Justice delivery system should not be to fulfill personal vendetta: SC
New Delhi, Mar 8 (PTI) Justice delivery system should not be used as a tool to “fulfil personal vendetta” and curtailing frivolous litigations is a crucial step towards a more effective justice system which is plagued with backlogs with 70 per cent pendency in subordinate courts being on criminal side, observed the Supreme Court on Monday.
The apex court, which also observed that frivolous litigation should not become the order of the day in the country, said that a falsely accused person not only suffers monetary damages but is exposed to disrepute and stigma from society.
It said trial courts have the duty to nip frivolous litigations in the bud even before they reach the stage of trial by discharging the accused in fit cases.”
“A significant factor in this backlog is the vast mass of frivolous litigation instituted year after year by litigants with an intent to use the courts of justice for their own mischievous ends” a bench of Justices M M Shantanagoudar and R S Reddy said.
“Curtailing such vexatious litigation is, thus, a crucial step towards a more effective justice system - a step that cannot be taken without the active involvement of the lower judiciary, especially in criminal proceedings,” it said while noting that justice dispensation machinery in India is plagued with backlogs, with 70 per cent of pendency before the subordinate courts being on the criminal side.
The bench said this in its judgement while quashing the litigation between two parties initiated by them arising out of an incident in August 2012.
The top court observed that the trial judge has a duty under the Constitution and the CrPC to identify and dispose of frivolous litigation at an early stage by exercising, substantially and to the fullest extent, the powers conferred on him.
“Frivolous litigation should not become the order of the day in India. From misusing the public interest litigation jurisdiction of the Indian courts to abusing the criminal procedure for harassing their adversaries, the justice delivery system should not be used as a tool to fulfil personal vendetta. The Indian judiciary has taken cognizance of this issue,” the bench said.
It referred to an 2014 order of the top court in which it had observed about the plight of a litigant caught in frivolous proceedings.
“We note, with regret, that seven years hence, and there has still been no reduction in such plight,” it said, adding, “A falsely accused person not only suffers monetary damages but is exposed to disrepute and stigma from society. While running from pillar to post to find a lawyer to represent his case and arranging finances to defend himself before the court of law, he loses a part of himself.”
It said that trial courts and magistrates have an important role in curbing this injustice and they are the first lines of defence for both the integrity of the criminal justice system and the harassed and distraught litigant.
“We are of the considered opinion that the trial courts have the power to not merely decide on acquittal or conviction of the accused person after the trial, but also the duty to nip frivolous litigations in the bud even before they reach the stage of trial by discharging the accused in fit cases,” it said.
“This would not only save judicial time that comes at the cost of public money, but would also protect the right to liberty that every person is entitled to under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the bench said.
It further said, “Thus, it would be only proper for this court to deny any relief to a litigant who attempts to pollute the stream of justice by coming to it with his unclean hands. Similarly, a litigant pursuing frivolous and vexatious proceedings cant claim unlimited right upon court time and public money to achieve his ends.”
The top court noted it is said that every trial is a voyage of discovery in which the truth is the quest.
“In India, typically, the judge is not actively involved in ‘fact finding’ owing to the adversarial nature of our justice system,” it said.
Referring to section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, which deals with judge's power to put questions or order production, the bench said this wide-ranging power further demonstrates the central role played by the magistrate in the quest for justice and truth in criminal proceedings and must be judiciously employed to stem the flow of frivolous litigation.