Bombay HC Stays MHRC Decision To File A Suo Motu Case In Contractual Dispute Case

Bombay high court

The Bombay High Court recently said that a contractual dispute does not fall under the jurisdiction of the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).

A division bench of Justice GS Patel and Justice Neela Gokhale therefore, stayed an order passed by the Maharashtra SHRC initiating a suo motu case related to the non-renewal of lease concerning Mumbai race course land.

The bench was hearing a case filed by the State Urban Development Department’s chief secretary challenging the SHRC’s decision.

While the Court scheduled the matter for further hearing on March 15, 2023, it determined that a suo motu action on a contractual issue could not be brought before the SHRC.

“We will hear the submissions more fully at the later date. However, in the meantime, we are prima facie unable to see how such an action is maintainable before the State Human Rights Commission or how it could have been initiated suo motu,” the bench observed.

With regard to the non-renewal of the lease on the land for the Mumbai racing course, the SHRC had filed a suo motu case.

In 1994, the land was handed to the Royal Western India Turf Club on lease, which expired in May 2013, and was not apparently renewed thereafter.

On September 8, 2022, the SHRC took up this case as a suo motu case based on a news item in a Marathi daily.

The chief secretary, additional chief secretary of revenue, municipal commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and chief secretary of the Maharashtra Urban Development Department (UDD) were also given notice.

On February 17, 2023, the respondents asked the commission for an adjournment.

After imposing fees of 10,000 payable by all respondents to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund, the commission approved the same.

Appearing for the principal secretary UDD, Advocate AI Patel informed the bench that a contractual matter between the State and a party could never lie within the jurisdiction of SHRC, let alone as a suo motu action.

He claimed that the Human Rights Commission does not automatically acquire jurisdiction because of the non-renewal of the lease or any other circumstance, or because of any supposed financial loss (which is not admitted).

The division bench listed the matter for further consideration on March 15, 2023.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte