The Supreme Court recently ordered the Haryana State Cooperative Labour and Construction Federation Ltd. to pay exemplary costs of Rs. 5 lakhs for “abuse of judicial process”.
The order was passed by a Bench comprising Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S.K. Kaul, which took note of the fact that the Federation had approached five different forums, despite being reminded of the remedy available to them
The case pertained to an arbitral award rendered in February, 2008, which was assailed by the Federation before the Registrar, Cooperative Societies, Haryana. While dismissing the appeal as non-maintainable, the Registrar had opined that the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 were available to Federation, and granted it the liberty to approach a Civil Court under the appropriate provisions. The Federation, however, instead continue to file a revision petition, Writ Petition before the High Court, Letters Patent Appeal and a review application.
Only after the dismissal of all such recourses, the Federation filed objections under Section 34 of the 1994 Act, after a delay of 5 years and 8 months. Subsequently, it approached the High Court, and later the Supreme Court, demanding that the delay be condoned.
The Apex Court, however, dismissed the Appeal, terming the remedies available by the Federation as “totally frivolous”. It went on to rap the Federation for disregarding the orders passed by the forums that it had approached, and observed, “At each juncture, when the judicial process was invoked by the Haryana Federation, detailed orders came to be passed eight times over. Had the Haryana Federation approached the rightful court, with reference to which the said federation’s attention was repeatedly drawn, on almost each of the first five occasions, when it attempted to assail the arbitral award - dated 20.2.2008, it may have well been entitled to some relief. It is difficult to figure out why the wrong forum was chosen. Any observation(s) on this aspect of the matter, would fall in the realm of conjecture.”
“Why then did the Haryana Federation, repeatedly seek judicial redress? Was it only for the purpose of demonstrating, that despite its efforts, it could not get any relief from the judicial fora? Did the Haryana Federation only seek a judicial certification? If the answers to the aforesaid are in the affirmative, which is our considered view, then the reason for the backlog of arrears in Courts, is not far to fetch. This abuse of the judicial process must stop,” it added.
The Bench thereafter levied exemplary costs, directing the Federation to deposit the amount with the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Welfare Trust, within one month.
Read the Order here.