It is common knowledge that the rich & the powerful abuse the process of law by litigating settled issues repeatedly with the aid of leading advocates, knocking the doors of higher courts over trivial issues and against interlocutory orders. It is also prevalent to get the appeal/SLP admitted in the higher courts in important matters to gain time and renegotiate with the opposite party.
In the landmark case of Messer Holdings Ltd vs Shyam Madanmohan Ruia & Ors decided on 19 April, 2016, the Supreme Court fumes at abuse of judicial process by the rich and powerful. Describing the said case as “classic example of the abuse of the judicial process by unscrupulous litigants with money power”, the Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs.25 lakh on each of the parties as a compensation for the loss of judicial time of the country. The bench directed the three parties viz. Messer Griesham GmbH, Goyal Gases Ltd. and RUIAS (companies) to pay the compensation amount to the National Legal Services Authority.
The Supreme Court said that this case is a blatant example of abuse of the judicial process all in the name of legal rights by making use of the half-truths, misleading representations and revealing of facts and all the three parties are guilty of one or other of the above-mentioned misconducts.
Recently Justice Gupta, in his farewell speech, insisted that if real justice has to be done, then the scales of justice have to be weighed in favour of the underprivileged. “Our laws and our legal system are totally geared in favour of the rich and the powerful. If somebody who is rich and powerful is behind bars then time and again, he will approach the higher courts during the pendency of the trial till some day he obtains an order that his trial should be expedited. This is done at the cost of the poor litigant whose trial gets further delayed because he cannot approach the higher court,” he added.
In a more recent case of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd vs Shri Champalal Vithuram Jajoo decided by the Bombay High Court on 27 April, 2020 rebuked & sarcastically commented on the abuse of the process of the law by the rich & powerful remarked “If law cannot give you what you seek, litigation will. The appellant, it seems, strongly believes in it and proves it right, too.”
The facts of the case are that ‘well-known & notorious’ Maharatna PSU BPCL became a lessee on the basis of an unregistered lease deed in 1965;
” continues as a lessee for twenty years, the originally agreed period; seeks extension but fails to get; then litigates for extension and loses; appeals and loses; and still appeals. All the while it holds on to the property. Now it has been a tenant for 55 years. It is on the strength of an unregistered lease deed. In other words, it is supposed to be a tenant for 30 days; that is all it gets as a lessee under an unregistered lease. But BPCL continues as a lessee for 55 years. Law gives it 30 days, and litigation stretches it to 20,075 days.
It pays to litigate, so BPCL litigates. Blissfully, it is a profitmaking PSU; it can afford to litigate and engage its lessors across the country in a war of attrition. It tries to convert every case into Dickensian Jarndyce v. Jarndyce1. Before decades, it has inherited many leases with the same terms; Charles Dickens, Bleak House: That scarecrow of a suit. “Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties . . . without [their] knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. Those leases expiring and extensions unavailable, it litigates. Courts across the country and the Supreme Court, too, interpret the same terms and render the same judgments: no extension for BPCL. But, undeterred, BPCL raises the same plea again and again, despite its losing cases, one too many. If not res judicata, those earlier decisions at BPCL’s own invitation become precdential estoppel.”
Dismissing the Second Appeal of BPCL with costs & ordering immediate eviction the court concluded with the closing remarks: “It pays to litigate, but those litigate must also pay.”
This case should be an eyeopener to the habitual rich & powerful litigants to deter from frivolous litigation and use of money power by taking the services of leading advocates and litigating in higher courts on technical issues to flout the ends of justice.