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Demonetisation, Tatas, drugs ban kept Delhi HC busy in 2016

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A large number of PILs on issues relating to demonetisation and litigations involving Tatas over management and operation of its JV airline AirAsia India and the iconic Taj Mansingh hotel in the heart of capital were among major financial and corporate cases handled by the Delhi High Court in 2016.

The high court, which was flooded with PILs on issues arising out of demonetisation, also gave much-needed relief to the Narendra Modi government by refusing to go into the "correctness" of the November 8 notification scrapping Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, saying courts should not venture into policy matters.

The order had come much before the Supreme Court, which had initially declined to stop the proceedings in various high courts, allowed the Centre's plea to pass a direction that no court in the country other than itself will entertain matters relating to demonetisation.

Just when the Modi government was heaving a sigh of relief over demonetisation, it suffered a major setback as it failed to defend banning of 344 fixed dose combination drugs as multinational pharma and healthcare giants like Pfizer, Glenmark, Procter & Gamble and Cipla won the battle, with the judge saying the decision was taken in a "haphazard manner".

So was the case relating to the auctioning of coal block when in a crucial judgement, the high court held that the government's decision to club different specified end-uses together, barring power, for auctioning of coal blocks "ran counter" to the logic of classification itself.

Fortunately, the court dismissed the pleas of some private companies challenging this decision of the Coal Ministry observing that they had participated in the tendering process for coal auctioning which was known to them.

When the Tata-Mistry controversy hogged the limelight, the Tata group suffered a setback as the high court cleared the decks for auctioning of Taj Mansingh Hotel in Lutyen's Delhi by giving a go-ahead to New Delhi Municipal Council, saying the group's Indian Hotels Company Ltd, which runs the hotel, had "no right" of renewing the licence.

The Tatas also had a tough time when the high court asked AirAsia India, a joint venture between Tata Sons and AirAsia Berhad, to place before the DGCA its brand licensing agreement (BLA) with the Malaysian entity to determine who controls the Indian low-cost carrier.

UK-based Vedanta group company, Cairn India Ltd, which wanted the court's nod to export its share of crude from Rajasthan's Barmer oil field, did not succeed in overcoming the defence of the government.

While Tata and Vedanta groups were fighting legal wrangles, there was a moment of scare for Essar Group over an allegation of illegal tapping of phones of high-profile people and some union ministers by the corporate house between 2001 and 2006, even as the high court refused to direct a court- monitored probe by an SIT into it.

The Ambanis had to be wary for a moment when there was a challenge to the government notification conferring the prestigious Padma Vibhushan to late Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries Ltd, which was dismissed.

Tata and Anil Ambani groups also got a stern message from the high court which directed power distribution firms in Delhi, controlled by them, that they would have to compensate the kith and kin of the victims of electrocution if it was established that there were "lapses" on their part in maintaining the prescribed safety norms.

Budget carrier SpiceJet too had a tough time in the high court which directed it to deposit Rs 579 crore in 12 months and ordered the airline and Sun Group chief Kalanithi Maran along with his Kal Airways to appoint an arbitral tribunal to decide the share transfer dispute between them in a year.

However, when the common public bore the brunt due to the fight between app-based cab service providers, Uber and Ola, the court came to their rescue by clamping down on surge pricing by the cab aggregators and directed them not to charge passengers over the government-fixed rates after August 22.

Another relief to the public came when the high court restrained social networking platform WhatsApp from sharing with Facebook the information it had till September 25, when its new privacy policy came into effect.

Intellectual property rights issues witnessed trademark dispute between market giants Britannia Industries Ltd and ITC Ltd over the use of wrapper for packaging of biscuits, while the copyright battle saw some leading foreign publishers fighting hard against a photocopy shop in Delhi University.

While controversial personality like 'King of Good Times' Vijay Mallya did not have good time as the high court upheld a trial court order summoning him as accused in several cheque- bounce cases, meat exporter Moin Qureshi was asked to return to India by mid-November to appear before Enforcement Directorate for questioning in a money laundering case.

The telecom sector survived the scare of the verdict of the high court, which upheld Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's decision making it mandatory for cellular operators to compensate subscribers for call drops as it was stayed by the Supreme Court.

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First Published: Fri, December 30 2016. 11:22 IST