SC for exemplary fines on litigants for filing frivolous pleas

SC for exemplary fines on litigants for filing frivolous pleas
In a stern message to litigants filing frivolous petitions, the Supreme Court has advocated imposition of "exemplary costs" on them by all the courts to ensure that the already choked legal system is not exploited.

The apex court observed that the courts across the country are "choked with litigation" and filing of frivolous petitions constitutes a serious menace to the administration of justice as it consumes time and clogs the judicial infrastructure.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said the imposition of "real time costs" is necessary on such petitions to ensure that access to courts is available to citizens with genuine grievances.

"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," the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said.

The top court said that productive resources, which should be deployed in handling of genuine causes, are "dissipated" in attending such cases and tendency of filing frivolous matters 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," the bench said.

"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 said. The bench also said that "undeserving cases" cannot be allowed to flood and choke the legal 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," it said.

The observations by the apex court came as it dismissed a plea relating to a dispute over a commercial premises in Mumbai and imposed a hefty fine of Rs five lakh on petitioners observing they had blatantly abused the process of law.

"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," it said.

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