Bombay-HC slaps Rs. 5L fine on Leela Hotels for 'forum-hunting'
The Bombay HC today imposed a fine of Rs. 5L on Hotel Leela Venture Limited for "forum-hunting" by seeking that their pleas, challenging eviction proceedings, be heard by a single-judge bench. Airport Authority of India had, in Feb'17, issued an eviction notice to Hotel Leela Venture, which runs a five-star hotel near the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, over non-payment of dues.
Why was AAI seeking eviction procedures against Leela Hotels?
According to AAI, Hotel Leela Venture had defaulted on payments and violated certain clauses in their agreement. AAI had initially asked the hotel to repay dues or hand over possession of the land. AAI, however, issued the eviction notice when the company failed to deliver.
Company filed petitions in HC challenging notice and eviction proceedings
The AAI initiated the procedure to evict the hotel and reclaim 29,000 sqm of land it stands on for non-payment of dues and flouting other terms of agreements. The hotel company had then filed two petitions in the high court, one challenging the notice and the other against the eviction proceedings. It had also filed an arbitration petition seeking to amicably resolve the dispute.
Arbitrary petition should be transferred to single-judge bench: Hotel's lawyer
The petitions were then placed before a division bench of Justices AS Oka and Riyaz Chagla. However, the hotel's lawyer, Deepak Khosla, said today that the arbitration petition can be heard only by a single-judge bench. "The arbitration petition should be transferred to a single judge bench and the other two petitions should also be clubbed along with it," Khosla told the court.
Bench calls Khosla's move 'clear abuse of process of law'
The division bench, however, got irked with the hotel's demands and said earlier the hotel's lawyers had moved the high court's chief justice seeking for all petitions to be clubbed and heard by a division bench. "This is a clear abuse of the process of law. This is forum-hunting (bench-hunting). We deprecate such behavior by litigants," Justice Oka said.
Court also vacated stay of eviction proceedings
The court also vacated an interim-relief granted by it earlier, by which it had stayed the eviction proceedings initiated by the AAI against the hotel before an eviction officer. This means that the eviction proceedings can begin.