Published: 21st December 2020
Delhi HC gives IGNOU final chance for mediation in Rs 2.25 cr dispute with IANS
IANS had filed a civil suit against IGNOU seeking a decree for a sum of Rs 2,67,42,605 (inclusive of interest) against 15 invoices, raised in the years 2012 and 2013
The Delhi High Court on Monday gave the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) its final opportunity to appear before the mediator to reach a settlement on the non-payment of Rs. 2.25 crore, pending almost close to a decade, to the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS).
The court's Joint Registrar (Judicial) Vijay Shankar expressed displeasure on non-appearance of the IGNOU through video conferencing before the mediator. IANS counsel brought to the court's attention that IGNOU had already given its consent for mediation in the matter, yet no one has appeared for the central varsity for nearly eight months.
Lawyers Sandeep Grover, Aditya Nayyar and Tarang Agarwal from ORTIS Law Offices represented IANS in the matter. However, no one appeared on behalf of IGNOU. IANS counsel argued that IGNOU has been avoiding mediation proceedings through video conferencing, and despite many efforts, they have not responded so far.
Pointing the flimsy grounds cited by the varsity for non-appearance, IANS counsel submitted that IGNOU's counsel, on the last date of hearing, had expressed reservations in attending the mediation proceedings through video conferencing, contending that IGNOU is a government organisation and its officials are working on limited days and having limited internet connectivity.
IANS counsel argued that when all the courts -- including the Supreme Court, High Courts and District Courts -- as well as government offices are functioning virtually during these times, IGNOU's contentions appear strange.
The court reiterated that it is giving last opportunity to IGNOU to appear before the mediator and come to a compromise with IANS, if any, and fixed the matter for further hearing on April 15, 2021.
In July 2009, IANS had entered into a media consultancy services project agreement with IGNOU. The IANS plea contended that on numerous occasions, IGNOU officials recorded their satisfaction with the services provided by it and no complaints were raised in the first two years. Yet, the due amount was not paid.
IANS had filed a civil suit against IGNOU seeking a decree for a sum of Rs 2,67,42,605 (inclusive of interest) against 15 invoices, raised in the years 2012 and 2013.
In March 2019, the Delhi High Court held that there was no doubt that IANS had set up the IGNOU's website. IANS relied upon the RTI reply wherein it was acknowledged that out of the 15 bills raised, Rs 2,25,61,708 was yet to be paid by the IGNOU. The High Court had directed the IGNOU to furnish bank guarantee to the tune of Rs 2,25,61,708 (being the principal amount) to be renewed from time to time.
After IGNOU furnished the bank guarantee, which was valid up to April 30, 2020, the summary suit filed by IANS was converted into a regular suit.
During the pendency of this matter, on February 24, 2020 upon joint request, the matter was referred to the Delhi High Court Mediation & Conciliation Centre for exploring the possibilities of an amicable settlement of the matter.