Chennai, July 29 (IANS) In a major setback for the All India Chess Federation (AICF) in its fight against the Maharashtra Chess Association (MCA), the Supreme Court on Monday set aside the Bombay High Court judgement, holding that a private contract between two parties cannot exclude the high court's jurisdiction under the Constitution's Article 226.
As per the apex court's order, the Bombay High Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case between the MCA and the AICF, even though the two parties had earlier agreed by a written agreement that suits against AICF shall be instituted only in courts of Chennai where it is headquartered.
"We are happy with the order. Now the ball is back in the Bombay High Court. In chess terms, we are now playing white with the first move advantage," Siddharth Mayur, President, MCA and Managing Director, H2E Power Systems told IANS over phone from Mumbai.
He said that the MCA's affiliation was revoked in 2016 by the AICF, which later recognised another body, named the All Marathi Chess Association.
The MCA first approached the Bombay High Court where the AICF raised a preliminary objection that the court did not have jurisdiction to entertain the writ petition on the ground that Clause 21 of the Constitution and Bye Laws conferred exclusive jurisdiction on courts at Chennai in disputes.
The Bombay High Court agreed that Clause 21 ousted the jurisdiction of all other courts except the courts at Chennai.
However, the Supreme Court said: "The High Court may decline to exercise jurisdiction under Article 226 invoking the principle of forum non conveniens in an appropriate case. The High Court must look at the case of the appellant holistically and make a determination as to whether it would be proper to exercise its writ jurisdiction.
"We do not express an opinion as to what factors should be considered by the High Court in the present case, nor the corresponding gravity that should be accorded to such factors. Such principles are well known to the High Court and it is not for this Court to interfere in the discretion of the High Court in determining when to engage its writ jurisdiction unless exercised arbitrarily or erroneously.
"The sole and absolute reliance by the Bombay High Court on Clause 21 of the Constitution and Bye Laws to determine that its jurisdiction under Article 226 is ousted is however one such instance."
Mayur said: "The apex court judgement will have impact on other sporting bodies as well. Further there are several other state chess associations that have been disaffiliated by the AICF. Now the officials of the disaffiliated associations can fight from their own states than going to the Madras High Court."
This is a second major legal setback for the AICF after the Competition Commission of India (CCI) had held last year that the undertaking prescribed by the chess body for players regarding non-participation in events not authorised by it amounts to restraints that were in the nature of exclusive distribution and refusal to deal as defined in Section 3(f) and 3(4)(d) of the Competition Act, 2002.
Imposing a penalty of Rs 6,92,350 on the AICF for infringing the provisions of Section 4 of the Act, the CCI had held that non-compliance with such an undertaking will result in banning of players and removal of their Elo rating, create entry barriers, foreclose competition and restrict the opportunities available to chess players.
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