The Delhi high court on Thursday asked the Union government and the city government to take instructions on whether they would give loans and guarantees to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to pay the unpaid arbitral award to Delhi Airport Metro Express Private Limited (DAMEPL), after the corporation moved court with a review plea against the attachment of its total funds in event of non failure of payment of the award.
In its plea, DMRC has said that the attachment of its statutory expenses will result in immediate stoppage of the entire metro network in the national capital region and cause inconvenience to more than 50 lakh commuters.
The plea has said that the judgment of March 17 is contrary to the order passed last year where the court had chosen not to attach the amount committed to the salary, medical expenses and post retiral benefits of employees as well as the security deposit on smart cards i.e. Statutory Expenses, which is refundable to the commuters, under the head, “Total DMRC Funds”.
On a specific query by the court on whether there is any hope of resolving the impasse, Attorney General, R Venkataramani responded that something is happening.
Justice Yashwant Varma, while posting the matter on March 29, said, “Let both the Union as well as counsel representing the Delhi government obtain appropriate instructions in respect of directions as framed in the order of March 17”.
On March 17, the high court had directed the centre and the Delhi government to “forthwith” attend to the request of DMRC for granting them guarantees and loans for paying the 2017-arbitral award to DAMEPL, a subsidiary of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infrastructure Limited (RInfra).
The court had said that both the governments have to take a decision on the “extension of sovereign guarantee/subordinate debts enabling it to liquidate its liabilities under the award within two weeks”, adding that DMRC will deposit the entire award along with interest within a month, if both the governments decide to extend the sovereign guarantee.
It, however, clarified that in case the Centre and Delhi government decline to provide sovereign guarantee or subordinate debt, the Centre shall within two weeks repatriate all monies received from the DMRC after 10 March 2022 to ensure that the total balance reflects the situation as on March 10, 2022.
The union government had received ₹1546.52 cr from DMRC in the first week of May 2022. Similarly, the Delhi government had received ₹1216.84 crore, Noida Metro had received ₹245.53 crore and Patna Metro had received ₹123 crore from the DMRC for various purposes.
It also said that in case the parties don’t proceed in terms of the above direction, the DMRC’s total funds, project funds and total other Funds as of today shall stand attached forthwith without reference to court.
DMRC, a 50:50 joint venture between the Government of India (GOI) and the Delhi government; terminated its contract with DAMEPL to operate the 22.7km Airport Metro Express line in October 2012.
An arbitral tribunal, in May 2017, ruled in favour of DAMEPL, which pulled out of running the Airport Express metro line over safety issues and awarded a total amount of ₹2782.33 crore along with interest. The award was upheld by the high court’s single-judge bench in 2018 but a two-judge bench set it aside in 2019.
Reliance Infra appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court, which upheld the initial verdict awarding damages to DAMEPL. In January 2022, the top court asked DMRC and DAMEPL to approach the high court for the execution of the arbitral award, saying that any further delay is detrimental to the interest of both parties.