Current Affairs Analysis | The Hindu Editorial | April 12, 2024

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Finality and justice: On the  Delhi Metro Rail Corporation case
DMRC dispute flags need for arbitrators to be more mindful of fact and law
April 12, 2024

The Supreme Court of India has used its extraordinary powers to set aside its own judgment of 2021 and relieve the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) of an exorbitant burden of ₹7,687 crore in a dispute with a former concessionare. The verdict vindicates the existence of the Court’s curative jurisdiction on the one hand, and flags, on the other, a possible conflict between finality in litigation and the need for substantive justice. In this case, an arbitral tribunal had ruled in 2017 in favour of Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Ltd. (DAMEPL), which got the contract to construct, maintain and operate the line from New Delhi railway station to Delhi airport. DAMEPL had invoked the termination clause in its agreement in October 2012, citing the DMRC’s alleged failure to cure some defects. While the DMRC invoked the arbitration clause, DAMEPL halted operations in June 2013 and handed over the line to the DMRC. Meanwhile, based on a joint application, the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) issued a certificate of safety that helped revive the metro’s operations. On appeal, a single judge of the Delhi High Court upheld the arbitration award against DMRC, but a Division Bench set it aside, holding that the award suffered from perversity and patent illegality. In 2021, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court restored the award, reversing the High Court Bench’s findings in favour of the DMRC. A review petition was also rejected.

A curative petition is an extraordinary remedy, as it is filed after the apex Court refuses to review its judgment. There are only two main grounds for entertaining such a petition: to prevent abuse of process and to prevent gross miscarriage of justice, although it is not possible to enumerate all the circumstances that warrant it. It is founded on the principle that the court’s concern for justice is no less important than the principle of finality. Under India’s arbitration law, an award can be set aside only on limited grounds. It is normally inexpedient for arbitration issues to have many levels of litigation — in this case there was a statutory appeal to the High Court, and appeals to a Bench, the apex Court, a review petition and a curative petition. In the ultimate analysis, the DMRC case appears to have been rightly decided as the earlier two-judge Bench was ruled to have erred in setting aside the Delhi High Court Bench’s view that the CMRS certificate was a vital piece of evidence. The outcome only underscores the importance of arbitrators and judges sitting on appeal over awards getting both fact and law right, lest commercial litigants be discouraged from arbitration due to the constant stretching of the idea of finality. Not all disputants can go up to the level of a curative petition.


A three-pronged race: On Telangana and the general election 2024
As the BRS slips, the Congress stays ahead in Telangana
April 12, 2024

With a behemoth like the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) on the wane on the one hand and frantic crossovers across party lines on the other, Telangana could well be among the most heavily contested States in South India in the general election. While the Congress won an impressive 39% votes in the Assembly election in November 2023, former Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao’s BRS, which is now the principal Opposition party after a decade in power, was only two percentage points short in terms of vote share. The Congress bettered its vote share by 14 percentage points from the 2018 Assembly elections, while the BRS declined by a similar margin from a dominant 47%. But as The Hindu had reported then, the swing against the BRS appears to have gone both in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress: in Adivasi dominated areas for the BJP and Muslim dominated regions for the Congress.

Moreover, in the nearly four months of Congress Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy’s rule, there has been a marked change in the public’s perception of the government and governance. For one, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, the Deputy Chief Minister and a Dalit, now occupies the official residence of the Chief Minister built by K. Chandrashekar Rao in 2016. The building has also been renamed Jyothirao Phule Praja Bhavan to counter the perception of inaccessibility and social exclusion. Sure, KCR’s first deputy and Health Minister, T. Rajaiah, who was sacked within a year of taking oath, was also a Dalit. But so too was his replacement and former Education Minister, Kadiyam Srihari. While most welfare measures promised by the Congress, such as 200 units of free electricity, are yet to be implemented fully due to the Model Code of Conduct in place for the seven-phased Lok Sabha elections, the public appears to be in no hurry yet to write off the Congress. And with recent high profile defections from the BRS to the Congress, such as Mr. Srihari and Rajya Sabha Member K. Keshava Rao, who is widely viewed to be KCR’s trusted lieutenant, the likelihood of the BRS matching its performance in the 2019 general election — nine seats and a 42% vote share — appears bleak. An important indicator not to be missed is the doubling of the BJP’s vote share from 7% to 14% between the 2018 and 2023 Assembly elections. This points to a three-pronged race emerging in Telangana. Assaduddin Owaisi’s party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, is still a major player, though without any formal alliance. It remains to be seen how its supporters vote in the seats that it is not contesting.


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