Stating that the conditional order,to not execute his orders of arbitration without advance payment,imposed by IAS officer S R Ladhar in all his arbitration orders were not justified,the Punjab and Haryana High Court today quashed the conditional orders passed by Ladhar.
Such orders by arbitrators are not justified,since the very question of computing the entitlement of Ladhar for arbitration fee is being examined by this Court, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Augustine George Masih observed.
Ladhar,in his orders,had made it a condition that arbitration proceedings decided by him will not be executed if his payment was not made.
During the resumed hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Advocate H C Arora,the High Court today came down heavily on the Central government for not responding appropriately to the courts query.
On the last date of hearing,the High Court had put certain queries. First,what is the fee payable to an arbitrator so appointed,and by whom. Secondly,whether arbitrator can fix his own fee? Thirdly,how the fee is computed in other States and what part of such fee is required to be deposited by the arbitrator with the Government?
An affidavit signed by Regional Officer,Chandigarh,was filed today,following which the Bench came down heavily on the Central government. The Court remarked that this affidavit should have been signed by Secretary of the Ministry.
The court observed that this affidavit does not answer the questions posed to the Ministry.
Just two letters have been attached with the affidavit,instead of answering the questions posed by the Court. This is wastage of time of this Court. the Court held today. The Court also slapped a penalty of Rs 10,000 on the concerned officer responsible for filing such an affidavit.
This affidavit does not comply with directions of this Court,and thus,amounts to contempt. However,this Court is restraining itself from initiating contempt proceedings, the Court held.
The Bench today again directed that Secretary,Ministry of Transport shall now file his personal affidavit within two weeks from today.
If affidavit is not filed within the specified period,the Secretary should be present in Court on the next date of hearing,August 20. Besides,an officer well versed with the issues shall also be present,the court ruled.
The Court has also directed Secretary,Union Ministry of Transport to file his personal affidavit,clarifying the stand of the Central government on the manner or norms for computation of arbitration fee payable to S.R. Ladhar,for conducting arbitration work.
The affidavit and a letter sent earlier sent by Union Ministry of Personnel has caused total confusion on this issue. The Bench also directed that the Central governments counsel shall pass over various office memorandums attached by intervener,Vivek Aditya,with his intervention application,to the Secretary,Transport,for his consideration.
Arora today contended that Ladhar is entitled to honorarium at rates mentioned in a October 27,2008 circular of Union Personnel Ministry,and is thus,entitled to arbitration fee quantified at rate of Rs.500 per day only if he does such arbitration work for five hours a particular day.
The petitioner further argued that Ladhar cannot charge arbitration fee per case,as done by him.
As per the petitioner,Ladhar had collected Rs.1.58 crores as arbitration fee for conducting arbitration between the NHAI and the concerned farmers,whose land was acquired by NHAI. He had himself fixed his arbitration fee at Rs.3600 per case,and in one particular case involving the decision of 629 applications,he charged separate fee per application,thereby collecting Rs.26 lakhs for passing one common order in all those 629 applications.