In a breather for actor Sanjay Dutt, the Bombay High Court has revoked the attachment of his flat in suburban Bandra.
The flat had been attached following the decision of Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) in his dispute with film-maker Shakeel Noorani.
Noorani had moved IMPPA in 2008 alleging his film 'Jaan Ki Baazi', for which he had paid Dutt Rs 50 lakh in 2001, could not be completed because the actor did not give dates.
On January 28, 2010, IMPPA asked Dutt to either commit 30 days for the shooting or refund Rs 50 lakh and pay an additional Rs 1.53 crore by way of compensation to Noorani. But Dutt failed to follow the order, so Noorani moved the High Court, seeking execution of the IMPPA order which provided for attachment of the actor's flat if he did not pay.
In December 2010, Dutt's flats were attached. Hearing Dutt's plea against the attachment, Justice B P Colabawalla had on April 7 this year ruled that the decision of IMPPA was not an "award" under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and thus it can not be enforced.
The court termed Noornai's execution application as "an abuse of the process of the court", revoked the attachment, and ordered the producer to pay cost of Rs 1.50 lakh to Dutt.
Since IMPPA was only a private body, the "entire proceedings for the enforcement" of its award were meaningless, the High Court said.
Dutt is currently serving a 42-month sentence in Pune's Yerwada prison for illegal possession of firearms in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case.
The court noted that "it is the claimant's (Noorani's) own case that the respondent (Dutt) has been nominated on behalf of his company, namely M/s Sanjay Dutt Productions Pvt Ltd, as a member of IMPPA.
In the present case, admittedly, the claim made against the respondent was not against his company but against him in his personal capacity as an actor.
"Even otherwise, it would make no difference to the case... the proceedings before IMPPA could never be construed as arbitral proceedings. "Even the rules and bye-laws of IMPPA do not spell out any arbitration agreement that would bind the respondent (Dutt)," the court said.
Dutt, in his personal capacity not being a member of IMPPA, would not be bound by its decisions, the HC held.
IMPPA, at the highest, can be said to be a private tribunal whose decision is intended to affect private rights of two parties but not in a manner which creates a legally enforceable remedy, the court said.
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