While hearing a man’s plea claiming Rs 1 crore as prize money for securing the first position in a ‘Hackathon’ organised by the NITI Aayog, the Delhi High Court said that while a writ petition is maintainable even in contractual matters, it cannot substitute a civil suit when there are disputed questions of fact.
A hackathon is an event where computer programmers get together to collaborate on a project.
The man claimed that he stood first in the ‘Global Mobility Hackathon: MOVE HACK 2018’ and was entitled to the prize money of Rs 1 crore. However, instead of Rs 1 crore, he had been given only a sum of Rs 25 lakh. He claimed that parties are covered by the terms and conditions of the Hackathon which is like a contract and the contract is legally binding on the parties and moved the High Court in a writ petition.
The Union Ministry of Planning contended that a writ petition is not maintainable and the petitioner can approach the civil courts since his claim arises from a contract.
A single judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad in its November 3 order said that while a writ petition against the state arising out of contractual matters is maintainable, for adjudication of disputed questions of facts, a civil suit is the correct remedy and a writ petition can never be a substitute to a civil suit in all cases.
“Writ courts only entertain writ petitions when the facts are admitted and where there is no dispute over the facts or when the decision taken by the state instrumentalities cannot be accepted by any reasonable and prudent person and the said decision is completely arbitrary,” the High Court said.
Justice Prasad noted that as per the terms and conditions of the Hackathon, the top 10 selected entries would qualify for a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh each and out of these, three entries may qualify for a higher award of Rs 1 crore, Rs 50 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, respectively, in the event that their entries are adjudged to be of exceptional quality.
The respondents had argued that it wasn’t as if the top three out of the top ten entries would get a higher award of Rs 1 crore, Rs 50 lakh and Rs 25 lakh, respectively.
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“It is well settled that the author of the document is the best person to explain what the document means,” said Justice Prasad. The court said that it cannot be said that the respondent’s contention was so perverse that the court must interfere.
“The discretion to adjudge the top three entries with ‘exceptional quality’ was with the Super Jury’s. It is on the recommendation of the Super Jury only that the prize money of Rs 15 lakh, Rs 10 lakh and Rs 5 lakh, respectively, were given to the top three entries over and above Rs 10 lakh which was awarded to each of the top ten entries,” the High Court said while dismissing the plea adding that the decision of the Super Jury required no interference.
The court said that it’s open for the petitioner to approach the civil court by filing an appropriate application for establishing the existence of a contract between the parties and for its adjudication.