In a damning censure of use of money power to get the upper hand in cases, Delhi High Court has said in many civil suits, the rich chose their forum by inflated mentioning of their suit value to get matters heard before a higher court.
It was found the situation was more noticed in Delhi where jurisdiction of the high court starts from Rs 20 lakh. Thus, suits are valued at least at that amount so it comes under the jurisdiction of Delhi High Court. This is done to bypass district courts. In many cases there was no realistic relationship between valuation and relief sought.
The court found this practice was witnessed more in cases of infringement of copyright, patent and trademark. Thus a financially weak opposite sides often do not succeed in fighting their case properly as they can’t afford the court fees and advocate fees which is higher in high courts.
“When Constitution provides equality before law this equality has to be all pervasive and cannot be allowed to be diluted because of money power or lobbying power. One cannot be given liberty to choose a court of his liking because of his money power”, Justice S.N. Dhingra said.The judge said there should be one definite court where the suit can be filed by everybody and “one should not be allowed to hire the services of the court of his choice because he can pay more court fee and advocate fee”.
The observations came in a case where US-based Microsoft Corporation filed suits against four Indian software firms for allegedly using pirated versions of its software. The court noted all four firms were based in Bangalore and Microsoft had “deliberately” filed the suit in Delhi High Court to make use of the peculiar pecuniary jurisdiction of courts here.
The judge asked Microsoft to deposit in the court Rs 2 lakh per case as costs for the opposite parties (for coming all the way to Delhi, staying here and engaging a lawyer) to be paid to them if the allegations were found to be false.
Appeal to govt
The court asked the legislature to “seriously consider” effective amendments to vest the original jurisdiction in such suits with district courts.“It should not be that if you can pay more money, you can hire a more experienced judge (high court judges) to decide your cases and if you cannot pay more money, you will have to go to a newly appointed judge (civil judge),” said Dhingra.