Friday, June 2, 2023

Unitech land case: Supreme Court recalls order disbursing money to 2 persons

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The Supreme Court, while applying the principle of restitution and the principle of actus curiae neminem gravabit, has directed two individuals to return the money disbursed to them from the sale proceeds of Unitech’s land sold to Devas Global Services LLP, pursuant to an Apex Court order.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah recently took in view the principle enshrined in Indore Development Authority vs Manoharlal and Ors, which said that no party should be unfairly advantaged by an order of the court. 

It reiterated that the act of the Court shall prejudice no one and in such a fact situation, the Court was under an obligation to undo the wrong done to a party by the act of the Court. It said any undeserved or unfair advantage gained by a party invoking the jurisdiction of the court must be neutralised, as the institution of litigation could not be permitted to confer any advantage on a suitor by the act of the Court.

Noting that this was a fit case to apply the principle of actus curiae neminem gravabit and the principle of restitution, the Apex Court observed that previously, it had disbursed the concerned amount to two individuals solely on the basis of report of the Justice Dhingra Committee, which was premised on a 2018 MoU. 

It said disbursal was made without adjudicating the rights of the parties or claims of the individuals, adding that the Committee had submitted the report without any such adjudication. 

The Apex Court said it took note of the fact that there existed serious disputes on entitlement of the amount disbursed to the two individuals. 

There was an obvious error or mistake on part of this Court in directing to pay Rs 56.11 crore to Naresh Kempanna and Rs 41.96 crore to Col. Mohinder Khaira, which as such, was without any adjudication of the claims of the aforesaid two persons. In that view of the matter, the Bench said the mistake or error committed by this Court need to be corrected on the basis of the principle of restitution.

It directed both Kempanna and Col. Khaira to return the amount disbursed to them along with an interest of nine percent from the date the payment was received by them with the Supreme Court Registry. 

The Apex Court granted liberty to the individuals to initiate appropriate proceedings for adjudication of their rights vis-a-vis the sale consideration.

Unitech had claimed that it was the absolute owner of 26 acres and 19 guntas of land in Bangalore that was sold to Devas. Being the owner, it was entitled to the sale consideration of Rs 172.08 crore. 

However, Rs. 87.35 crore was received to Unitech’s account in the Supreme Court Registry and the balance amount was directed to be paid to Naresh Kempanna (Rs. 56.11 crore) and Col. Mahinder Khaira (Rs. 41.56 crore), it added. 

Representing the management of Unitech, Additional Solicitor General N. Venkataraman alleged that these individuals were not entitled to the money directed to be paid to them. It contended that the rights of the parties were not adjudicated upon by the Apex Court or the Justice Dhingra Committee. 

The top court of the country had set up a three-member panel headed by former Delhi High Court judge, Justice S.N. Dhingra in 2018, for expeditious auction of Unitech unencumbered immovable properties, in order to pay back the homebuyers.

(Case title: Bhupinder Singh vs Unitech Limited)

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