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  • Riya Krishna

Writ Jurisdiction Cannot Interpret Contracts: Karnataka High Court

Riya Krishna,

MNLUA

Case Title

Invest Karnataka Forum & ANR and M/s BBP Studio Virtual Bharath Pvt. Ltd. & Anr

Case No

C.C.C NO.495 OF 2023 (CIVIL) C/W WRIT APPEAL NO.1095 OF 2023 (GM-RES) AND WRIT APPEAL NO.1266 OF 2023

In November 2022, the Karnataka High Court invalidated an order from the Single Judge Bench that directed the state government to release the outstanding payments owed to M/s BBP Studio Virtual Bharat Pvt Ltd. The Global Investors Meet contracted a company to produce a 3D film, but the film's failure to meet the required specifications abruptly terminated the contract. The appeal filed by the State of Karnataka and the Invest Karnataka Forum was permitted by a division bench consisting of Chief Justice N. V. Anjaria and Justice Krishna S. Dixit.

The global investor's meet "Invest Karnataka 2022" was scheduled for November 2–4, 2022, to present the state and its position in the global supply chain. The request was for the petitioner to produce a film.

On June 16, 2022, the 3rd respondent/Marketing Communication and Advertising Limited, a subsidiary of Mysore Sales International Limited, invited business associates to the event. On July 14, 2022, the third respondent informed the petitioner of its pre-qualification and acceptance of its application. The third respondent issued a work order to the petitioner. After receiving the work order, the petitioner began making the 3D film. On September 16, 2022, the Forum approved the third respondent's request for an advance of Rs 1,50,00,000 for film creation. On 25-10-2022, the petitioner said it could provide its work to the 3rd respondent to complete the 11-08-2022 work order. However, the petitioner was informed of the contract/work cancellation/withdrawal in a cryptic manner without explanation. After the respondent did not answer emails, the petitioner went to court. The sole judge overturned a 25-10-2022 notification terminating the company's film production work order.

In its ruling, the court declared that it sanctioned the contract for the petitioner, who then carried out the work according to the agreement. The petitioner then executed the work and brought it to its logical conclusion. Political interference, specifically a communication from the Minister of Industries, Dr. Murugesh Nirani, leads to the cancellation of the contract just prior to the final product's delivery, not because of the film's quality or merit. Consequently, this is a classic example of arbitrariness expanded to its full extent.

The appellants contended that the learned single judge was incapable of involvement in the dispute, which was a contractual matter between the parties. The respondents defended the order, arguing that the facts plainly demonstrated a breach of the established contractual obligations by the respondents, who were 'State' authorities or agencies of the 'State', in their refusal to accept the film produced by the petitioner for exhibition.                         

The internal committee found that the petitioner's 3D film for Invest Karnataka 2022 was raw, generic, incomplete, and substandard, failing to meet the scope of work.The court stated that the petitioner's case was that the respondents did not meet their contractual obligations; hence, the entire challenge before the learned single judge was about the claimed improper termination of the contract. Issues and relief sought relate to contractual rights and obligations from the respondents' work order and the petitioner's performance.   

The court then declared that courts seldom scrutinize contractual matters and rarely issue mandamus. The facts of this case do not warrant a writ of mandamus ordering the respondents to release the payment without a trial.

The bench further stated that the Arbitration Centre Karnataka (Domestic & International) Rules 2012 govern the referral and resolution of any dispute, difference, or claim arising out of, in connection with, or relating to the contract in question, or its breach or termination. It is widely accepted that in such situations, the appropriate course of action for the learned single judge is to refer the parties to arbitral proceedings rather than to consider the writ petition.

Ruben Jacob Niloufer Akbar, Assistant General Advocate, represented the appellants. Senior Advocate Jayakumar S. Patil and Advocate Swaroop S. represented the respondents.

REFERENCES

  • Mustafa Plumber(19 June 2024) Court In Writ Jurisdiction Cannot Enter Arena Of Interpretation Of Contractual Terms, Livelaw

 

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