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Law Firm’s Plea for Termination of Senior Associate Dismissed by Delhi HC with Rs. 35,000 in costs

Termination of Senior Associate Delhi High Court
A Law firm had filed a plea in the Delhi High Court against its Senior Associate who wanted to resign. Instead of accepting her resignation, the firm terminated her services instead. The Court dismissed the same and imposed the penalty of Rs 35,000. 

A single-judge Bench of Justice Navin Chawla passed the order. 

The order ofAdditional Senior Civil Judge was challenged by the firm, Banana IP Counsels LLP, in which its application was rejected under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 as pertaining to a suit that was preferred by its former employee.

Nisha Kurian, the Respondent had worked at the firm as Senior Associate-IPR. She had conveyed her decision to resign on December 29, 2017. However, it was not accepted by the firm and instead her services were terminated from January 21, 2018. 

This was followed by Kurian filing a suit that inter alia sought a declaration that her termination was not just invalid but illegal too. Additionally, she prayed to receive an experience letter as well as relieving letter from the firm. 

In response, the Law Firm claimed that the suit was non-maintainable and it should be dismissed because of the same. It further submitted that a suit for specific performance of service contract was not maintainable and therefore. If there is any possibility of a remedy then it could only be in the form of a suit for declaration with damages.

The Law Firm went on to contend that the Court was not endowed with the power to go into merits of the service record of an employee along with directing the nature of experience certificate to be issued to such an employee.

The Court was also enlightened with the fact that the Petitioner Firm had already filed a suit in the Courts at Bangalore after lodging an FIR. 

The Respondent argued that she did not seek a reinstatement in the said Firm along with not seeking specific performance of her contract of personal services. She explained, the aim was just to get an honourable discharge from the services of the law firm. 

While taking note of the arguments of both the sides, the Court concluded the senior associate's suit could not be said to be one which claims declaration alone without any consequential relief. However, what needs to be pointed out is that consequential relief need not necessarily be only in form of damages. 

The Court said, "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.”

It was also observed by the Court how the Respondent Associate did not seek specific performance of her contract of service. It also said that the impact of the Bangalore suit for damages and the FIR would be considered by the trial court as and when it decides 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."

Thereby, the Court of law found no infirmity in the impugned order and dismissed the same while imposing Rs 35,000 costs, that have to be paid to the Associate. 

Advocates Sujoy Kumar, Raghav Kumar, Arindam Ghosh represented the firm. 

Advocates Dr. Amit GeorgeAlex Joseph, P Harold, Rayadurgam Bharat, Amol Acharya represented the Senior Associate. 

Case Title: Banana IP vs Nisha Kurian


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