Reliance infra vs DMRC row: SC directs HC to enforce arbitration award in 3 months

The Supreme Court on Wednesday told Attorney General R. Venkataramani, “we should not repeat again that on one hand, you give speeches everywhere that India should be a model arbitration hub”, as it pulled up Centre for its failure to pay an arbitral award for Rs 4,500 crore following a lawsuit filed by Reliance Infra against Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

The apex court directed the Delhi High Court to proceed with the execution of the Rs 4,500 crore arbitration award granted in favour of Delhi Airport Metro Express Pvt Ltd (DAMEPL), a Reliance Infrastructure arm, and take it to a logical end within three months.

A bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Vikram Nath said the award in favour of the DAMEPL has reached finality, and emphasised that law regarding the execution of the award is not different for the government or its statutory corporations.

The AG, representing the Centre, objected to the maintainability of the DAMEPL’s appeal and pointed out the lack of funds.

“I do not have money or gold in some bank account that I can just give it. It has to go through a process,” he said.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing the DAMEPL, said the government is not committing itself to giving the money and added that if they are unable to commit funds, let their properties be attached.

As the AG said: “The government will pass it in the bill to apportion funds”, Salve submitted: “Do not let this circus continue.”

The AG replied that it is a serious matter and added: “do not call it a circus please”. Salve contended that if DMRC were to be a private party, then the apex court would have directed payment within two weeks.

The bench said that in ordinary circumstances, the court would not have entertained the matter. “The arbitration award passed in favour of the petitioner has reached finality as the appeal filed by respondent has been dismissed,” said the bench.

The top court said: “We, therefore, direct the high court to proceed expeditiously and take it to its logical end within a period of three months.”

Concluding the hearing in the matter, Justice Gavai remarked: “We should not repeat again that on one hand you give speeches everywhere that India should be a model arbitration hub…”

The AG replied that has nothing to do with this case.

The apex court was hearing a plea seeking enforcement of the arbitration award in favour of the DAMEPL to be paid by the DMRC.

Earlier, the apex court had sought response from the DMRC, on a plea by the DAMEPL. The Delhi High Court had also asked DMRC to come up with a strategy to refund the unpaid sum of an arbitral award to DAMEPL.

On May 5, the Supreme Court upheld the Delhi High Court order, directing DMRC to pay Rs 4,500 crore to DAMEPL, of arbitral award along with interest to the DAMEPL in two equal installments in two months.

20221214-193803

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