Justice on the Tracks: Inside the long-standing legal clash between DAMEPL and Delhi Metro

MRT Online Desk Posted on: 2024-02-21 17:30:00 Viewer: 875 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Justice on the Tracks: Inside the long-standing legal clash between DAMEPL and Delhi Metro

New Delhi, India (Metro Rail Today): In a recent development, the Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL), a subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure, has informed the Supreme Court that it is not pursuing damages from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). Instead, it is seeking the cost of trains procured for operating on the airport metro line, based on the 2017 arbitral award. The arbitral award, totaling Rs 8,000 crore in favor of DAMEPL, is the subject of a curative plea filed by the DMRC.

Legal Maneuvers Unfold

A special bench, comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, heard arguments and has reserved its verdict on the DMRC's curative plea. Represented by senior advocates Harish Salve and Kapil Sibal, Reliance Infrastructure termed DMRC's plea as a "whole-sale trial by ambush."

The DMRC's appeal and review petitions against the arbitral award have already been dismissed by the top court. The central argument from DMRC revolves around the claim that the notice of termination issued by DAMEPL in October 2012 was "illegal."

Attorney General R Venkataramani and senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the DMRC, argued the maintainability of the curative plea, emphasizing that upholding the award would result in a "miscarriage of justice."

Debating Structural Deficiencies

Venugopal contested DAMEPL's termination notice, pointing out structural infirmities in the airport metro line. He highlighted the current operational speed of trains at 120 km/hour, indicating improved structural integrity.

Harish Salve, representing Reliance Infrastructure, clarified the company's stance, stating, "I am not suing them (DMRC) for damages. I am not seeking even a rupee as damages. I am seeking the cost of trains." He drew attention to structural deficiencies in the airport metro line, emphasizing the potential criminal liability in case of any untoward incidents.

Wrapping up Arguments

Salve, in concluding his submissions, referred to the termination of the concessionaire agreement on October 8, 2012, which became effective on January 7, 2013. He criticized DMRC's inclusion of "new" points in its curative petition, labeling it a "whole-sale trial by ambush."

Sibal, also representing Reliance Infrastructure, delved into the judicial principles and the law on curative pleas, asserting that DMRC's petition was not maintainable. He cautioned against deciding curative petitions based on individual case facts, warning it could open a Pandora's box.

Verdict Awaited

The Supreme Court, after hearing the arguments, has reserved its verdict on the curative plea. The DMRC, in its petition filed in August 2022, sought a review of the top court's 2021 decision to dismiss its review plea.

Following the dismissal of DMRC's plea, Reliance Infrastructure moved the Delhi High Court seeking the execution of the arbitral award. The high court, in March last year, clarified that its directive on attaching DMRC funds would not hinder salary payments and operation and maintenance expenses.

In a subsequent hearing on March 17, 2023, the high court urged the central and city governments to address DMRC's request for sovereign guarantees or subordinate debt to fulfill the arbitral award. The court emphasized the obligation of sovereign governments to abide by binding judgments.

The ongoing legal saga stems from a 2017 arbitral tribunal ruling favoring DAMEPL. The tribunal accepted DAMEPL's claim that structural defects in the viaduct made running operations on the Airport Express metro line unviable, leading to its withdrawal.

As of February 14, 2022, the total arbitral award, with interest, stands at Rs 8,009.38 crore. DMRC has paid Rs 1,678.42 crore, with an outstanding amount of Rs 6,330.96 crore.

It is noteworthy that the construction of the entire Delhi Metro Airport Express Line was done under the leadership of Dr. Mangu Singh, the then Project Director and former Managing Director of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. However, no officers were held responsible for this crucial weakness and deficiency in civil construction in the history of Delhi Metro.

The culmination of legal proceedings surrounding the arbitral award to DAMEPL awaits the Supreme Court's verdict. The intricacies of the termination notice, structural deficiencies, and financial implications underscore the complexity of the case. As stakeholders await the court's decision, the outcome will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for both parties involved.


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