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Allahabad High Court imposes Exemplary Cost for wastage of precious time of the Court & Abuse of the Process of Law for frequently filing Writ Petitions agitating the same Cause of Action

Allahabad High Court imposes Exemplary Cost for wastage of precious time of the Court & Abuse of the Process of Law for frequently filing Writ Petitions agitating the same Cause of Action

It is common knowledge that plaintiffs/petitioners/appellants often pursue the same action/remedy either in different forums or repeatedly in the same forum concealing the factum of earlier proceedings filed by them in anticipation of a favourable order. It is often seen in the District Courts that the plaintiffs file a suit in a particular court showing a particular valuation for the purpose of jurisdiction but if injunction/stay is not granted by the court then a fresh suit is filed in another court showing yet another but different valuation. This is nothing but a blatant abuse of the process of law. Law mandates that the plaintiffs/petitioners should approach the courts with clean hands and state all facts truly and candidly.

Recently, the Allahabad High Court recently on 18 January 2021 in the case of Noor Hasan v. State of UP & Ors. in Writ 'C' No. - 15696 of 2020 has imposed an extraordinary & exemplary cost of Rs. 3 lakh on the Petitioner for repeatedly approaching the Court with the same cause of action despite dismissal three times earlier on merits.

The order was passed by the Allahabad High Court being appalled/irked by the fact that the same petition was filed the fourth time by the Petitioner to present the same cause of action in-spite of repeated dismissal of the earlier petitions for lack of merit. The said action is indeed 'criminal' in as much as invaluable & precious time of the top courts is wasted on finalised matters and such deliberate action of the Petitioner is 'blatant abuse of the process of law'.

The brief facts of the case are that the Petitioner approached the Allahabad High Court in Writ-C No. 11660 of 2019, challenging an order dated 20.2.2019 restraining him from exercising financial and administrative powers of a Gram Pradhan. The said Writ Petition was dismissed by a reasoned order dated 4.4.2019 after detailed hearing on merits after hearing counsels for both the parties.

Subsequently, the Petitioner again approached the Court in Writ-C No. 40436 of 2019 on the same cause of action, which was again dismissed as withdrawn vide order dated 12.12.2019. Once again, the Petitioner approached the Court in Writ-C No. 5431 of 2020 filed for the similar relief, which was also dismissed by order dated 14.2.2020, as withdrawn without any liberty to file a fresh petition. Subsequently, the present Writ Petition was filed challenging the same impugned order dated 20.2.2019. On detection by the Court, the petitioner contended and put up a defence that the petitioner is not well-educated and due to lack of legal knowledge, the petitioner had once again filed the present writ petition.

The Court held that it is a clear cut case of contempt but the petitioner unconditionally submitted his apology and gave undertaking that in future, such contempt would not be committed. The Court dismissed the said Writ Petition with imposition of exemplary cost of Rs. 3 lacs to be deposited by the petitioner within one month and failing which the Court also ordered for recovery of the amount of cost from the petitioner as the arrears of land revenue.

It would be trite to refer to a case wherein a 3 member Bench of the Apex Court in SLP(Crl) No. 618/2020 II-B Raj Kumar Modi Vs Serious Fraud Investigation Office on September 17, 2020 imposed Rs. 25000 costs on a Petitioner for resurrecting/reviving the same cause judicial proceedings repeatedly.

The Petitioner Raj Kumar Modi was an accused in Adarsh Scam Case and the Apex Court held him liable for deliberately repetitive filing of interim bail applications which the Court held as:
Abuse of Process of Law. It is relevant that the Petitioner had previously sought interim bail from the Supreme Court on a number of occasions citing ill-health of his mother.

The Court had granted him interim bail for two months and had further extended the interim bail by one month but the Petitioner again sought interim bail yet again citing his own ill-health. The Apex Court was irked by the repeated filing of these applications and the Court observed that it was nothing but an abuse of the process of law and deserved to be treated sternly. It is noteworthy that the Court observed that the point of costs is not the amount, but deterrence.

It would be apposite to refer to the Apex Court's order in Suo Moto Contempt Petition (Criminal) No.2 of 2019 Rashid Khan Pathan, Vijay Kurle & Ors. decided on September 03, 2020. The Apex Court deprecated the practice of repeated filing of applications to disturb the finality of a judgement and to obstruct the administration of justice and held thus:

9. In a country governed by the rule of law, finality of the judgment is absolutely imperative and great sanctity is attached to the finality of the judgment. Permitting the parties to reopen the concluded judgments of this Court by filing repeated interlocutory applications is clearly an abuse of the process of law and would have far-reaching adverse impact on the administration of justice.

10. Repeated filing of applications which are not maintainable amounts to abuse of process of law. O. Chinappa Reddy, J. in Advocate General, State of Bihar v. M.P. Khair Industries Union of India, (1980) 3 SCC 311 was of the opinion that abuse of process of Courts amounts to criminal contempt. In the said case, the Respondent was accused of filing repeated applications and obstructing the administration of justice which interfered with the due course of judicial proceedings.

The Apex Court accordingly dismissed the said Appeal with exemplary costs of Rs.25,000/- and ordered that if the Appellant continues to file such repetitive unmaintainable applications he will be visited with deterrent actions such as initiation of criminal contempt proceedings or a direction to the Registry that no further applications in this litigation will be received.

It would be appropriate to refer to the case of Dnyandeo Sabaji Naik v. Pradnya Prakash Khadekar (2017) 5 SCC 496 wherein it was held that Courts are obligated to act firmly in dealing with abuse of process, and impose exemplary costs when necessary. The Court held thus:

13. This Court 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.

14. 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.

No litigant can have a vested interest in delay. Unfortunately, as the present case exemplifies, the process of dispensing justice is misused by the unscrupulous to the detriment of the legitimate. The present case is an illustration of how a simple issue has occupied the time of the courts and of how successive applications have been filed to prolong the inevitable. The person in whose favour the balance of justice lies has in the process been left in the lurch by repeated attempts to revive a stale issue.

This tendency can be curbed only if courts across the system adopt an institutional approach which penalises such behaviour. Liberal access to justice does not mean access to chaos and indiscipline. 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.

Irked by disobedience & abuse of the process of law the Apex Court levied costs quantified at Rs 5 lakhs payable to the respondents within two months. It also clarified that the contempt proceedings which have been initiated against the petitioners shall continue unabated.

It is high time for the plaintiffs/petitioners to deter from filing repeated applications/petitions on the same cause of action else they may be prosecuted for abuse of the process of law & thrust with exemplary costs.

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Email: [email protected], Ph no : 827994502

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