Citizens' Issues
Promise, Performance and Public Policy
Buyers should take utmost care because post-contract agonising is futile
 
In a perfect world, two plus two always equals four. Yet, in everyday lives, two plus two can be three plus one, or six minus two, or any of a myriad other combinations. Some judicial decisions, besides giving finality to a dispute, often, focus attention on little-known, or variedly understood, facts. This exercise helps in demystifying and, indeed, defogging of the law. It also adds another building block to the edifice of interpretation.
 
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled in an interesting case that could affect any of us. It decided in the matter of the Zoroastrian Cooperative Housing Society Ltd V/s District Registrar of Cooperative Societies (Urban). This case involved cooperative housing societies (CHS) and their members’ rights. The ever-shifting limits of ‘public policy’ also came under scrutiny. Like the never-ending debate on what constitutes ‘offensive’ material, ‘public policy’ was again under the scanner.
 
The concerned member had used the armour of ‘public interest’ to protect his contention. Wisely, the Court decided to be “… cautious in trying to ride the unruly horse of public policy.” The CHS was formed for ‘Parsis only’ and the managing committee had apprehensions that one member may alienate his share to a non-Parsi. The CHS had already litigated, to prevent such an occurrence, but had lost and appealed to the Supreme Court. Its contention was that the member had voluntarily become a member of the CHS and, therefore, he was duty-bound to follow the rules governing it.
 
Until now, the member had successfully invoked the secular provisions of the Constitution to argue his case—the ‘public policy’ gambit. He maintained that a restriction based on religious affiliation was violative of his fundamental right to do whatever he wanted to do with his property. If he could not do that, his ownership and enjoyment of the property was curtailed and his rights infringed upon.
The Supreme Court differed. It held that if a person enters into a contract, knowingly, willingly and of free choice, he must adhere to the rules of the CHS he has sought to join and which has accepted him. The Court “considered it a fallacy on the part of the member to challenge his voluntary surrender” at a later date. In other words, the member could not have the cake and eat it too.
 
The lesson here is that it becomes imperative for a prospective buyer to proceed with utmost care because post-contract agonising is futile. Study of specific bye-laws is a must. When one deals with property worth a few lakh rupees, professional advice, clear thinking and lack of haste will prove immensely valuable. To buy in haste and repent at leisure is not an option.
 
The Court has specifically held that “it is open to that community to preserve its culture and way of life” and, therefore, the issue here was neither one of Parsis nor of Bohris nor of Christians. Neither was it one of orthodoxy nor one of reformism. In the context of the judgement, the issue was simply one of the ‘law of the land’. One that would apply, notwithstanding the nature of the legal entity, be it a cooperative society or a limited company. It was purely one of a contract that had to be performed.
 
To sum up, one must understand that similar agreements and covenants imposing restrictions will stand the test. Many communities have taken advantage of concessional rates for land, to build houses and colonies for their members. The covenants between the authorities and the community members, especially the minority communities like the Parsis, Bohris and Christians, have been challenged periodically. With this judgement from the apex Court, such covenants will hold and, therefore, purchasers need to walk in with their eyes wide open.
 

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Air Kerala more keen to switch to Gulf flights at first opportunity
Air Kerala is likely to obtain all clearances and launch its operations in the middle of April 2015. The carrier will start as a regional carrier, only to switch to Gulf flights at the first opportunity, when the rules are changed!
 
Air Kerala, a proposed regional carrier, is likely to obtain the clearances and may launch operations in the middle of April.
 
The domestic air traffic is controlled upto 80% extent by IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and GoAir as members of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), with Air India have left them a couple of months ago.  FIA are lobbying against the withdrawal or amendment to the 5/20 Rule that the Civil Aviation Ministry may introduce as this will give an unfair advantage to both Vistara and Air Asia India. 
 
It is a question of time before this change is brought about.  In addition to Vistara and Air Asia India, a strong contender to support this move would come from Air Kerala when it begins its operation.  Practically, every single family in Kerala has at least one member of the family working in the Middle East and the expatriate population of Keralites is the largest segment of Indians in the region.  Air India will therefore face toughest competition from this new airline, which will start as a regional carrier, only to switch to Gulf flights at the first opportunity, when the rules are changed!
 
As was expected by the air travellers, the Tata-SIA partnered Vistara began its maiden flight on 9th January with its brand new A 320-200s with 148 passengers. It has three aircraft, which will expand to six by April.  Presently the flights are from Mumbai, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.
Because of the wintry conditions in the next few weeks Vistara has plans to start its flight schedules to cover new destinations like Goa, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Guwahati.  It may be remembered that Vistara is the only domestic airline that has 3 separate classes to meet the exacting needs of its customers.
 
IndiGo, India's biggest airline by market share with a 36.1% share of the domestic passenger market, plans to lease more planes to face serious competition from both Vistara and Air Asia India.  It has a current fleet of 88 airbus A 320 aircraft and is doing all it can to reach the magic figure of 100 planes by this summer! It may be remembered that Jet Airways holds the second slot with 23.3% market share.  In the meantime, despite the losses incurred and heavy in debt, other carriers like GoAir, SpiceJet, Air India and Jet Airways continue to slash down fares for 90 days advance booking due to the lean season ahead.  Not to be outsmarted, IndiGo also followed suit by cutting fares for travels between 16th January and 30th April.
 
Press reports indicate that Ajay Singh, a co-founder of Spice Jet way back in 2010, is now returning to take control of the carrier and is expected to take full ownership and management of the company, once the required formalities are completed.  It appears that the existing promoters (Marans) do hold warrants that convert into equity in April 2015 and 2016 and the full details are with the Ministry of Civil Aviation.  Further announcements in this regard are expected in due course.
 
In the long run, it would be the survival of the fittest who can serve the air traveller in the country.  It is gratifying to note that Tatas who pioneered the airline business in the country are now back in the field and it is hoped, before long, they would show the way to others.
 
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

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COMMENTS

Pratibha

2 years ago

Air Kerala will be another entrant into the deadly field of Indian civil aviation which has left many bleeding. The potential is there, the profitability is missing.

From Street Child to Published Writer & Entrepreneur: Amin Sheikh’s extraordinary journey
Amin Sheikh, the runaway kid, is now grown up into an accomplished writer and ready to start his new venture. His library café would provide employment and world of opportunities for those who will be leaving the children’s home after attaining 18 years of age
 
“Everybody deserves to be treated with love and respect,” he says, with equal measures of conviction and humility. “What is the point of an education that doesn't teach one the value of unconditional love?” 
 
These words are of Amin Sheikh – once a street child who ran away from an abusive home at the tender age of five, now the proud owner of a travel enterprise and a published writer. His story is both chilling and inspiring; he experienced unspeakable horrors at a young age as a homeless child on the streets of Mumbai, but he also met people whom he calls his “angels” who brought him out of that nightmare. While he credits these “angels” for what he is today, it is also because of his own optimism and the will to do something good for society. 
 
Amin worked at a tea-stall as a young boy and was subject to abuse by his stepfather and sometimes his mother too. One day, he tripped and smashed many cups of tea while on his way to deliver the tea to a nearby factory. Afraid of what the tea-stall owner would do to him, Amin ran. He ran as far as his feet could take him. He ended up at a railway station, where he spent the next three years of his life. The travails those years left him both wise and embittered. He pelted stones at the woman who came to rescue him, unable to trust anyone at all. Thankfully, she persisted. It was Sister Seraphina from Snehasadan, an institution that fosters and educates homeless children. The day he entered Snehasadan, his life changed. In the eight years he spent there, he made friends and felt protected and loved. Though never keen on academics, he was always a quick learner. He worked with a newspaper vendor, and later set up his own newspaper stall. He learnt how to drive and got himself a driver's license. He then went to work for Eustace Fernandes. He became his son in the thirteen years he worked there and also managed to learn English and later set up his own transportation business. 
 
In 2002, Eustace asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Amin requested to accompany him on his trip to Barcelona. That Christmas, Amin's life took a new turn. “Travelling has been my true education”, he says. Since 2003, Amin has travelled across Europe several times. “What is the difference between them and us Indians? It's just colour, isn't it? But how is it that they know how to respect all people? To be patient and kind to all irrespective of who they are or where they come from?” His questions are simple, but no one has the answers. 
 
On writing his first Book: 
 
His book, the story of his life -- Bombay Mumbai: Life is Life, I am Because of You was published in January 2013. Since then, it has sold over 9500 copies across the world in three languages. It took him three years to write, edit and publish the book. He did all this with the help of his friends from all over the world. The book also has a mission. He wants to use the funds raised from the sale of his book to set up his own Library Cafe – Bombay to Barcelona. His friends help him set up stalls to sell more copies of his book. He himself sells them on the streets. Amin has already managed to raise almost 40% of the funds he needs to set up his dream cafe. He is positive that the rest will fall into place soon. 
 
The experience of writing the book was cathartic, he says. He had to face all the emotions – the joys and the sorrows - he had buried in some corner of his mind for years. “It was very painful sometimes,” he admits. “No one except the one who has experienced the pain truly understands it. Healing takes time and patience. I learned this as I wrote my story.” 
 
Not just that - he already has plans to write another book, a full-length novel this time. 
 
On his dream – 'Bombay to Barcelona':
 
“The name of my cafe has a secret to it. “Bombay to Barcelona” holds meaning. I will reveal it on the day my cafe opens”, he says cheerfully. “Institutions like Snehasadan are a blessing for homeless children. They take care of them and educate them. But what happens after that? Barely out of school, what are the opportunities available to them in this world of tough competition? I want to be there for them. I will take them in and provide employment. They will work at my cafe. Whatever money we make, we will use that to help other children in need.”
 
He has a clear vision in his mind. He knows exactly what his library cafe stands for – it won't be a place to be visited exclusively by the elite. His library cafe, he says, will be one where everyone is welcome. Where everyone will be treated as equals. Where even a poor child can have a cookie or a milkshake because he wishes to have one. Where one can read and enjoy tranquility. A safe haven for all, with none of the injustices of the world outside. 
 
On Life
 
What is the secret to his unending optimism, I ask. His answer is simple. “If I subject others to what I went through, things will never change. The “bad” is a vicious cycle. It needs to break somewhere. I choose to be good. To myself and to others. I forgive my mother for what she did to me. Life is a learning process. And this is what I have learned. To multiply what is good. I was lucky to have found angels in my life, who helped me become who I am today. So I want to do the same for other children, the other little Amin-s who are still on the streets.” 
 
 
Amin will also be present at the Moneylife Foundation's 5th Anniversary Celebration on 7 February 2015 at YB Chavan Hall (Nariman Point, Mumbai). You can meet him and buy your copy of his book for Rs300. To register for the event, please click here

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COMMENTS

Ralph Rau

2 years ago

Interesting story. It made me wonder if Amin Sheikh follows any faith. Is it his personal business or should the state intervene with a "Freedom of Religion" legislation arguing that his adoption
from the street constituted "inducement" of a better life

Ramanathan Ganesh

2 years ago

Great Article well written.

Good to know about such "Love Stories" also amongst so many "hate Stories" filling up all pages of our dailies and magazines..

Ganesh

SookieSkipper

2 years ago

His perception on life is truly simplistic and inspirational. "Bad" is indeed a vicious cycle that once broken will start a path to a better life. Its amazing how one person can bring about change in bunch of young adults who deserve nothing but a chance for redemption.

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