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Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and anr. Vs. Sanjai Agarwal and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. Nos. 663 and 665 of 1984
Judge
Reported inAIR1985All276
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Sections 115; Arbitration Act, 1940 - Sections 20
AppellantIndian Oil Corporation Ltd. and anr.
RespondentSanjai Agarwal and anr.
Appellant AdvocateRudreshwari Prasad, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateRajeswari Pd. and ;Rajesh Kumar Agrawal, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....the parties to the arbitration filed in the court treated as suit - trial court granted temporary injunction - revision filed before high court against the order of the trial court on the issue of jurisdiction - court granting injunction has taken all the three features in consideration - no illegality or irregularity committed in the matters touching the jurisdiction - held, revision is not maintainable. - - the only question which normally arises in such case is whether the action complained of is or is not in consonance with the terms of the agreement. it was further observed that the superior court can interfere only if it finds that the subordinate court had exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested, or has acted in the..........court while deferring adjudication of the matter of jurisdiction and the plea of the plaintiff opposite parties that there were blanks in the agreement which were filled later and not filled by the opposite parties. the court below has further observed that, admittedly, no opportunity was given to the plaintiff opposite parties to show cause or to show that the alleged information was not correct or such situation did not exist at the time of the execution of the agreement. this observation relates to the allegation of the revisionist concerning alleged fraud, misrepresentation, deception and suppression of material facts. the court below further observed that the plaintiff-opposite parties have raised really seriously arguable question at this stage and it referred to the case of.....
Judgment:
ORDER

M. Wahajuddin, J.

1. An application under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act having been moved by the opposite party Sanjai Agarwal and another before IV Additional District Judge, Jaunpur, was registered as Suit No. 32 of 1984. It would appear that the Indian Oil Corporation Limited created an agency for supply and distributionof gas in favour of Sanjai Agarwal running M/s Allied Gas Service, Jaunpur. It later cancelled such agency on the ground that the agency was obtained by practising fraud and misrepresentation upon the Indian Oil Corporation Limited regarding eligibility of the applicant for such agency. The two specific allegations in that case are that Sanjai Agarwal concealed that he is self employed, being partner in firm, and that he also made wrong representation that he is not paying income tax. The case of the revisionist is that but for the misrepresentation, fraud and material suppression the opposite party would not be eligible for the agency, as such agencies are meant for certain categories of persons in which the opposite party is not covered. The revisionist, therefore, cancelled the agency of the applicant and stopped gas supply. The opposite party was called upon to deliver complete charge with empty cylinders and filled cylinders etc. Another person was granted gas agency, so that the consumers may not suffer.

2. It is not in dispute before this Court that the revisionist can create a number of agencies and distributors for supply of gas cylinders in any district and there is no restriction to that. It would appear that opposite party wrote back that Sanjai Agarwal is ill, staying elsewhere and the charge will be given if someone is deputed on a future date. In the meanwhile Sanjai Agarwal and his Allied Gas Service filed the aforesaid suit. A prayer for injunction was also made. Injunction was granted allowing opposite party's application 5-C and rejecting the objection 28-C and the application 24-C of the present revisionist. The revision No. 663 of 1984 is directed against the same.

3. It would further appear that a plea was also raised that it is the Delhi Court which had jurisdiction to entertain the application under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act and the revisionist prayed that the application under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act should not be entertained at Jaunpur and the Jaunpur Court had no jurisdiction. In this connection the revisionist relied upon Clause 26 of agreement, in which it was provided that the Delhi Court alone shall have the jurisdiction to entertain any suit, application etc. in respect of the dispute arising under the agreement. It was urged before the Court below that consequently the Court below at Jaunpur had no j urisdiction to entertain thesuit and it could not pass any injunction orderin the case. It is noteworthy that Clause 37 of theagreement enterted into between the partiesstipulates that any dispute or difference ofany nature arising between the parties out ofor in relation to this agreement be referred tosole arbitration of the Director of Marketingor the person nominated by such Director ofMarketing or the defendants.

4. The defendants i.e. present revisionists' stand before the said Court was that Clause 27(b) of the agreement was attracted empowering it to terminate the distributorship. The plaintiff's i.e. present opposite party's stand was that the termination order was illegal and void and also violated the principles of natural justice. It was also maintained by the plaintiff-opposite party that he signed blank forms of the agreement and the fillings where ever they have been made were made subsequently. The Court below observed that prima facie the contention of the plaintiff-opposite party cannot be wholly baseless, when it is found that some of the blank spaces in the agreement, which should necessarily be filled remained blank. The Court below further observed that the question requires evidence to be recorded before the rival contentions of the parties can be fully appreciated and adjudicated' upon. Therefore, it is not possible to decide the question of jurisdiction off hand, nor can it be confidently predicated that the agreement was executed and signed by the plaintiff 1 at Delhi, nor it can be adjudicated at present stage that it was signed blank and details in CL 36 were filled in subsequently withus the consent of the plaintiff. The Court below, therefore, rejected the application for adjudication of jurisdiction matter and aggrieved from the same the revision No. 665 of 1984 has been filed by the revisionist. It would be found that the Court below has not adjudicated one way or the other the question of jurisdiction and has simply deferred the matter. In this context the revisionist's counsel stated that at present he does not press revision No. 665 of 1984 and may raise such pleas later at appropriate stage. Otherwise also when there is no adjudication by the Court below on the matter of jurisdiction one way or the other and it has simply deferred the matter, at this stage Revision No. 665 of 1984 would not have been entertainable. This observation I am only making casually and I may hasten to add that when the very revision is not pressed at this stage, the occasion for any such observation otherwise does notarise.

5. I, therefore, now pass to consider Civil Revision No. 663 of 1984, directed against the granting of the injunction. While dealing with this matter I may at first refer to the relevant observations of the court below. I have already referred to certain observations made by the trial Court while deferring adjudication of the matter of jurisdiction and the plea of the plaintiff opposite parties that there were blanks in the agreement which were filled later and not filled by the opposite parties. The court below has further observed that, admittedly, no opportunity was given to the plaintiff opposite parties to show cause or to show that the alleged information was not correct or such situation did not exist at the time of the execution of the agreement. This observation relates to the allegation of the revisionist concerning alleged fraud, misrepresentation, deception and suppression of material facts. The Court below further observed that the plaintiff-opposite parties have raised really seriously arguable question at this stage and it referred to the case of Raj Narain Pratap Narain v. U. P. State Electricity Board : AIR1982All14 . It, thus, came to conclusion that the plaintiff has made out a prirna facie case at this stage. Therefore, it dealt with the aspect of irreparable loss to the plaintiff and observed that if temporary injunction is not granted in this case, the plaintiff will be debarred from carrying on the business entailing serious loss of profits and goodwill. It then further observed that the defendant revisionist will not be any loser, if the operation of the letter of termination of distributorship of the plaintiff is stayed, as the defendant-revisionist is at liberty to create any number of distributors in the territory of Jaunpur and that is not challenged by the plaintiff. It then further held that balance of convenience is in favour of the plaintiff.

6. The learned counsel for the revisionist urged that the stress of the Court below is upon the lack of notice to the plaintiff to show cause against the information received by the revisionist in pursuance of which the distributorship has been cancelled, while this would not be the correct approach. In support of such argument the learned counsel for the revisionist had relied upon Clause 27(1) of the agreement, which is quoted below : --

'27. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein contained, the Corporationshall also be at liberty at its entire discretion to terminate this agreement forthwith upon or at any time after the happening of any of the following events, namely-

(a)............................................

(1) if any information given by the Distributor in his application for appointment as a Distributor shall be found to be untrue or incorrect in any material particulars;

It is urged that under such agreement the revisionist is entitled to terminate any agency forthwith without any notice and it being a contractual right the rule of natrual justice would not come into play as to serve any notice to show cause before termination. To meet such arguments it is urged on behalf of the opposite parties that this matter will also be covered by the arbitration clause and it is the Arbitrator who would decide and interpret this clause and, in any case, this Court at this stage in revision would not interfere in exercise of its revisional powers under Section 115, C.P.C, The learned Counsel for the revisionist has relied upon the case of Radha Krishna Agarwal v. State of Bihar : [1977]3SCR249 . In that case it was considered whether, where Government Authorities act in contractual field, constitutional provisions would be attracted and apply. The following observations are important: --

'But, after the State or its agents have entered into the field of ordinary contract the relations are no longer governed by the constitutional provisions but by the legally valid contract which determines rights and obligations of the parties inter se. No question arises of violation of Article 14 or of any other constitutional provision when the State or its agents, purporting to act within this field, perform any act.' It was further held in head note (b) and at para 23:--

'Rules of natural justice are attached to the performance of certain functions regulated by statutes or rules made thereunder involving decisions affecting rights of parties. When a contract is sought to be terminated by the officer of the State, purporting to act under the terms of an agreement between parties, such action is not taken in purported exercise of a statutory poser at all.' It was also observed in para 25 of the pronouncement that : -- 'The limitations imposed by rules of naturaljustice cannot operate upon powers which are governed by the terms of an agreement exclusively. The only question which normally arises in such case is whether the action complained of is or is not in consonance with the terms of the agreement.'

It is urged that there being an agreement between the parties, rule of natural justice would not come into play and the observation of the lower Court concerning lack of show cause notice to the opposite parties to afford them an opportunity to explain away the matters against them is erroneous. In this case a number of earlier pronouncements were considered and the case of Addl. Dist. Magistrate, Jabalpur v. Shivakant Shukla : 1976CriLJ945 was also relied upon.

7. The learned counsel for the opposite parties urged that since these pronouncements, the Supreme Court by its subsequent pronouncements has developed the rule of natural justice as to give it widest possible scope, particularly when any action is taken by the Government or the State or statutory body or corporation. In this connection reliance has been placed upon a number of pronouncements :--

(1) Gurdial Singh v. State of Punjab : [1979]3SCR518 . It was a case of an officer of the Indian Administrative Service. In this case there was adverse report in confidential roll. There was non-consideration of explanation offered by the servant and the Court held that non issuance of integrity certificate could not be upheld and as per observation in para 17 at p. 1626, it was held that in accordance with the rules of natural justice opportunity must have been offered.

(2) D. F. O. South Kheri v. Ram Sanchi : AIR1973SC205 . It was held in this case that where administrative order affects property, the order has to be made in a manner consonant with the rules of natural justice. It is urged that the opposite party's right to earn profit and his goodwill in the business is a sort of property right, which is affected by cancellation of his agency, so rule of natural justice should have been applied.

(3) Further reliance is placed upon the case of U.P. Warehousing Corporation v. Vijay Narain : (1980)ILLJ222SC , in which it was held that the Corporation in question is a statutory body and is, therefore, an authority within themeaning of Article 12 of the Constitution and in such situation the dismissing authority dismissing an employee is bound to observe the rules of natural justice. It is urged that the revisionist is also a Corporation, created under statute, and should have observed the rules of natural justice.

(4) Reliance is further placed upon the case of Maneka Gandhi : [1978]2SCR621 .

8. There are some subsequent pronouncements also on the principles of natural justice, but so far as contractual rights and liabilities are concerned the case of Radha Krishna Agarwal : [1977]3SCR249 (supra) is the only direct authority and naturally according to the settled law of precedence it is the direct authority which should weigh and prevail. But the matter does not end there. There is a dispute between the parties on the interpretation of the clause concerning termination of agency. There is also an arbitration clause and when any disputes between the parties are to be determined by the Arbitratores is provided in the agreement itself, this Court would hesitate to express any final opinion which may prejudice in determination of the matter in arbitration by the Arbitrator. There is another brurdle in the way of revisionist.

9. The opposite party has relied upon a number of pronouncements upon the scope of any interference by the superior Court in exercise of power under Section 115, C.P.C. In the case of Abbas Bhai v. Gulam Nabi : [1964]5SCR157 , which was a case between the landlord and tenant it was held that the High Court in exercise of its powers under Section 115, C.P.C. has no authority to set aside the order of the Court below simply because it was of the opinion that the judgment of the district Court was assailable on the ground of error of fact or even law. It was further observed that the superior Court can interfere only if it finds that the subordinate Court had exercised a jurisdiction not vested in it by law, or has failed to exercise a jurisdiction so vested, or has acted in the exercise of jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity. The further observations are very important and I may quote them : --

'If the trial Court had jurisdiction to decide a question before it and did decide it, whether it decided it rightly or wrongly, the Court had jurisdiction to decide the case, and even if itdecided the question wrongly, it did not exercise its jurisdiction illegally orwith material irregularity.'

10. In the case of S. S. Khanna v. F. J. Dillon : [1964]4SCR409 it was held that the power given by Section 115, C.P.C. is clearly limited to the keeping of the subordinate Courts within the bounds of their jurisdiction. The section is concerned with jurisdiction and jurisdiction alone involving a refusal to exercise jurisdiction where one exists or an assumption of jurisdiction where none exists. It was also observed that where there is no question of jurisdiction, the decision cannot be corrected, as a Court has jurisdiction to decide wrongly as well as rightly.

11. In the case of M. L. Sethi v. R. P. Kapur : [1973]1SCR697 as per headnote (F) the scope and extent of revisional powers of the High Court was considered and it was laid down that the section is not directed against conclusions of law or facts in which question of jurisdiction is not involved. Thereafter the three well known ingredientsof Section 115, C.P.C. were laid down.

12. In the case of D. L F. Housing and Construction Co. (P) Ltd. v. Sarup Singh : [1970]2SCR368 the words 'illegally' and 'with material irregularity' found in Section 115, C. P. C. were considered and interpreted and it was held that it is not competent to the High Court to correct errors of fact however gross or even errors of law unless the said errors have relation to the jurisdiction of the Court to try the dispute itself.

13. Reliance has been placed by Revisionist upon Shambhu Dayal v. Basdeo Sahai : AIR1970All525 (FB) in which as per Headnote (G) it was held that where the Court is not considering important material on record and there is failure to record finding on crucial matters, it acts illegally or at least with material irregularity and such order is fit for revision. Firstly, the revision was directed against an order setting aside an award, which amounted to decision of the case. Secondly, I have already referred to Supreme Court pronouncement including the later pronouncements of the Supreme Court interpreting the expression 'illegally' or 'irregular exercise of jurisdiction' and the Supreme Court's view is binding on me.

14. Reliance is further placed by thelearned counsel for the revisionist upon the case of Khun Khun Chaube v. Mahabir Chaube : AIR1948All261 in which it was held that if a Judge decides a matter ignoring the existing law on the subject, he acts with material irregularity and revision lies. This is a much earlier pronouncement and I have referred to the later pronouncements of the Supreme Court interpreting the words 'exercise of jurisdiction', 'failure to exercise jurisdiction', 'acting illegally and with material irregularity' and such later view is binding upon this Court.

15. Reliance is also placed upon the case of S. D. Maha Mandal v. Smt. Gullo Devi, (1976) 2 All LR 231. That authority is not expressly on the scope of Section 115, C.P.C. and the interpretation of the various expressions used in that section. The facts of the case are also distinguishable. So this authority would not help.

16. Reliance is further placed upon the case of Ramjilal Mahinder Kumar v. Naresh Kumari : AIR1984Delhi95 . It deals with temporary injunctions. It was held in the case that where the three ingredients are found that is, a prima facie case, balance; of convenience and irreparable injury, refusal to grant injunction causes irreparable injury and the Court can interfere in its exercise of jurisdiction under Section 115, C.P.C. Such observation have been made in the context and background of the individual facts of the case.

17. One of the cases cited is A. L. Kalra v. P. & E. Corporation of India Ltd. : (1984)IILLJ186SC but I have not referred to it while dealing with the principles of natural justice, because it simply interprets certain Articles of the Constitution. I may further add that it is not on the powers under Section 115, C.P.C.

18. The opposite party's counsel has relied upon the case of State v. Kubera Pradhan : AIR1977Ori26 but I do not find it to be directly on the point. This is also true for Nemichandv. Commr., Nagpur Division. AIR 1948 Nag. 24.

19. Gujarat State Financial Corporation v. Lotus Hotels Pvt. Ltd. : AIR1983SC848 was also cited dealing with the principles of promissory estoppel but this ruling is in no way attracted in this particular case. The case of Sabhajit Tewari v. Union of India : (1975)ILLJ374SC was also relied upon, but it is not on the pointconcerning the material controversy and points involved in this revision.

20. Prem Raj v. D. L. F. H. & Co. Ltd., : [1968]3SCR648 was also cited, but 1 have already referred to many of later Supreme Court pronouncements directly on the point.

21. The learned counsel for the revisionist also relied upon the case of Venkatagiri v. H. R. E. Board Madras in which while interpreting Section 115(c), C.P.C. it was observed, that the Court has also to be satisfied that while exercising jurisdiction the Court has not acted illegally, i.e. in breach of some provision of law or with material irregulaity, i.e., by committing some error of procedure in course of the trial, which is material and has affected the decision. Stress was also laid upon the principles laid down in the Delhi case of Ramji Lal v. Naresh Kumar : AIR1984Delhi95 (supra), in which some of the Supreme Court rulings were considered. I have already referred to the facts of the case. I have to follow the direct decisions of the Supreme Court. In the ease of Abbas Bhai v. Gulum Nabi : [1964]5SCR157 (supra) it was laid down that the crux of the matter is jurisdiction. In the case of S. S. Khanna : [1964]4SCR409 (supra) it has been laid down again that Section 115, C.P.C. is concerned with jurisdiction and jurisdiction alone. In the case of M.L. Sethi : [1973]1SCR697 (supra) considering the scope of Section 115, C.P.C. it is expressly laid down that the section is not directed against conclusions of law or facts in which question of jurisdiction is not involved. In the case of D. L. F. Housing : [1970]2SCR368 (supra) it was laid down that the High Court is not competent to correct errors of facts or even errors of law, unless such errors are related to jurisdiction. So far as jurisdictional aspect is concerned, in the very agreement there is a provision for reference to arbitrator, so the Arbitration Act is attracted and the trial Court had complete jurisdiction to entertain the application concerned under the Arbitration Act registering it as a suit. It had also the jurisdiction to grant or refuse to grant arty temporary injunction. So, it cannot be urged that the trial Court had no jurisdiction to grant injunction. It is also noteworthy that the three salient features paramount for consideration in a prayer for injunction have been taken into consideration and the trial Court was fully conscious of these while granting the injunction. It has dealt with thematter of prima facie case, balance of convenience and irreparable loss. Even if there is any error in its conclusions on the point, this Court cannot interfere in the exercise of its revisional powers under Section 115, C.P.C. It is noteworthy that even in the Privy Council case, cited by the revisionist, of Venkatagiri (supra) it was held, where the High Court Interfered on the ground that the subordinate Court made a serious mistake in the construction of the will High Court's order was without jurisdiction and has to be set aside.

22. I, therefore, hold that as the lower Court had jurisdiction to grant injunction and there is no illegality or irregularity committed in the matters touching the jurisdiction itself this Court will not interfere with the order of the trial Court in this revision and the Civil Revision No. 663 of 1984 is also dismissed. As regards Revision No. 665 of 1984 it was not pressed at this stage and it is dismissed when not pursued. Stay Order, if any, is vacated.

23. Before parting with this case I feel that this Court having been seized of the matter can well give directions to the trial Court, which may serve the ends of justice. The entire matter i.e. merit of the order granting injunction hinges round the jurisdictional aspect. The revisionist raised a plea that under the agreement itself it was the Delhi Court and not the Jaunpur Court concerned which could entertain the application under the Arbitration Act. I, therefore, direct that Court should dispose of the case including the matter of jurisdiction within three months. I do not think, when almost all the relevant materials are there and there is only the question of production of oral evidence, the Court below cannot make a speedy disposal of the case itself. In any case, if the Court finds it impossible, it must at least dispose of the point of jurisdiction without delay, as aforesaid. I may further observe that after the decision by the trial Court of the whole case or even the matter of jurisdiction as such, the aggrieved party will be entitled to agitate the matter in appeal or revision, as the case may be, including the matter of injunction then.

24. I may in the end also add that a serious view of the matter may be taken, if the directions given by this Court to dispose of the matter within three months is not complied with, particularly, when the matter hinges round the jurisdiction.


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