The Delhi High Court recently observed that litigation was similar to the dramas/shows on Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms. This observation followed the opportunity to watch content over OTT platforms by the judges. It specified stages of litigation resembling successive seasons of the dramas/shows (Alok Kumar Lodha vs Asian Hotels).
This litigation opened with suits claiming the occupancy of Shopping Arcade in Hyatt Regency Hotel, New Delhi. The Occupants and the Hotel preferred an appeal against the judgments on several notes. The suit came up before the Commercial Division of this Court.
Contentions Before the Court
The Occupants claimed that the licences were irrevocable and in perpetuity. This was in their respective favour for the shops. Thus, the termination by Asian Hotels (North) Limited, the defendant was illegal. The Hotel, under Section 8 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996, raised an objection. This was with regard to the maintainability of the suits.
Court’s Observation and Decision
Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw stated that this had been the season of lockdowns. This provided an opportunity to watch Over-The-Top (OTT) media platforms. The shows span over seasons with several episodes. The virtual court had provided a different perspective to litigation. The similarity of litigation with the dramas/shows over several seasons was noticeable. The Court stated the stages of the litigation before the suit and appellate court resemble successive seasons of shows. Other aspects of litigation were also found to have similarity with such dramas/shows. It was stated that the judgment would be flavoured like the seasons of the dramas/shows.
The matter also had Justice Asha Menon. It was an Appeal from an Order passed by a Single Judge Bench. The Single Judge dismissed the suit on account of the disputes being arbitrable. The Court observed interpretation of Section 8 to permit verbal application, could lead to mischief. The counsel for the Defendant could have had the suit disposed of or referred to arbitration. This could be done just on the basis of a Vakalatnama. The Court held that it was necessary for a party to apply in writing for the arbitration agreement in order to refer the parties to the arbitration. A verbal plea in this regard was insufficient.
Plea of Section 8 taken verbally would be fraught of complications and such interpretations should be avoided. The Court also held that the Order of the single-judge was not an Order/Judgment of judicial authority. It referred the parties to arbitration as it lacked the essential requirements of Section 8. Thus, the Court added that the bar under Section 37 of the Arbitration Act to the maintainability of these appeals was not applicable.
The Single-Judge’s Order was set aside. The Court concluded by stating that it shall wait for the third season of the suit if any.
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