No legal bar in exercising jurisdiction in contractual matters: HC

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Srinagar, Mar 15: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh has held that there is no bar on it in exercising its jurisdiction in contractual matters.

A Bench of Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal said this while allowing a contractor's plea seeking direction to the authorities to release a bill amount of Rs 40.71 lakh in his favour for execution of construction of two fountains in Srinagar.

“…from a bare perusal of the record and on careful analysis of the (Supreme Court) judgments, I hereby conclude that law does not put any bar or any fetters on the High Court in respect of exercising its writ jurisdiction in contractual matters,” the Bench said.

The Bench pointed out that “Apex Court judgments clearly prove that there has been paradigm shift in the approach of the courts in exercise of its Writ Jurisdiction in the matters of contractual disputes with State and its authorities”.

The law regarding the exercise of judicial review in contractual matters with State or its instrumentalities, the Bench said, has definitely evolved over the years and the ordinary citizens can, in appropriate cases, approach the High Courts for exercise of Writ Jurisdiction.

With regard to the case in hand, the court observed that it could safely be concluded that the petitioner (contractor) was allotted work by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation on the directions of competent authority that is Commissioner, SMC in 2017 and the contractor in compliance to the directions executed the work within a time frame.

Accordingly, the court said, the authorities are under legal obligation to release the admitted liability (Rs. 40.71 lakhs) in his favour within a period of four weeks.

If the payment, the court said, is not released within four weeks, the petitioner will be held entitled to the interest at the rate of six percent from the date the payment was due and not released by the respondents (SMC).

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