The Delhi High Court recently imposed Rs 35,000 costs on a law firm while dismissing its petition concerning the termination of its Senior Associate (Banana IP vs Nisha Kurian).
The order was passed by a single-judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla.
The law firm, Banana IP Counsels LLP, had challenged Additional Senior Civil Judge’s order rejecting its application under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 with respect to a suit preferred by its former employee.
In the present case, the Respondent, Nisha Kurain was working as a Senior Associate-IPR with the Petitioner, law firm.
She had tendered her resignation from the services on December 29, 2017, however, the law firm refused to accept it and terminated her services with effect from January 21, 2018.
The Senior Associate thereafter, filed a suit inter alia seeking a declaration that termination was illegal and invalid. She also prayed that an adequate experience letter and relieving letter be passed in favour of the law firm.
In response, the law firm pleaded that the suit was liable to be dismissed for not being maintainable. It was contended that a suit for specific performance of service contract was not maintainable and therefore, the remedy, if any, would only be in form of a suit for declaration with damages.
The law firm also stated that the Court was not empowered to evaluate the service record of an employee and to dictate the nature of experience certificate to be issued to such an employee.
The Court was also informed that the law firm had already instituted a suit for recovery of damages against the senior associate in the Courts at Bangalore, and lodged an FIR.
The senior associate clarified that she was not claiming reinstatement in the law firm and did not seek specific performance of her contract of personal services.
The suit is in form of getting an honourable discharge from the services of the law firm, it was stated.
In view of the submissions, the Court observed that the senior associate’s suit could not be said to be one claiming declaration alone without any consequential relief. However, consequential relief need not be only in form of damages, the Court added.
“It is for the employee to seek the consequential relief in the form that he/she would be entitled to in accordance with law. Damages is not the only nature of consequential relief that can be sought by an employee,” the Court said.
The Court further noted that the senior associate was not seeking specific performance of her contract of service. It also opined that the impact of the Bangalore suit for damages and the FIR would be considered by the trial court while deciding the suit.
“Whether the Suit has been rendered infructuous by any subsequent event, is to be determined by the learned Trial Court once the parties lead their evidence in that regard. Equally, whether prayer (c) (for experience letter etc) can or cannot be granted eventually, cannot lead to partial rejection of the plaint under Order VII Rule 11 CPC. As has been repeatedly held, there cannot be partial rejection of the plaint under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code.”
Therefore, finding no infirmity in the impugned order, the petition was dismissed with costs of Rs 35,000 payable to the senior associate.
Law firm was represented by advocates Sujoy Kumar, Raghav Kumar, Arindam Ghosh.
Senior Associate was represented through advocates Dr. Amit George, Alex Joseph, P Harold, Rayadurgam Bharat, Amol Acharya.