HC fines Hotel Leela Rs. 5 lakh for ‘abusing process of law’

The Bombay High Court on Monday imposed a fine of Rs. 5 lakh on Hotel Leela Venture Limited for urging that their plea, challenging eviction proceedings by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), be heard by a single judge.

A Division Bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Riyaz Chagla also vacated the interim relief granted by the HC, which had stayed AAI’s proceedings against the hotel.

On February 10 last year, AAI had published a statement that said Hotel Leela Venture Ltd was running a five-star hotel on 29,000 sq. m leased to them by the Airports Authority of India near Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The AAI board decided to terminate the contract since they have defaulted in payment and on account of other violations in terms of the agreements between AAI and Hotel Leela Venture Ltd., it said. Accordingly, notices were issued for payment of dues and for the hotel to hand over possession of the property, latest by October 31, 2016.

It said, “Since they failed to hand over the possession of the property and pay the outstanding dues to the authority within the stipulated date, the eviction and recovery proceedings of dues have been commenced by the eviction officer.”

The hotel moved the court and challenged the eviction notice and proceedings. The hotel had also filed an arbitration petition to resolve the dispute amicably. The matter came up before the Division Bench. The lawyer appearing for the hotel said, since it is an arbitration plea, it can be heard only by a single judge. This irked the Bench, and Justice Oka said, the hotel’s counsels had moved a plea seeking all petitions be heard together by a Division Bench.

He said, “This is a clear abuse of the process of law. This is forum-hunting [Bench-hunting]. We deprecate such behaviour by litigants.” The Bench went on to impose the fine, which the hotel needs to pay in four weeks’ time.

This is forum-hunting [Bench-hunting] . We deprecate such behaviour by litigants

Justice Abhay Oka

Bombay High Court

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