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'Frivolous' Plea To Protect Pending Ram Temple Artefacts At Ayodhya:Supreme Court Partially Waives Cost And Closes The Matter

Mehal Jain
21 Nov 2020 6:30 AM GMT
Frivolous Plea To Protect Pending Ram Temple Artefacts At Ayodhya:Supreme Court Partially Waives Cost And Closes The Matter
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Noting that such pleas "create aspirations" and "disrupt emotions", the Supreme Court on Friday partially waived the costs imposed on the petitioners for two 'frivolous' PILs seeking preservation of artefacts recovered from the Ram Janmabhoomi site at Ayodhya, with the warning that such ventures not be indulged in in the future.

On July 20, the writ petitions were dismissed with costs of Rs. One lakh on each of the petitioners, to be
deposited with the Supreme Court Employees' Mutual Welfare Fund within one month. Subsequently, it was noted that the Advocate for the petitioners, instead of depositing Rs. 4,00,000 as there are four petitioners, has filed proof of depositing the cost of Rs. 1,00,000/ only, which was deposited on 20.08.2020 barred by time by 1 day. Since, the counsel for the petitioner
did not deposit the amount as directed by the Court on 20.07.2020, the matter was listed before the Court under Order 1 Rule 3 of Supreme Court Rules 2013 on 16.10.2020 when the Registry was directed to prepare a fresh office report, furnish copy thereof to the advocate on record for the petitioners and list the matter on 20th November.
On Friday, the bench of
Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and B. R. Gavai
appreciated the affidavit where the petitioners have explained the circumstances in which an amount of Rs.1,00,000/- came to be deposited despite the order dated 20th July. Senior Advocate Meneka Guruswamy appearing for the writ petitioners urged that the petitioners come from a very humble background and have realised their mistake, that they were ill advised to pursue the proceedings.

"Learned senior counsel has beseeched this Court to show indulgence and compassion to the petitioners who have already deposited the amount of Rs.1,00,000/-. We accept this request made by the petitioners on condition that they should not indulge in such misadventure in future. The delay in depositing the amount of Rs.1,00,000/- (rupees one lakh only) is condoned and that amount be treated as full and final costs paid by the petitioners in terms of order dated 20th July, 2020", said the bench.

"We are deeply and profusely sorry. There was some genuine confusion. We have explained it in the affidavit. We are tendering an unconditional apology", pleaded Senior advocate Meneka Guruswamy, for the petitioners, at the outset.
"There were two writ petitions. We thought the costs were of Rs. 1 lakh on both", she urged.
"Now that you have this clarity, when will the balance amount of Rs. 3 lakhs be deposited?", asked Justice A. M. Khanwilkar.

"That will destroy the petitioners. One is a labourer, the other is a PHD student. We have annexed the salary slips, their designation, occupation...I am appealing to the compassion of this court. They made a mistake, please forgive them!", prayed the senior counsel.
"This is not that simple. Aspirations, emotions are created by such petitions! That is the problem. An emotional issue was disrupted by this petition!...What was your challenge?", asked Justice Khanwilkar.

"We were only on the preservation of artefacts, nothing else. And that is also being done by the government now", urged Ms. Guruswamy.
Justice Khanwilkar indicated the July 20 order of the court dismissing the petitions- "What is intended by the petitions is to reopen the issue that has been given a quietus by this Court. After long drawn litigation, digging of all trenches of allotted area of site of Ram Temple is sought for. This is nothing but a sheer attempt to reopen the issue to scuttle the judgment rendered by this Court on 9.11.2019. The petitions are absolutely bereft of merits and with frivolous prayers. Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India, has categorically stated that whatever has been found, will be preserved. However, we find that the kind of prayer made in the petitions virtually tantamounts to seeking reconsideration of the matter under the guise of grey areas, to do further digging of the entire site of various trenches which is nothing but a vain bid to get rid of the judgment of this Court and to start litigation de novo under the guise of the Act of 1958 and to preserve site and artefacts under the Act of 1958. Thus, we find the petitions to be wholly frivolous, perverse and without merit. Such petitions ought not to be filed with the ulterior purpose of starting a litigation afresh, praying for entire digging of various trenches. The petitioners intend that whatever monument at the Temple site and artefacts unearthed need preservation, is nothing but an attempt to dilute the judgment rendered by this Court."

"This is the reason why the order was passed", said Justice Khanwilkar.
"I was there. Incidentally, I happened to be there when it was argued. It was argued differently, de hors the prayers. It was not argued as innocuously as the prayers", interjected SG Tushar Mehta.
"The SG is misleading the court! I didn't get any chance to advance arguments", argued Ms. Guruswamy.
"Justice Gavai was there on that bench", pointed out Justice Khanwilkar.

"We are just praying for some compassion, that is it!", she pressed.
"There were also some newspaper reports regarding the filing of the petition?", asked Justice B. R. Gavai.
"We had annexed some newspaper reports. To my knowledge, there were no reports regarding the filing of the petitions. I don't appear in such matters", replied the senior counsel.
"This is rather common", commented the SG.
"This is the new normal! File a petition and place it in social media immediately!", remarked Justice Khanwilkar.

"Sometimes they are filed only for this!", added the SG.
"That is astonishing and unbecoming! I don't appear for such causes", repeated Ms. Guruswamy.
"Let's not go into that", commented the SG.
"Take the advice of the SG or you will be digging yourself more", said Justice Khanwilkar in good humour.
"I always take his advice. I am looking for Your Lordships' compassion and the SG's graciousness", said Ms. Guruswamy.

"Justice Gavai wants to accept your plea for compassion. We don't want the petitioners to suffer because of your advice", observed the bench.
"I am deeply obliged", said the senior advocate.
"Perhaps you should fund the costs!", said Justice Khanwilkar in a lighter vein.
"I am entirely unfunded myself!", replied Ms. Guruswamy.
"Yes, they should pay. The petitioners could be merely name-lenders", remarked the SG.

The bench inquired from the SG as to his view. "Once Justice Gavai has spoken, I bow down. But Your Lordships may consider imposing a token cost. A message should go! The highest court of the country can't be treated like this", said the SG.
"Yes...somebody is coming from here, somebody from there", noted Justice Gavai.
"That has already been done. A cost of Rs. 1 lakh has already been paid", said Ms. Guruswamy.

"We have shown our indulgence, but no such ventures be undertaken in the future", ordered the bench.
"I am deeply grateful", said Ms. Guruswamy.
"You should be grateful to the SG. He was kind enough to not oppose", said Justice Khanwilkar.
"I am always grateful to him. Always looking to learn from him", said Ms. Guruswamy.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B.R. Gavai and Krishan Murari had on July 20 dismissed the petitions and said that a five-judge bench has already given its verdict and this is an attempt through PIL to overreach the judgment. The bench said that a cost of Rs 1 lakh each is imposed on both the petitioners which should be paid within one month. Subsequently, it was clarified that since there were 4 petitioners, the quantum of the costs was Rs. 4 lakhs


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