With the growing complexity of commercial transactions, the preference for fast dispute resolution in transnational businesses has become crucial. It’s necessary to have a clear strategy for approaching a dispute, leaving many parties unsure of the best course of action. This is where the doctrine of election of remedies comes into play.
Understanding the Doctrine
The Doctrine of Election of Remedies involves choosing between two or more co-existing, but inconsistent remedies allowed by law, all based on the same set of facts. This doctrine is rooted in the principle of estoppel, aiming to prevent parallel proceedings in the court of law. Before the doctrine becomes operative, certain well-recognized conditions must be met:
- There must be two or more available remedies under the law.
- These remedies should not be concurrent or cumulative. Pursuing one remedy implies the negation of others.
This doctrine was first discussed before the Supreme Court in the case of A.P. State Financial Corporation vs. M/s GAR re-rolling Corporation. The court held that the doctrine does not apply to cases where the scope and ambit of the two remedies are essentially different. In National Insurance Company Ltd. vs. Mastan & Ors., the Supreme Court stated that the choosing of remedies is incorporated in Section 167 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. It means that a litigant, when given the choice between two alternative tribunals with jurisdiction over the matter in dispute, is precluded from subsequently resorting to the other.
However, a contrary view was taken in the case of L.R. vs. P Savithramma, where the Supreme Court held that estoppel cannot be applied against a statute. Therefore, concurrent statutory remedies can be pursued.
Exceptions to the Doctrine
There are situations where the doctrine of election of remedies does not apply:
- The doctrine does not apply when the available remedies are concurrent, cumulative, and consistent. If the remedy merely seeks further relief or indicates that choosing one remedy does not intentionally relinquish others, they are considered consistent. In the case of M/S Emar MGF Land Ltd. vs. Aftab Singh, the Supreme Court held that the remedy under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 is limited to complaints filed by consumers regarding defects and deficiencies caused by service providers. The existence of an arbitration clause does not restrain the consumer fora from proceeding with the consumer complaint.
- The doctrine does not apply when the law expressly allows recourse to additional remedies and is not restricted to a specific enactment. According to the Supreme Court in Irego Grace Realtech Pvt. Ltd. vs. Abhishek Khanna & Ors., Section 88 of the RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development) Act does not bar the applicability of other laws. It must be read as an addition to, not in derogation of, the provisions of any other law. Therefore, the remedies provided under the RERA Act and the Consumer Protection Act are additional to each other, not in conflict.
With the emergence of new laws and the increasing variety of disputes, courts are starting to recognize the importance of this branch of equity in jurisprudence. However, in doing so, the courts must strike a balance between the parties’ independence to choose the appropriate grievances redressed fora and broader public policy in order to avoid parallel or multiple proceedings.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for general information and discussion only. They are not intended as legal advice or opinion and should not be relied upon as such.