The Supreme Court has refused to interfere with the ongoing arbitration proceedings between the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) and travel firm Cox & Kings regarding a right to run the luxury train Maharaja Express.
Even as the Attorney General GE Vahanvati pleaded that they were “taken for a ride by the other party,” a bench led by Justice S S Nijjar said that the IRCTC will have to seek all remedies before the Arbitral Tribunal at this juncture.
“Our sympathies may be with you and we may be with you on law but the arbitration proceedings are on. We cannot scuttle it. Saying anything at this juncture would amount to passing an interim order and we cannot do that,” observed the bench.
Appearing for IRCTC, Vahanvati had sought an order against the Royale Indian Rail Tours Limited (RIRTL), a joint venture company formed by IRCTC and Cox & Kings to operate Maharaja Express. The IRCTC had later sought to terminate the joint venture and MoU and it led to appointment of the Arbitral Tribunal for settlement of disputes.
Vahanvati however told the bench that the proceedings before the tribunal was prejudiced against them by appearance of RIRTL. “Something very curious is happening now. RIRTL is a 50:50 venture but it now appears at every hearing and argues against us. As far as the joint venture entity is concerned, it is complete fraud upon us,” argued Vahanvati, and urged the court for an order to stop RIRTL from appearing before the tribunal.
The Maharaja Express was not profitable during the initial period when Cox & Kings was managing it. IRCTC felt that it could be run profitably and took over control. This led to a dispute and the matter went first to the Delhi High Court and then to the Supreme Court.