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Writ Is Maintainable Only For An Action Which Fall In Realm Of Public Law

The question of whether a writ petition can be maintained under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution hinges on whether the dispute in question falls within the purview of public law. In the case at hand, the Delhi Public School Society [DPSS] and Aviral Education Welfare and Cultural Society [AEWCS] are embroiled in a contractual dispute pertaining to the termination of a Joint Venture Agreement [JVA] for the establishment of an English medium school under the name "Delhi Public School: DPS." This article aims to analyze the judicial perspective on the maintainability of writ petitions in contractual disputes, specifically in light of the DPSS and AEWCS case.

The Background:
The dispute arose when DPSS issued a notice on 24 September 2018, informing AEWCS of the termination of the JVA effective 01 April 2019. Furthermore, DPSS warned AEWCS against using the name/logo "Delhi Public School" or "DPS" in any manner after the termination. Subsequently, DPSS initiated a civil suit seeking a permanent injunction against AEWCS for trademark infringement, resulting in an interim injunction being granted on 10 March 2023. It is noteworthy that the Single Judge, while granting the interim injunction, opined that the JVA did not possess a public law character, casting doubts on the maintainability of the writ petition filed by AEWCS.

Public Law vs. Private Law:
The crux of the issue revolves around the demarcation between public law and private law. In India, writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution is primarily invoked to protect fundamental rights and enforce public law obligations. Public law deals with the relationship between the State and individuals concerning matters of public interest, while private law governs relations between individuals or entities in matters of private interest.

Judicial Pronouncements:
In the case at hand, the Division Bench observed that the dispute between DPSS and AEWCS pertained to individual rights and obligations arising from a contractual relationship. This characterization placed the matter squarely within the realm of private law. Consequently, the Bench held that the dispute did not possess the public law character required for the maintainability of a writ petition under Article 226.

This position finds support in several judicial precedents. The Indian judiciary has consistently held that writ jurisdiction should not be invoked in contractual disputes unless the actions complained of involve a violation of fundamental rights or public law obligations. In the absence of a public law element, the courts are generally reluctant to entertain writ petitions.

The Delhi Public School Society and Aviral Education Welfare and Cultural Society case underscores the importance of differentiating between public law and private law disputes when considering the maintainability of writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution. It highlights the principle that the writ jurisdiction should be reserved for cases involving issues of public interest.

The Concluding Note:
The decision of the Division Bench reaffirms the need for a clear public law element in disputes to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction of the writ courts. This case serves as a reminder that contractual disputes, unless intertwined with public law obligations , should be pursued through civil remedies rather than resorting to writ petitions under Article 226.

Case Law Discussed:
Case Title:Aviral Education Welfare and Cultural Society Vs The Delhi Public School Society
Date of Judgement:21/09/2023
Case No. FAO OS Comm 69 of 2023
Neutral Citation No: 2023:DHC:7089-DB
Name of Hon'ble Court: Delhi High Court
Name of Hon'ble Judge: Yashwant Varma and Dharmesh Sharma

Information and discussion contained herein is being shared in the public Interest. The same should not be treated as substitute for expert advice as it is subject to my subjectivity and may contain human errors in perception, interpretation and presentation of the fact and issue involved herein.

Written By: Advocate Ajay Amitabh Suman, IP Adjutor - Patent and Trademark Attorney
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9990389539

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