“Courts across the legal system - this court not being an exception – are choked with litigation. Frivolous and groundless filings constitute a serious menace to the administration of justice. They consume time and clog the infrastructure. Productive resources which should be deployed in the handling of genuine causes are dissipated in attending to cases filed only to benefit from delay, by prolonging dead issues and pursuing worthless causes”, the bench said.
Sending across a strong message to litigants who file frivolous and groundless petitions in courts, the Supreme Court on Monday imposed Rs. 5-lakh cost on petitioners for ‘abusing the process of law’.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Khehar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was hearing a special leave petition filed against three orders of the High Court of Judicature at Bombay in a first appeal: (i) an order dated November 22, 2013, by which a year’s time was granted to the petitioners to vacate the premises which formed the subject matter of a decree for eviction, until November 30, 2014; (ii) an order dated December 2, 2013, by which the high court disposed of the first appeal in terms of the undertaking filed by the petitioners and (iii) an order dated June 16, 2015, by which the petition for review has been dismissed.
The petitioners moved the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution. There was a delay of 503 and 522 days, respectively, in the special leave petitions filed against the orders. Since the petitioners moved the high court in a petition for review, the Supreme Court condoned the delay.
On August 28, 2015, notice was issued in the application for condonation of delay as well as on the special leave petitions and a stay of dispossession was granted conditional on the petitioners depositing an amount of Rs 15,000 towards compensation for using the premises with effect from December 1, 2013.
After hearing the parties, the bench held: “Having furnished an unconditional undertaking to vacate the premises, it would be manifestly an abuse of the process for the petitioners to seek recourse to their remedies on the merits of the issues which arose in the First Appeal”.
Observing that the case indicated a blatant abuse of the process of the court, the Supreme Court said it must view with disfavour any attempt by a litigant to abuse the process.
“The sanctity of the judicial process will be seriously eroded if such attempts are not dealt with firmly. A litigant who takes liberties with the truth or with the procedures of the Court should be left in no doubt about the consequences to follow. Others should not venture along the same path in the hope or on a misplaced expectation of judicial leniency. Exemplary costs are inevitable, and even necessary, in order to ensure that in litigation, as in the law which is practised in our country, there is no premium on the truth”.
Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the judgment, observed that a strong message must be conveyed that courts of justice will not be allowed to be disrupted by litigative strategies designed to profit from the delays of the law.
“Unless remedial action is taken by all courts here and now our society will breed a legal culture based on evasion instead of abidance. It is the duty of every court to firmly deal with such situations. The imposition of exemplary costs is a necessary instrument which has to be deployed to weed out, as well as to prevent the filing of frivolous cases. It is only then that the courts can set apart time to resolve genuine causes and answer the concerns of those who are in need of justice. Imposition of real time costs is also necessary to ensure that access to courts is available to citizens with genuine grievances. Otherwise, the doors would be shut to legitimate causes simply by the weight of undeserving cases which flood the system. Such a situation cannot be allowed to come to pass. Hence it is not merely a matter of discretion but a duty and obligation cast upon all courts to ensure that the legal system is not exploited by those who use the forms of the law to defeat or delay justice. We commend all courts to deal with frivolous filings in the same manner.”
Read the Judgment here.