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The ICICI Bank Ltd v. The Estate Staff Union - Original Side Appeal No.98 of 2005  RD-TN 342 (28 April 2005)
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS
The Hon'ble Mr. Justice P.SATHASIVAM
The Hon'ble Mr. Justice S.K.KRISHNAN
Original Side Appeal No.98 of 2005
C.M.P. No.7929 of 2005
1. The ICICI Bank Ltd.
(Formerly ICICI Ltd)
rep. by its Board of Directors
Banda Kurla Complex
2. ICICI Bank Ltd
rep. by its Board of Directors
Moor Street, Paris Corner
Chennai-600 001. ... Appellants -Vs-
1. The Estate Staff Union
of South India
No.211, Venkatasamy Road (West)
rep. by its General Secretary
2. Anna Planatations Workers Union
No.34, Ganesh Theatre Building,
Coonoor 643 002,
Represented by its
3. Kothari Industrial
Represented by its Board of
No.114, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Chennai 600 034.
4. Prithiviraj Infrastructure
Hyderabad 500 034.
VNK Textiles and Paper Mills
Coimbatore District. ... Respondents
Appeal against the order dated 22.3.2005 made in Original Application No.217 of 2005 in Civil Suit No.182 of 2005 on the file of this Court. For Appellant : Mr.P.L.Narayanan
For R-1 & R-2 : Mr.Sriram Panchu (takes notice) Senior Counsel, for
:J U D G M E N T
(Judgment of the Court was delivered by P.SATHASIVAM, J.) Defendants 2 and 3 in C.S. No.182 of 2005 on the file of the Original Side of this Court, aggrieved by the order dated 22.3.2005 made in O.A. No.217 of 2005 filed in that suit, have preferred the above Original Side Appeal.
2. Even at the admission stage, contesting respondents-1 and 2 are represented by counsel.
3. Heard Mr.P.L.Narayanan, learned counsel for appellants and Mr. Sriram Panchu, learned Senior Counsel for respondents-1 and 2.
4. In the light of the order to be passed here under, we are of the view that it is unnecessary for us to refer all the factual matrix as stated by both parties. Further, the learned single Judge has narrated the case of both the parties as culled out from the affidavit and counter affidavit filed before him.
5. Respondents-1 and 2 herein filed C.S. No.182 of 2005 before the Original Side of this Court seeking for a relief of declaration that the consent decree dated 23.06.2000 in Suit No.535 of 2000 on the file of the High Court, Bombay, is null and void and not binding on the schedule mentioned properties and also for permanent injunction restraining the defendants from in any manner alienating, registering sales/charges/encumbrances, or dealing with the schedule mentioned properties otherwise than by due process of law. Pending said suit, the plaintiffs have also filed O.A. No.217 of 2005 praying for temporary injunction restraining the respondents from in any manner alienating, registering sales/charges/encumbrances, or dealing with the schedule mentioned properties otherwise than by due process of law till the disposal of the suit. The said Application was resisted by the ICICI Bank/appellants herein, by filing counter affidavit. The learned single Judge, after considering the rival contentions, particularly the details regarding the consent decree granted by the Bombay High Court; and after finding that the suit properties are situated within the State of Tamil Nadu in which the members of the applicants are working and that till the issue raised in the suit is decided, if the properties are brought to public auction for sale, the workers will be deprived of their legitimate right; and also noting that prima facie case and the balance of convenience are in favour of the applicants, made the injunction absolute and dismissed the petition filed by the Bank for vacation of the injunction order.
6. Mr. P.L.Narayanan, learned counsel appearing for the appellants/ Bank, after taking us through the relevant materials including the decree of the Bombay High Court, dismissal order passed in the Writ Petition filed by the applicants and the order of the learned single Judge, and after pointing out various provisions from the Specific Relief Act, Civil Procedure Code etc., would contend that inasmuch as the plaintiffs have suppressed relevant materials, the learned single Judge ought not to have made the injunction absolute. He further contended that the suit filed by them before the Bombay High Court is not a suit for land and the observations made by the learned single Judge are not applicable. He also contended that in view of the bar under Section 41(h) of the Specific Relief Act and in the light of the existence of alternative remedy as provided under Order-21 Rule-58 CPC, the present suit before this Court is not maintainable and is liable to be dismissed. He also contended that the learned single Judge failed to consider the specific bar provided under Order-23 Rule-3A CPC. According to him, in view of the fact that based on specific plaint averments, the High Court at Bombay has granted the relief, it is not open for this Court to go into the validity or otherwise of the decree granted by the Bombay High Court.
7. On the other hand, Mr.Sriram Panchu, learned Senior Counsel appearing for respondents-1 and 2, after taking us through the specific stand taken by them in their affidavit filed before the learned single Judge and the proceedings before the Bombay High Court, would contend that the learned single Judge is perfectly right in making the interim injunction absolute and that there is no ground for interference.
8. We have carefully considered the materials placed and the rival contentions made on either side.
9. The only point for consideration in this Appeal is as to whether the applicants/plaintiffs have established prima facie case for continuance of the injunction order till the disposal of the suit. As said earlier, in view of the limited issue to be considered, there is no need to go in detail regarding the contentions raised on either side. However, it has to be noted that admittedly the applicants/ plaintiffs before this Court are not parties before the High Court at Bombay. It is demonstrated before us and we are also satisfied that the properties, which are the subject matter of the suit filed by the applicants/plaintiffs, are situated within the state of Tamil Nadu and the grievance highlighted in the present suit is that their interest and livelihood have not been considered by their Management while arriving at a compromise followed by consent decree before the Bombay High Court.
10. It is useful to refer the materials placed before the learned single Judge. As said earlier, the applicants herein were not parties to C.S. No.535 of 2000 filed before the High Court at Bombay and the said suit was also not contested by the first respondent/first defendant and a consent decree has been passed on admitting the liability and agreeing to pay the amount within two years. It was projected before the learned single Judge that the properties are situated within the State of Tamil Nadu and the Association consists of more than thousand workers, in fact, all of them are working as on date. It was also projected that the applicants are statutorily entitled to certain benefits, if the estates are closed, such as retrenchment and closure compensation. It was also brought to the notice of the learned single Judge that a Company Application is pending for winding up of the first respondent company before the Company Court of this High Court. It was the claim of the workers that even if an order of winding up is passed in the Company Petition, the applicants/workers are having a pari pasu claim as that of the secured creditors. It was also highlighted that during the pendency of the suit if the properties, which are situated within the State of Tamil Nadu, wherein more than thousand workers of the applicants/Association are working, are allowed to be sold, the right of the applicants/workers will be in jeopardy. On the other hand, if the sale of the properties is postponed by grant of injunction, it was pointed out that no prejudice would be caused to the respondents/defendants.
11. No doubt, Mr.P.L.Narayanan, learned counsel for the appellants highlighted the bar under Section 41(h) of the Specific Relief Act and Order-22 Rule-58 CPC. as well as Order-23 Rule-3A CPC. In the light of the said contention, we have verified those provisions with reference to the factual details as narrated by both the parties. As observed earlier, first of all, the applicants are not parties in the settlement as well as before the Bombay High Court. It is not in dispute that the properties, which are subject matter of the suit, are situated within the State of Tamil Nadu and that more than thousand workers are working as on date. Prima facie, as observed by the learned single Judge, interest of the workers was not taken note of by the Management while arriving the settlement and in passing the decree. In such circumstances, we are prima facie of the view that the provisions referred to and relied on by Mr.P.L.Narayanan are not applicable to the case on hand. Further, other larger questions have to be considered at the time of trial of the main suit.
12. Though several decisions have been cited on either side in support of their respective claims, it is useful to refer the decision of the Apex Court reported in AIR 1954 SC 34 (Kiran Singh and others v. Chaman Paswan and others). It is clear from the above decision that a decree passed by a court without jurisdiction is a nullity and that its invalidity could be set up whenever and wherever it is sought to be enforced or relied upon, even at the stage of execution and even in collateral proceedings. The very same decision has also been considered by the learned single Judge. On going through the factual details and the principles laid down in the decision referred above, we are of the view that the same is applicable to the case on hand. We are satisfied that the learned single Judge considered all relevant materials for the purpose of disposal of the injunction application and only after being satisfied that prima facie case as well as balance of convenience are in favour of the applicants, rightly made the injunction absolute. We agree with the said conclusion and we do not find any valid ground for interference.
13. Accordingly, the Original Side Appeal fails and the same is dismissed. No costs. Connected C.M.P. is also dismissed. Index: Yes.
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