The Delhi High Court on Friday sought the response of the Delhi Government on a plea by banquet hall owners in Delhi challenging the direction by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) for returning the advance amount paid by customers for conducting marriage ceremonies during the curfew/lockdown period amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Vacation Single-Judge Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh was hearing a plea filed by “Community Welfare Banquet Association Delhi (Regd.) and Ors.” seeking quashing of the direction dated May 9, 2021 issued by the DDMA to either return the advance amount paid by the customers for conducting marriage ceremonies during the curfew period or to organize the marriage at a later date.
The Bench remarked: “You will take money. You will not hold the wedding. You will neither return the money nor give a future date for wedding.” The Bench then raised a query as to what happens to the money deposited by the customers who are now unable to get the marriage conducted at the banquet halls due to Covid restrictions. To this, Advocate Sachin Chopra, counsel for the petitioner association, submitted that the money stands forfeited as per the contractual agreement.
He further submitted that the condition is purely within the realm of the contractual obligation between members of petitioner association and its customers, and that the DDMA cannot interfere in terms of pure contract.
The matter has been deferred to August 13. The plea has been filed by the Community Welfare Banquet Association, Delhi, a registered association of banquet hall owners operating in Delhi. The plea averred that the State cannot interfere with the question of refund as it is a lis between two private entities who have voluntarily entered into an agreement/contract and are bound by the terms of the said agreement/contract.
The plea said the direction being challenge is highly unreasonable and arbitrary as the banquet hall owners are also adversely affected by the curfew/lockdown.