Airport P. Ltd. Vs. M/S Golden Chariot Airport & ANR.  INSC 765 (22
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL No. 8201 OF 2010 (Arising
out of Special Leave Petition (C) No.6556/09 Mumbai International Airport Pvt.
Ltd. ...Appellant(s) - Versus - M/s Golden Chariot Airport & Anr. ...Respondent(s)
WITH CIVIL APPEAL No. 8200 OF 2010 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (C)
No.11663/09 Airport Authority of India ...Appellant(s) - Versus - M/s Golden
Chariot Airport & Anr. ...Respondent(s)
two appeals, one by Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd. and another 1 by
Airport Authority of India, seek to impugn the judgment of the High Court dated
March 4, 2009.
relevant facts of the case are that M/s Golden Chariot Airport (hereinafter
referred to as "the contesting respondent") succeeded in a tendering
process for running a deluxe grade-I restaurant, covering a space of about 5000
sq. ft., in the car park zone in front of Terminal 1A of the Mumbai Airport.
Pursuant to the said bid of the contesting respondent, a Licence Agreement
dated 16.1.96, was entered into between the Airport Authority of India
(hereinafter AAI) and the contesting respondent.
of the clauses of the said Licence Agreement are relevant as one of the
arguments advanced by the contesting 2 respondent, before the Estate Officer,
the High Court and this Court is that the licence is irrevocable. It has also
been urged by the contesting respondent, that apart from the Licence Agreement,
there has been an oral extension of the licence and the contesting respondent
was assured that it is irrevocable, and on the basis of such assurance, it has
invested considerable money in building the restaurant.
the first clause of the Licence Agreement it is clear that the licence is valid
for a period of three years, from 27.11.95 to 26.11.98. Apart from the first
clause, there are several other clauses in the licence, like clauses 23, 24,
26, 27 and 29 in the General Terms and Conditions, which are a part of the
The aforesaid clauses
are set out:
"23. In the
event of the Licensee being prohibited from selling one or more articles in the
premises because of Government Laws/Rules/Regulations/Orders, the Authority
shall not be liable for any loss suffered by the Licensee in such an event the
Licensee shall not be entitled to any reduction in the fees payable to the
Authority or permission for sale of additional items.
24. The Licensee
shall deposit duplicate keys of the premises with the Authority whenever the
Airport Director demands and permit the Authority to make use of the keys
during the emergency. The Licensee shall not remove or replace the lock on the
outdoor or change the locking device on the said outer door of the shop.
26. On expiry of the
period or on termination of the licence by the Authority on account of any
breach on the part of the Licensee, the Licensee shall deliver the possession
of the premises in good condition and peaceful manner along with furniture,
fittings, equipments and installations, if any, provided by the Authority.
Further, Licensee shall remove his/their goods and other materials from the
premises immediately, failing which Authority reserves its right to remove such
goods/materials at the cost and risk of the Licensee and demand payment for
such removal. If such payment is not made within 10 days, Authority shall be at
liberty to dispose off the goods/materials of the Licensee by 4 public auction
to recover the cost.
The Licensee shall
not be entitled to raise any objection in such an eventuality.
27. The licence
herewith granted shall not be construed in any way as giving or creating any
other right or interst in the said space building(s)/land/garden/tank/ premises
to or in favour of the Licensee but shall be construed to be only as a licence
in terms and conditions herein contained.
29. The provision of
the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971 and the
rules framed thereunder which are now in force or which may hereafter came into
force shall be applicable for all matters provided in the said Act."
is clear from what is extracted above that the licence is not irrevocable.
Apart from that it is clear that the provisions of the Public Premises
(Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 and the Rules framed thereunder
have been made applicable to the Licence Agreement. It is not in dispute that
after the initial grant 5 of the said licence, the same was, under request of
the contesting respondent, extended upto 26.5.2000. Before the extended period
could expire, a notice dated 4.5.2000 was sent by the Senior Commercial Manager
on behalf of AAI to the contesting respondent, requesting it to vacate and hand
over physical possession of the licensed premises on expiry of the extended
licence on 26.5.2000.
of doing so, the contesting respondent filed, on 15.5.2000, a suit in the
Bombay City Civil Court being suit No. 3050/2000, praying for canceling the
notice dated 4.5.2000 and for permanent injunction restraining AAI from
evicting, demolishing, or removing the restaurant premises of the contesting
respondent without adopting the due process of law. In the said suit, the
contesting respondent prayed for a declaration that the AAI has granted an 6
irrevocable licence and AAI has no right to terminate, cancel or revoke the
The exact prayer to
the aforesaid effect is as under:
(a) "For a
declaration of this Hon'ble Court thereby declaring that the defendants have
granted an irrevocable licence in favour of the plaintiffs in respect of the
said restaurant business situated at the car park of Terminal 1A of Santa Cruz
Airport Mumbai, and that the same is subsisting valid and in full force and
effect and further that the defendants have no right to terminate, revoke and/or
cancel the same and/or interfere with the peaceful running of the said business
of the plaintiffs at least till such time as the said land, beneath the said
restaurant is not required for Airport related development purpose."
such suit being filed, the Bombay City Civil Court returned the plaint under
Order VII Rule 10 of Civil Procedure Code (for short "CPC"), inter
alia, on the ground that the City Civil Court does not have the pecuniary
jurisdiction to hear the case in view of the declaration prayed for.
by the said Order, the contesting respondent preferred an appeal before the
Bombay High Court. When the said appeal came up for hearing on 12.7.01, it was
represented by the contesting respondent that they will drop the prayer in
Clause (a) of the plaint, which is the prayer for the declaration that the
licence is irrevocable. On such stand being taken by the contesting respondent
before the Bombay High Court, there was a consensus between the parties, and
the High Court was pleased to pass the following Order:
impugned order is set aside without examining the merits or demerits of the
impugned order and the matter is question is remitted back to the City Civil
Court, Bombay granting liberty to the Plaintiff to move proper application for
amendment of the plaint so as to enable him to delete prayer clause (a), and
other pleadings raised in support thereof in the plaint.......
view of the aforesaid Order of the High Court, the matter was remanded to the
8 Bombay City Civil Court. The City Civil Court decreed the suit by a judgment
dated 11.2.04. In the said judgment, the Bombay City Civil Court held that on a
reading of clauses 16, 29 and 30 of the Licence Agreement it was clear that
both parties had agreed to submit themselves to the provisions of the Public
Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred
to as the 1971 Act) and Rules framed thereunder. The Court thus held that the
AAI were bound to follow the due process of law for evicting the contesting
respondent from the suit premises, as given under the 1971 Act.
proceedings were initiated before the Estate Officer on 27.09.04 and notices
were issued by the Estate Officer under Sections 4, 5, 5A, 5B and 7 of the 1971
Act to the contesting respondent.
9 Hearings were
conducted on 26.10.04 and 8.11.04.
13.11.04, the contesting respondent addressed a letter to AAI for extension of
licence with respect to the licensed premises till AAI required it for airport
development purposes. Further hearings before Estate Officer were conducted and
on 12.01.05, after completion of the hearing and closing of the summary
proceedings, the contesting respondent addressed a letter contending that the
hearing of the matter be deferred until AAI communicated its decision on the
letter dated 13.11.04. The contesting respondent once again addressed a letter
dated 11.02.05 to the Estate Officer reiterating the same request and urged the
Estate Officer to reopen the case to enable the contesting respondent to lead
evidence in the matter. On 18.03.05, the 1 Estate Officer heard the case of
the contesting respondent and rejected the same.
the contesting respondent filed a writ petition (No. 2900/2005) before the
Bombay High Court. On 30.06.05, the Bombay High Court dismissed the writ
petition by passing the following order:
withdraw the liberty to make a fresh application which shall be decided, in
accordance with law. All questions, including the questions of tenability, are
the Estate Officer Mr. V.K. Monga was transferred and a new Estate Officer Mr.
Narinder Kaushal was appointed.
Mr. Kaushal forwarded
a copy of the record of proceedings to Mr. Monga by a letter dated 11.08.05.
Mr. Monga, by letter dated 12.09.05, forwarded a draft summary of the
after withdrawal of the writ petition, a letter dated 28.12.05 was written by
the advocate of the contesting respondent referring to the withdrawn writ
petition, and requesting the Estate Officer for an adjournment of proceedings
in view of its previous letter dated 13.11.04.
7.3.06, the Estate Officer passed a detailed Order in EO Case No.6/2004,
holding inter alia that the contesting respondent was in unauthorized
occupation of the licensed premises, which was a public premises and it was
liable to be evicted from the said premises under Section 5 of the 1971 Act
with effect from 27.05.2000.
thereby, the contesting respondent filed an appeal under Section 9 of the 1971
Act before the Bombay City 1 Civil Court (M.A. No. 39/2006), which was
dismissed by the Bombay City Civil Court on 24.7.2008.
may be mentioned here that between 2003 to 2006, Union of India, through its
Ministry of Civil Aviation, came out with a policy for privatization of
Airports Authority of India Act, 1991 was amended by the Airports Authority of
India (Amendment) Act, 2003.
International Airport Private Ltd. (MIA) was incorporated on 2.03.06 with the
object of operating, maintaining, developing, designing, constructing,
upgrading, modernizing and managing the Mumbai Airport and to enter into
contracts with third parties for the said purpose.
4.04.06, MIA entered into an Operation, Management and Development Agreement
(OMDA) whereby AAI granted MIA the exclusive right and authority (for 30 years
commencing from 3.05.06) to undertake some of the functions of the AAI such as
operation, maintenance, development, design, construction, upgradation,
modernization, finance and management of the Mumbai Airport.
to the OMDA, AAI entered into a Lease Agreement dated 26.04.06, by which most
of the immovable properties of AAI at the Mumbai Airport, including the
licensed premises, were leased to the MIA.
2007, MIA took out a Chamber Summons before the Bombay City Civil Court for
impleading itself as a party in the appeal filed by the contesting respondent
(Appeal No.39/2006). The appeal of the contesting 1 respondent and the Chamber
Summons of MIA were heard by the Bombay City Civil Court.
By its Order dated
24.07.08, the Bombay City Civil Court dismissed the appeal of the contesting
respondent and allowed the Chamber Summons of MIA.
the dismissal of its appeal by the City Civil Court, the contesting respondent
filed a writ petition (No. 5591/2008) in the Bombay High Court, without making
MIA a party. On 26.07.08, the Bombay High Court passed an ex-parte ad-interim
Order directing the parties to maintain status quo. On 28.07.08, MIA filed a
civil application for impleadment in the writ proceedings before the High Court
and on 6.08.08 the High Court allowed the same.
Bombay High Court passed the impugned Order on 4.03.09 whereby it allowed the
1 writ petition and set aside the judgment of the Bombay City Civil Court
The High Court held
that the order of the Estate Officer Mr. Kaushal was null and void for his
failure to consider the case himself as he had verbatim reproduced the entire
order of Mr. Monga with a few cosmetic changes. The High Court thus remanded
the matter to the Estate Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with law.
the impugned Order of the High Court dated 4.3.09, whereby the matter was
remanded to the Estate Officer, hearing took place on 14.5.09 by the new Estate
Officer Mr. Y. Kumaraswamy. Hearings before Mr. Kumaraswamy were adjourned as
by 17.3.09, challenging the order of the High Court dated 4.3.09, an SLP
(6556/2009) was filed by MIA, and soon thereafter, another 1 SLP challenging
the same order of the High Court was filed by AAI on 28.3.09.
view of such SLPs being filed before this Court, hearing before Mr. Kumaraswamy
the aforesaid SLPs, now converted into appeals, were tagged by an order of this
Court dated 8.5.09, passed in SLP No. 11663/2009 and thereafter were heard
together. In the meantime, Mr. Kumaraswamy retired and one Mr. Keshav Sharma,
General Manager (Communication & Land Management) was appointed the new
during the pendency of the proceedings before this Court, it transpires on a
representation made before this Court on 29.1.10, that there was no Estate
Officer for hearing the matter. This 1 Court, therefore, directed AAI by its
Order of the same date to appoint an Estate Officer under the provisions of the
Act of 1971, within a period of 10 days and directed the matter to be posted
for further hearing on 11.2.10.
11.2.10, this Court was informed that Mr. K.K Gupta, Deputy General Manager
(Land Management) has been appointed the Estate Officer under Section 3 of the
1971 Act, to hear the case of the contesting respondent in place of Mr. Keshav
Sharma. In view of such representation being made before this Court, this Court
directed the parties to appear before the Estate Officer on 17.2.10, with a
request that the Estate Officer was to fix a date of hearing and then to hear
the parties and pass an appropriate Order in accordance with law on or before
30.4.10. It was also made clear 1 that the Order of the Estate Officer would
be made available to the parties within the next two days. The parties were
given liberty, if so advised, to challenge or support the Order of the Estate
Officer in the pending proceeding before this Court and which was posted before
this Court on 7.5.10.
appears that on 29.4.10, the Estate Officer, after hearing the parties, passed
a final order directing the contesting respondent to vacate the premises. It
also directed the contesting respondent to pay damages for unauthorized
occupation of the premises by payment of compensation and municipal taxes.
by the said Order, the contesting respondent filed a miscellaneous appeal
before the Bombay City Civil Court, 1 challenging the abovementioned Order of
the Estate Officer.
matter was placed before this Court on 11.5.10 and on that date learned Counsel
for the contesting respondent took a stand that the pending proceedings before
this Court arising out of the two SLPs had become infructuous. The impugned
Order of the Bombay High Court dated 4.3.09 was no longer holding the field.
Instead of that, the present Order dated 29.4.10 of the Estate Officer is the
operative order and against that already an appeal has been filed by the
contesting respondent before the Bombay City Civil Court.
for both AAI and MIA opposed the aforesaid stand and contended that the
proceedings before this Court had not become infructuous and as this Court has
2 retained its seisin over the matter as this Court directed the Estate
Officer to decide the proceedings under the 1971 Act within a time frame but
kept the proceedings before it pending.
Court further gave liberty to the parties in its Order dated 11.2.10, to
challenge the ultimate Order of the Estate Officer in the pending proceedings
before this Court.
Court after hearing the parties, held that the proceedings before this Court
had not become infructuous. Since the order of this Court dated 11.5.10 has a
bearing on the issues, the same is set out:
counsel for the parties.
Today when the
matters were taken up before this Court, this Court was informed by Mr.Mukul
Rohtagi, learned senior counsel for the petitioners that pursuant to the order
of this Court dated 11.02.2010 the Estate Officer has decided the matter and
passed an order dated 29.04.2010. Impugning the said order, the respondents
have filed an appeal under Section 9 of the Public Premises (Eviction of
Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 before the Principal Judge, Bombay City Civil
that such filing of appeal before the aforesaid judicial authority in view of
the directions contained in that order amounts to an act of contempt. He
further submitted that in any event, the said filing of appeal circumvented the
order of this Court dated 11.02.2010. Mr.Shyam Divan, learned senior counsel
appearing on behalf of the respondents, on the other hand, contended that his
client has filed the said appeal in view of the statute made by the Parliament
and his client has exercised that right.
According to him,
such right of appeal cannot be taken away by any order of this Court. In
support of his argument, he cited several decisions of this Court.
senior counsel also in support of his submission cited several decisions and
submitted that this Court passed the order in order to prevent conflict of
decisions and also considering the facts and circumstances and the question of
public interest involved in this case namely the urgency of expanding Bombay
Airport and the right of the respondents to run their restaurant in the said
This Court, however,
by balancing the equity had passed the said order and the said order does not
decide the questions that are raised in the SLPs which are pending and over
which this Court retains 2 its seisin. We are of the view that by the order
which has been passed namely the order dated 11.02.2010, the right of the
respondents to file an appeal has not been taken away. This Court preserved the
right of the respondents and also permitted them to challenge the order that
may be passed by the Estate Officer by filing an appropriate additional affidavit
before this Court.
In view of the above,
this Court directs that the appeal which has been filed by the respondents
(Misc.Appeal No.50 of 2010) before the Principal Judge, City Civil Court,
Mumbai be transferred to this Court.
The record of the
said appeal may form part of these SLPs. The petitioners are at liberty to file
any additional affidavit in answer to the appeal filed by the respondents. The
respondents may also file reply to the same. Such filing must be completed by
the parties by 09.07.2010.
The matter may be
placed for further consideration before this Court on 14.07.2010."
the matter was taken up before this Court on 29.7.10 and the learned Counsel
for the contesting respondent submitted that Mr. K.K Gupta was not authorized
to discharge the functions of an Estate Officer in accordance with Section 3(a)
of the 1971 Act. To respond to such a stand, 2 the learned Counsel for AAI
took some time to produce the necessary notifications showing the appointment
of the Estate Officer.
the matter was heard. Before this Court, the learned Counsel for the contesting
respondent, apart from raising the aforesaid contention that Mr. K.K Gupta was
not validly appointed as an Estate Officer, raised various other contentions.
was first contended that there was an oral assurance for an extension of the
licence to the extent that it will be an irrevocable licence. Relying on such
oral extension, the contesting respondent made substantial investment for
constructing the restaurant. The second contention was that the licence was
irrevocable. The third contention was that the Estate Officer did 2 not give
the contesting respondent a proper hearing.
Counsel of both AAI and MIA strongly opposed the aforesaid contentions raised
on behalf of the contesting respondent.
Court unfortunately is unable to uphold the contentions raised by the
contesting respondent in view of the following reasons.
case of the contesting respondent before all the forums is that though the
licence period commenced on and from 27.11.95, the restaurant was made
operational on 1.1.97. The initial period of licence was upto 26.11.98.
Therefore, on its own showing, the contesting respondent completed the
construction of the 2 restaurant by 1.1.97, which was well within the initial
licence period, which was upto 26.11.98. Admittedly thereafter, there have been
two extensions of the licence period upto 26.5.2000. Therefore, the
construction having been completed and the restaurant being operational by
1.1.97, there is no occasion for the contesting respondent to urge that it
invested money in the construction of the restaurant on the oral assurance by
the officers of the AAI about extension of the licence so as to make it
fact no oral assurance of extension of licence is contemplated in the facts of
this case. Such a contention is wholly misconceived.
AAI is a statutory body constituted under Section 3 of the Airport Authority of
2 India Act, 1994 (AAI Act). Under Section 3(2) of the AAI Act, it is a body
corporate with power to hold and dispose of both movable and immovable property
and to contract.
power of the AAI to enter into contracts has been conferred under Section 20
read with Section 21 of AAI Act. As per Section 20, the AAI is competent to
enter into contracts (subject to the provisions of Section 21) which may be
necessary to discharge its functions under the AAI Act.
21 of AAI Act lays down the mode of executing contracts on behalf of AAI. The
Section requires that every contract on behalf of AAI is to be made by the
Chairperson or any other member/officer who has been empowered to do so.
Further, the contracts, which have been specified in the 2 Regulations, have
to be sealed with the common seal of AAI.
(2) of Section 21 of AAI Act provides that the form and manner of the contract
shall be such as may be specified by the Regulations.
relevant Regulations have been framed by the AAI with the previous approval of
the Central Government and in exercise of the power conferred on it under
Section 42(1) read with Section 42(2)(e) and (4), read with Section 21 of the
AAI Act, 1994 and the regulations are called the Airports Authority of India
(Contract) Regulations 2003. Obviously the regulations are statutory.
said Regulations specify that contracts by AAI are required to be sealed with
the 2 common seal of AAI. They further provide that contracts are to be made
with the previous approval of the Central Government and AAI.
3(2) also state that all contracts shall be finalized by the execution of a
Deed of Agreement, Deed of Licence, Indenture or like instrument, duly signed
by AAI and the party concerned, and the said instruments or deeds are to be
executed on non-judicial paper of appropriate stamp value when necessary.
regard to the aforesaid statutory framework, the case of the contesting
respondent that it was orally assured of extension of licence by some officer
of AAI is of no legal consequence. No such assurance has been proved, even if
it is proved, such assurance does not and cannot 2 bind the AAI. Being a
statutory corporation, it is totally bound by the Act and the Regulations
framed under the Act.
very idea of a licence being irrevocable is a bit of a contradiction in terms.
From the clauses of the licence referred to above, it is clear that by its
terms the licence is revocable. It is well known that a mere licence does not
create any estate or interest in the property with which it is concerned.
Normally a licence confers legality to an act, which would otherwise be
unlawful. A licence can be purely personal, gratuitous or contractual.
Whether a contractual
licence is revocable or not, would obviously depend on the express terms of the
contract. A contractual licence is normally revocable, except in certain
circumstances that are 3 expressly provided for in the Indian Easement Act,
licence has been defined in Section 52 of the Indian Easement Act, 1882 as a
right to do or continue to do in or upon the immovable property of the grantor
something, which, in the absence of such right, could be unlawful, but such
right does not amount an easement or an interest in the property. [See Muskett
vs. Hill (1839) 5 Bing (NC) 694, p.707 and Heap vs. Hartley (1889) 42 Ch. Div.
461, p.468 (CA)].
the aforesaid principles and the clauses in the licence agreement, this Court
holds that the licence by its very term is revocable. The stand of the
contesting respondent that its licence is irrevocable as it has invested money
in the premises and made construction is directly contrary to the stand which
it took before the Bombay High Court and which was recorded in the High Court's
Order dated 12.7.01. It may be noted that when the City Civil Court returned
the plaint filed by the contesting respondent it came up in appeal against the
said Order before the Bombay High Court, it expressly gave up its claim of
irrevocable licence in order to revive the suit. On such stand being taken, the
High Court remanded the suit for trial before the City Civil Court. It is
therefore clear that the contesting respondent has taken a stand before a Court
of Law and also got the benefit as a result of taking such stand in as much as
it got the suit revived and tried and got the benefit of an interim order in
the said proceedings. As a result of the aforesaid stand being taken, the suit
of the 3 contesting respondent went on before the Bombay City Civil Court from
2001 to 2004 and in view of the interim protection, the contesting respondent
ran the restaurant during that period.
the question is whether the contesting respondent on a complete volte-face of
its previous stand can urge its case of irrevocable licence before the Estate
Officer and now before this Court?
answer has to be firmly in the negative. Is an action at law a game of chess?
Can a litigant change and choose its stand to suit its convenience and prolong
a civil litigation on such prevaricated pleas?
common law doctrine prohibiting approbation and reprobation is a facet of 3
the law of estoppel and well established in our jurisprudence also.
doctrine of election was discussed by Lord Blackburn in the decision of the
House of Lords in Benjamin Scarf vs. Alfred George Jardine [(1881-82) 7 Appeal
Cases 345], wherein the learned Lord formulated "...a party in his own
mind has thought that he would choose one of two remedies, even though he has
written it down on a memorandum or has indicated it in some other way, that
alone will not bind him;
but so soon as he has
not only determined to follow one of his remedies but has communicated it to
the other side in such a way as to lead the opposite party to believe that he
has made that choice, he has completed his election and can go no further; and
whether he intended it or not, if he has done an unequivocal act...the fact 3
of his having done that unequivocal act to the knowledge of the persons
concerned is an election."
Tinkler vs. Hilder (1849) 4 Exch 187, Parke, B., stated that where a party had
received a benefit under an Order, it could not claim that it was valid for one
purpose and invalid for another. (See page 190)
Clough vs. London and North Western Rail Co. [(1861-73) All ER, Reprint, 646]
the Court referred to Comyn's Digest, wherein it has been stated:- "If a
man once determines his election, it shall be determined forever." In the
said case, the question was whether in a contract of fraud, whether the person
on whom the fraud was practiced had elected to avoid the contract or not. The
Court held that as long as such party made no election, it 3 retained the
right to determine it either way, subject to the fact that an innocent third
party must not have acquired an interest in the property while the former party
is deliberating. If a third party has acquired such an interest, the party who
was deliberating will lose its right to rescind the contract. Once such party
makes its election, it is bound to its election forever. (See page 652)
Harrison vs. Wells, 1966 (3) All ER 524, Salmon LJ, in the Court of Appeal,
observed that the rule of estoppel was founded on the well-known principle that
one cannot approbate and reprobate. The doctrine was further explained by Lord
Justice Salmon by holding "it is founded also on this consideration, that
it would be unjust to allow the man who has taken full advantage of a lease to
come forward and seek to 3 evade his obligations under the lease by denying
that the purported landlord was the landlord". (See page 530)
Kok Hoong vs. Leong Cheong Kweng Mines Ltd., (1964 Appeal Cases 993), the Privy
Council held that "a litigant may be shown to have acted positively in the
face of the court, making an election and procuring from it an order affecting
others apart from himself, in such circumstances the court has no option but to
hold him to his conduct and refuse to start again on the basis that he has
abandoned." (See page 1018)
Ashutosh Mookerjee speaking for the Division Bench of Calcutta High Court in
Dwijendra Narain Roy vs. Joges Chandra De,(AIR 1924 Cal 600), held that it is
an elementary rule that a party litigant 3 cannot be permitted to assume
inconsistent positions in Court, to play fast and loose, to blow hot and cold,
to approbate and reprobate to the detriment of his opponent.
doctrine, the learned Judge held, applies not only to successive stages of the
same suit, but also to another suit than the one in which the position was
taken up, provided the second suit grows out of the judgment in the first.
may be mentioned in this connection that all the proceedings pursued by the
contesting respondent in which it took the plea of irrevocable licence was
virtually in clear contradiction of its stand which it took before the Bombay
High Court on 12.7.01 where it had given up the plea of `irrevocable licence'.
It is on this plea that its suit again became triable by the Bombay City Civil
Court and all subsequent 3 proceedings pursued by the contesting respondent
Court has also applied the doctrine of election in C. Beepathumma & Ors.
vs. V.S. Kadambolithaya & Ors., 1964 (5) SCR 836, wherein this Court relied
on Maitland as saying: "That he who accepts a benefit under a deed or will
or other instrument must adopt the whole contents of that instrument, must
conform to all its provisions and renounce all rights that are inconsistent
with it." (Maitlands Lectures on Equity, Lecture 18). This Court also took
note of the principle stated in White & Tudor's Leading Case in Equity
volume 18th edition at p.444 - wherein it is stated, "Election is the
obligation imposed upon a party by Courts of equity to choose between two
inconsistent or alternative rights or claims in cases where there is clear 3
intention of the person from whom he derives one that he should not enjoy
That he who accepts a
benefit under a deed or will must adopt the whole contents of the
M/s New Bihar Biri Leaves Co. & Ors. vs. State of Bihar & Ors., (1981)
1 SCC 537, this Court observed that it is a fundamental principle of general
application that if a person of his own accord, accepts a contract on certain
terms and works out the contract, he cannot be allowed to adhere to and abide
by some of the terms of the contract which proved advantageous to him and
repudiate the other terms of the same contract which might be disadvantageous
to him. The maxim, qui approbat non reprobat (one who approbates cannot
reprobate), applies in our laws too.
the conduct of the contesting respondent in view of its inconsistent pleas is
far from satisfactory. By taking such pleas, the contesting respondent has
succeeded in enjoying the possession of the premises for the last 10 years even
after the expiry of its licence on 26.5.2000.
complaint of the contesting respondent that Mr. K.K. Gupta, while acting as
Estate Officer and deciding the proceedings, failed to observe the principles
of natural justice, by not summoning the officers of AAI, is without any
substance. The Estate Officer has given adequate reasons for not summoning the
officers of AAI by holding that beyond 26.5.2000, there is no written extension
of the licence period. The Estate Officer held, and in our view rightly, that when
written documents are there, any oral assurance, which purports to contradict
the 4 written documents need not be considered.
Apart from that, this
Court has already recorded that in the facts of the case and in the context of
the statutory dispensation discussed above, there is no scope for an oral
extension of licence.
reasoning given by the Estate Officer, for not calling the officers of AAI to
prove the case of oral extension of licence of the contesting respondent, is
sound and does not call for any interference by this Court even when it acts as
an appellate authority.
Estate Officer also declined to issue directions for inspection of documents,
as prayed for by the contesting respondent on valid grounds. The Estate Officer
held that it has to decide whether the contesting respondent is in unauthorized
occupation of the public premises within the meaning of the 1971 Act. That
being the sole purpose 4 of his enquiry, the Estate Officer thought, and
rightly so, that its enquiry cannot be widened by including a plea of
discrimination under Article 14 raised by the contesting respondent.
from that, this Court also does not find any merit in the plea of
discrimination raised by the contesting respondent, by contending that cases of
other licensees have been extended whereas in its case, the licence has not
been extended. Such a plea is not factually correct in as much as the licence
of the contesting respondent was also extended twice. In any event, a plea of
discrimination can only be raised in aid of a right. If a person has a right in
law, to be treated in a particular way, but that treatment is denied to him,
whereas others 4 are given the same treatment, a plea of discrimination can be
have already discussed that the contesting respondent has no right in law, to
get its licence extended. Therefore, one cannot have a plea of negative
equality under Article 14. There may be very many administrative reasons for
extending the period of licence of other licensees, but that does not give rise
to a valid plea of discrimination, when admittedly the contesting respondent
has no right in law to get an extension.
the last point that remains is the authority of Mr. K.K Gupta to function as an
Estate Officer. This is a point more of desperation than of substance.
Section 3 of the 1971 Act, the Central Government's power to appoint an Estate
Officer is provided.
the compilation of notifications that have been filed in this case by the
learned Attorney General, appearing for AAI, it transpires that the Ministry of
Civil Aviation and Tourism, Department of Civil Aviation, issued a notification
dated 1.7.97, appointing several persons as Estate Officers for the purpose of
the 1971 Act. That notification was published in the Official Gazette. By a
further notification dated 15.5.07, published in the Official Gazette, Central
Government amended its previous notification and for the words `Airport
Director', the words `Deputy General Manager (Land Management)' were
has not been argued by the learned Counsel for the contesting respondent that
while issuing a notification under Section 3, the Central Government will have
to name a person or an individual as an Estate Officer. The appointment of such
Estate Officer is by designation only. It is not in dispute that Mr. K.K.
Gupta, who functioned as an Estate Officer and decided the case of the
contesting respondent, was promoted and brought to Mumbai as Deputy General Manager
(Land Management). This is admitted in the affidavit of the contesting
respondent. Therefore, Mr. K.K. Gupta by virtue of his designation as Deputy
General Manager (Land Management) discharged his function as a valid Estate
Officer. There can be no dispute about his authority to do so since by the
subsequent notification dated 15.5.07, the words `Airport Director' have been
substituted for words `Deputy 4 General Manager (Land Management)'. Hence,
there is no substance in these contentions of the contesting respondent.
Court even acting as an Appellate Authority does not discern any error in the
Order dated 29.4.10 of the Estate Officer.
The appeal filed by
the contesting respondent before the City Civil Court, Mumbai and transferred
to this Court is therefore dismissed.
from the facts discussed above, it is amply demonstrated that the contesting
respondent has blown hot and cold by taking inconsistent stand, and has
therefore prolonged several proceedings for more than a decade. This Court is
constrained to hold that it did not pursue its proceedings honestly in
different fora. Therefore, the appeal, being Misc. Appeal No. 50 of 2010, filed
by the contesting respondent before the Principal Judge, City Civil Court, 4
Mumbai, which was transferred to this Court by this Court's order dated
11.05.2010 and formed part of these appeals, is dismissed with costs assessed
at Rs.5,00,000/- to be paid by the contesting respondent in favour of the
Supreme Court Mediation Center within a period of two months from date.
civil appeals filed by Airport Authority of India and Mumbai International
Airport are allowed. All interim orders are vacated.