Rajasthan rebuked for irresponsible litigation

Rajasthan rebuked for irresponsible litigation

A bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice G.S. Singhvi said this Thursday while dismissing an appeal by the Urban Improvement Trust, Bikaner, challenging a consumer court's direction to it to pay damages to one Mohan Lal for illegally usurping his plots to build a road.

"It is a matter of concern that such frivolous and unjust litigation by governments and statutory authorities are on the increase. The statutory authorities exist to discharge statutory functions in public interest. They should be responsible litigants," said the bench.

"They cannot raise frivolous and unjust objections, nor act in a callous and high handed manner. They cannot behave like some private litigants with profiteering motives. Nor can they resort to unjust enrichment. They are expected to show remorse or regret when their officers act negligently or in an overbearing manner," the bench added.

This comes at a time when over 30 million cases are believed to be pending in Indian courts and even the union government has vowed to transform itself into a "reluctant litigant from a compulsive one".

The Bikaner Urban Improvement Trust had allotted two plots, measuring 600 square feet, to Mohan Lal between 1992 and 1998. But later it took them back without resorting to the land acquisition process and even laid a public road in the same area.

Lal challenged the usurpation of his plot - first in the district consumer court and subsequently in the state consumer commission, which ordered the trust to allot an alternative plot to him.

The state government challenged the state consumer commission's order before the National Consumer Commission, which dismissed the state appeal, prompting the state government to move the apex court.

Dismissing the state government's appeal, the apex court endorsed the consumer commission's ruling and said when "glaring wrong acts" by officials are brought to the notice of the government, the least it can do is to compensate the aggrieved party.
Unnecessary litigation has been clogging the wheels of justice in India, making it difficult for courts and tribunals to provide easy and speedy access to justice to bona fide and needy litigants," the bench said.

In the present case, instead of complying with the decision of the consumer fora, the Improvement Trust took the stand that the allottee should have protested when it illegally laid the road in his plot.

"It (the Trust) has persisted with its unreasonable and unjust stand by indulging in unnecessary litigation by approaching the National Commission and then this court. The Trust should sensitise its officers to serve the public rather than justify their dictatorial acts. It should avoid such unnecessary litigation," the apex court added.
The union government last month had announced it would soon launch a National Litigation Policy.

"We propose to introduce a National Litigation Policy, where the government as the largest litigant will be transformed from a compulsive litigant to a responsible and reluctant litigant," Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily had said addressing a two-day seminar on legal reform.

The National Litigation Policy will entrust the task of weeding out senseless litigation by the government to the office of the country's top law officers - the attorney general and the solicitor general - and they will be assisted by a total of 52 lawyers and 26 law researchers.

According to a study by PRS Legislative Research, as of July this year, 53,000 cases were pending with the Supreme Court, 40 lakh (four million) with the high courts and 2.7 crore (27 million) with the lower courts.

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