani Gounder and Ors. (Decided on 03.05.2023 – Supreme Court MANU/SC/0517/2023) Decided by Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Vikram Nath.

Ratio: In the above case, the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) was initiated against a corporate debtor based on an application filed by one of its financial creditors. The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) admitted the application, commencing the CIRP proceedings. During the course of the proceedings, after several meetings of the Committee of Creditors (CoC), a resolution plan was eventually approved. However, the CoC recommended certain changes to be made in the resolution plan. Dissatisfied with the NCLT’s decision, several appeals were filed before the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

The NCLAT examined the case thoroughly and upheld several objections raised against the process as a result, the NCLAT set aside the NCLT’s order and rejected the resolution plan that had been approved earlier. Additionally, the NCLAT directed the resolution professional to present the settlement proposal offered by the promoter and erstwhile director of the corporate debtor before the CoC for further consideration.

However, the Supreme Court, while disposing of the appeal, disagreed with some of the NCLAT’s conclusions. It noted that certain objections raised by the NCLAT were not justified and that the resolution plan did not need to match the liquidation value.

The Court also observed that the resolution applicant could not be disqualified based on allegations from another company in which they were a director without a specific order of disqualification from the competent forum. However, the Court agreed with the NCLAT’s finding that the resolution plan was in contravention of certain provisions of the law. It emphasized the importance of adhering to the procedural aspects of CIRP regulations, specifically in presenting the final form of the resolution plan before the CoC without any alterations or modifications.

The Supreme Court ruled that the resolution plan’s approval could not be reversed solely based on the settlement offer made by the promoter under Section 12-A of the Companies Act. Ultimately, due to other substantial reasons, the Court endorsed the NCLAT’s decision to reject the resolution plan approved by the NCLT.

  1. Ghanshyam v. Yogendra Rathi

Citation: Ghanshyam vs. Yogendra Rathi (02.06.2023 – Supreme Court of India) – 2023 SCC Online SC 725; Decided by Hon’ble Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Pankaj Mithal.

Ratio: Legally an agreement to sell may not be regarded as a transaction of sale or a document transferring the proprietary rights in an immovable property but the prospective purchaser having performed his part of the contract and lawfully in possession acquires possessory title which is liable to be protected in view of Section 53A of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. The said possessory rights of the prospective purchaser cannot be invaded by the transferer or any person claiming under him.

  1. Sanjay Kumar v. Elnior Food Services

Citation: Sanjay Kumar vs. Elior India Food Services LLP (02.06.2023 – High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru); MANU/KA/1206/2023; Decided by Hon’ble Justice Maheshan Nagaprasanna

Ratio: In the present case, the dismissal of employee was challenged before the commercial court on the grounds that the same employment amounted to a provision of goods and services and thus fell under the definition of “commercial dispute” under the commercial courts act.

Held, A pure and simple employment contract cannot be given a colour of a commercial dispute by dressing it to be a provision of services. Further, the employment agreement also had an arbitration clause which cannot be read in isolation. Interpretation of whatever nature that can be placed to the definition of commercial dispute, will not lead to the subject agreement, to become an agreement for services.

  1. Pratishtha Commercial Private Limited V. Orissa State Cooperative Milk Producer’s Federation Limited

Citation: Pratishtha Commercial Private Limited V. Orissa State Cooperative Milk             Producer’s Federation Limited (Decided on 19.05.2023 – Supreme Court) Decided by Hon’ble   Justice Arindam Mukherjee

Ratio: In the event of default and laches on part of the Plaintiff, the Defendant shall not be deprived of the right to file their written statement. In the present matter, the writ of summons was delayed due to expiry of affidavit-in-opposition.

  1. Westcoast Infraprojects Private Limited V. Ram Chandra Dallaram Choudhary, Liquidator of Anil Limited

Citation: Westcoast Infraprojects Private Limited V.  Ram Chandra Dallaram Choudhary,                Liquidator of Anil Limited (Decided on 28.04.2023- NCLAT, New Delhi);        MANU/NL/0400/2023 Decided by Hon’ble Chairperson Ashok Bhushan.

  1. Nagulavancha Sridhar Rao and Ors. Vs. The State of Karnataka and Ors.

Citation: Nagulavancha Sridhar Rao and Ors. Vs. The State of Karnataka and Ors (Decided           on 02.06.2023) – High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru) MANU/KA/1283/2023 Decided by                Hon’ble Justice                 Maheshan Nagaprasanna

Ratio: A violation of Section 415 of the IPC (cheating) cannot be substantiated if a valid agreement has been entered into between the parties. In the present case, the accused cannot be seen to have lured the complainant as it was a partnership deed and deed of execution of work. They are agreements on consensus. Therefore, the allegation that the accused should have lured the victim to part with some property with dishonest intention right from the beginning of the transaction cannot be substantiated. Thus, quashing u/ Section 482 of Cr.P.C. was allowed.

  1. Vikram Bhawanishankar Sharma, Member of the Suspended Board of Directors of Supreme Vasai Bhiwandi Tollways Pvt. Ltd. Vs. SREI Infrastructure Finance Ltd. & Anr. – NCLAT New Delhi

Citation: Vikram Bhawanishankar Sharma, Member of the Suspended Board of Directors of Supreme Vasai Bhiwandi Tollways Pvt. Ltd. Vs. SREI Infrastructure Finance Ltd. & Anr. (Decided on 07.06.2023- NCLAT, New Delhi); MANU/NL/0573/2023 Decided by Chairperson Ashok Bhushan and Member Naresh Salecha, Member

Ratio: The principles of Section 14 of the Limitation Act, which deal with exclusion of time in certain circumstances, are applicable to appeals filed under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. The Supreme Court, in the case of Kalp raj Dharamshi vs Kotak Investment Advisors Ltd., held that the principles of Section 14 are applicable to appeals under Section 61. The Supreme Court clarified the conditions for invoking Section 14 and further extended its benefits to appeals filed under Section 61. Therefore, the period during which a writ petition was being pursued in the High Court can be excluded when determining the limitation period for filing an appeal under Section 61. In the present case, the Court concluded that the appellant was entitled to the exclusion of a specific period, and thus allowed the appeal to be considered as filed within the limitation period.

  1. Union Bank of India (Erstwhile Corporation Bank) v Dinkar T Venkatasubramanian & Ors.

Citation: Union Bank of India (Erstwhile Corporation Bank) v Dinkar T Venkatasubramanian & Ors. (Decided on 04.05.2023- Supreme Court) Decided by Hon’ble        Justice M.R Shah

Ratio:  Rule 11 of the NCLAT Rules, 2016 grants the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) inherent powers similar to Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure. These inherent powers give NCLAT the authority to recall its judgment if procedural errors occur or if certain circumstances warrant it. However, the power of recall is not the same as the power of review, and it should not be used to re-examine a judgment based on apparent errors.

  1. Central Board of Trustees Vs. Shri Kumar Rajan RP Hindustan Newsprint Ltd. – NCLAT Chennai

Citation: Central Board of Trustees v. Shri Kumar Rajan RP Hindustan Ltd. (Decided on 21.06.2023); MANU/NL/0586/2023; Decided by Hon’ble M. Venugopal, J. (Member (J)) and Shreesha Merla, Member (T)

Ratio: In the above case, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) directed the successful resolution applicant to make payment of the admitted claims towards Provident Fund and Gratuity Fund dues of the employees. This direction was based on a previous judgment in Jet Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Welfare Association vs. Ashish Chhawchharia and was upheld by the Supreme Court in Jalan Fritsch Consortium vs. Regional Provident Fund Commissioner & Anr. The NCLAT ruled that both Provident Fund and Gratuity Fund should be paid in full as per the provisions of the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, and the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

Therefore, the company appeal in this case was allowed with a direction to include these amounts in the Resolution Plan. No costs were awarded.

  1. Westcoast Infraprojects (P) Ltd. v. Ram Chandra Dallaram Choudhary

Citation: Westcoast Infraprojects (P) Ltd. V. Ram Chandra Dallaram Choudhary (Decided on 28.04.2023-NCLAT); MANU/NL/0400/2023; Decided by Hon’ble Ashok Bhushan, J.               (Chairperson) and Barun Mitra, Member (T)

Ratio: In this case, the appellant failed to pay the remaining amount on schedule after winning the auction. The NCLAT observed that the Liquidator has the statutory right to fix the terms and conditions of the sale, and since the Process Document empowered the Liquidator to forfeit the Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) and any payment made by the Highest Bidder in case of default, the cancellation of the sale and forfeiture of the amount deposited by the Highest Bidder were deemed valid. As a result, the NCLAT dismissed the appeal, stating that there was no defect in the title of the Corporate Debtor.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) ruled that Section 74 of the Contract Act, 1872 does not apply when forfeiture takes place under the terms and conditions of a public auction conducted by the Liquidator under the Liquidation Process Regulations, 2016.

  1. Pankaj Khare v. Union of India Thru. Secy. Deptt. Of Custom And CGST

Citation: Pankaj Khare v. Union of India Thru. Secy. Deptt of Custom and CGST (Decided on 07.06.2023- Allahabad High Court); Decided by Hon’ble Justice Alok Mathur, and Hon’ble Justice Jyotsna Sharma

Ratio: In the above case, the Allahabad High Court issued a directive to the Commissioner, Goods and Services Tax (GST), instructing the GST Commissionerate, Lucknow, to refrain from issuing notices to lawyers rendering legal services falling in the negative list concerning service tax/GST payments. The court emphasized that practicing advocates should not be subjected to harassment by the tax department, being called upon to pay service tax/GST when they are exempt from such obligations. The court further stressed that advocates should not be required to prove their practicing status repeatedly.

  1. Shree Gopal Tantia @ Gopal Prasad Tantia Vs. The State of West Bengal & another Case

Citation: Shree Gopal Tantia @ Gopal Prasad Tantia v. The State of West Bengal and Anr. (Decided on 20.06.2023- Calcutta High Court); Decided by Hon’ble Justice Bibhas Ranjan De

Ratio: In the present case, the sub-contractor of contractor had misappropriated money. Held, no privity of contract between Accused and contractor. Therefore, quashing petition was allowed.

  1. Ajit Kumar Gupta v. State of UP

Citation: Ajit Kumar Gupta v. State of U.P and Anr. (Decided on 14.06.2023- High Court of          Allahabad) Decided by Hon’ble Justice Siddhartha

Ratio: In the present case FIR was issued against person who had illegally occupied a property. Chargesheet was filed against one accused and subsequently at the behest of the accused, further investigation was conducted by the police and supplementary charge-sheet was filed against co-accused without the prior permission of magistrate.

Held, Investigating Officer can conduct further investigation and file supplementary charge-sheet against the applicant. A perusal of Section 173(8) of the Cr.P.C shows that it provides for further investigation by the Investigating Officer after submission of report. It nowhere provides for prior permission of Magistrate to do so.

Another question of law raised is whether a mere signatory to an agreement to sell can be held liable for the same offence as allegedly committed by the beneficiary of the agreement to sell, the co-accused in this case.

Held, a mere signatory cannot be held liable for an offence arising from an agreement. A witness of an agreement to sell only testifies to due execution of the document before him by the seller and buyer.  The attesting witness of an agreement to sell or any other document cannot be criminally prosecuted unless there is allegation of conspiracy under Section 120-B Indian Penal Code, 1860.  The witness is not necessarily required to know what is contained in the document. He only stands witness to due execution of the document before him.

  1. Coal India Limited and Ors. V. Competition Commission of India and Ors.

Citation: Coal India Limited and Ors. V. Competition Commission of India and Ors. (Decide        on 15.06.2023- Supreme Court of India); MANU/SC/0670/2023; Decided by Hon’ble                     Justices K.M. Joseph, B.V. Nagarathna and Ahsanuddin Amanullah

Ratio: A state-granted monopoly can still be found liable for abuse of dominant position in accordance with the Competition Act, 2002. Further, Section 24 of the Nationalisation Act, 1973 does not have overriding effects on the Competition Act, 2002 and the Competition Commission of India shall have the power to investigate and determine the same.

  1. Sushanta Chakrobathy v. Dey’s Construction

Citation: Sushanta Chakrobathy v. Dey’s Construction (Decided on 04.05.2023- High Court of Calcutta); MANU/WB/0986/2023; Decided by Hon’ble Justice Bibek Chaudhuri

Ratio: An application for interim compensation u/ Section 143A of the Negotiable Instrument Act, 1881 can be heard and disposed at any time, including on or after the date of examination of the accused under Section 251 of the Cr.P.C and entry of plea. 

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