The Karnataka High Court has issued a stern warning to the state government to desist from filing "all and sundry cases" which eat into valuable judicial time and lead to docket explosion.
A division bench of Justices G. Narendar and PN Desai said,
"We feel that time has come where this Court is required to send a message to the biggest litigant and that merely because it is the biggest litigant, it will not be a licence to enable it in filing all and sundry cases, which eat into the valuable judicial time. The irony is that the State is one of the prime movers to popularize the Alternate Dispute Resolution System and in this background, the State cannot be the reason for docket explosion."
The court went on to issue the following directions:
(i) In the event of there being an opinion by the Law Department, opining against preferring of a petition/appeal/revision etc. and if the concerned Department is of a different opinion then, an opinion shall be recorded in writing by the Head of the Department, setting out the reason why the appeal/revision/writ petition etc. needs to be filed ignoring the opinion of the Law Department/legal opinion.
(ii) In the event such a petition/appeal/revision etc. is not entertained by the Court then, the Government shall mandatorily calculate and recover the cost of that particular limb of litigation from the officer concerned.
(iii) The Karnataka State Dispute Resolution Policy 2021, formulated by the Law Department, Government of Karnataka, shall be circulated to the Chief Secretary, Addl. Chief Secretary, to all the Secretaries, Chairman of the Boards, Managing Committees of statutory Corporations, Deputy Commissioners, Superintendent of Police, Director of Prosecution, Public Prosecutors, to all Law Officers of the State and other stakeholders, if any, within a period of three weeks from today.
(iv) The Law Secretary to conduct workshops for the stakeholders in order to educate them about the Policy Document and implementation of the same. Preferably three to four workshops shall be held and if necessary, workshops can be held region wise also.
The directions were given while dismissing a petition filed by the State government seeking to quash the order passed by the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal passed in favour of a retired assistant sub-inspector of police, who was accused of possessing disproportionate assets.
In its order dated October 29, the Bench had remarked,
"The instant writ petition only shows scant regard for the judicial time. The High Court cannot be treated like a dustbin by the largest litigant and the litigant bears a responsibility towards the justice dispensation system, a responsibility which is a constitutional mandate."
It had then adjourned the hearing to October 31, while issuing a notice to the State to show cause as to why exemplary cost of Rs.10 lakhs should not be imposed upon it.
Following this, Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi appeared before the court and submitted details from the 'Karnataka State Dispute Resolution Policy 2021' and asserted that the Policy Document would not only be circulated but efforts would also be made to ensure implementation of the same and in that view, he prayed that cost not be levied.
Accepting the request the bench said,
"We are not sure that acceding to the request of the learned Advocate General would help in driving home the message but yet keeping in mind the standing of the office of the learned Advocate General and the earnestness of the learned Advocate General, we desist from imposing cost but it is made clear that this shall be treated as a last warning. In future, if the Bench comes across such frivolous litigation, nothing would stop us from being punitively harsh not only in the matter of imposing exemplary costs but also passing strictures against the officers concerned."
Accordingly, it went on to dismiss the petition.
Case Title: THE STATE OF KARNATAKA & Others v. RAHAMATHULLA
Case No: WRIT PETITION NO.23210/2021
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 478
Date of Order: 17TH DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2022
Appearance: Advocate General Prabhuling K Navadgi a/w VIJAY KUMAR DESAI, AGA for petitioners.