Madras High Court rules stiff penalty for frivolous pleas
By T S Sekaran | Published: 29th August 2013 08:38 AM |
Leave alone public interest litigation (PIL) petitions, which carry a penal rider of imposing costs if the PIL is found to be vexatious or frivolous. Now, even ordinary writ petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution are likely to turn counter-productive and land petitioners in trouble, if one goes by the recent judgments of the Madras High Court.
Justice K K Sasidharan has imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 each on two persons, who filed a false writ petition against the Railways. P Arunodhayam and N Kasturi, who are the successors-in-interest of land grabbers, unnecessarily dragged the railways to litigation. Therefore, the petitioners are liable to pay cost to the railways, the judge said, last week. The charge against the petitioners was that they wrongly claimed ownership over the property belonging to ICF.
In another case, the judge pulled up Vinayaka Mission University, a deemed to be University in Salem, for filing a writ petition for a direction to the National Board of Examination in New Delhi, to grant permission to its Thailand campus students to appear for screening test. The judge imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the Mission on August 16 last.
In yet another case, the High Court has rapped a woman judicial magistrate in Dharmapuri and ordered her to pay Rs 1 lakh towards compensation for violating the fundamental rights of a victim of sexual harassment. The judge also ordered departmental proceedings against Judicial Magistrate Gunavathy and imposed another cost of Rs 10,000 on her for filing a false affidavit in the High Court, recently.
Even social activist ‘Traffic’ K R Ramaswamy was not spared. Ramaswamy has been filing PILs day in and out. The motorised-fish cart was banned, following his PIL. Hawkers on road margins were removed and a permanent place for them had been earmarked; display of banners and hoardings were regulated, thanks to his PIL. However, he was also imposed with costs on a couple of occasions for filing frivolous PILs.
The Madras High Court has set certain norms to be followed while filing PILs, to discourage misuse of the provision. If the PIL is found to be frivolous and vexatious, it imposed fines in the name of costs starting from Rs 10,000. The litigants are to give an undertaking that they will pay the cost if it is found to be frivolous.
There have been instances of the High Court imposing costs on several petitioners, who preferred vexatious PILs after holding that there is no public interest, the precious time of the court is wasted and that they were filed for cheap publicity.
The cost amounts have been directed to be remitted by the petitioners to the affected party on the other side or to the Legal Services Authority or to the Chief Justice’s Relief Fund.