No More Tareekh Pe TareekhFinally, a judge has had the sagacity not to condone indefinite delays and umpteen adjournments in a case and more importantly, impose penalty that does not smack of tokenism. Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court has passed an order directing the plaintiff in a case to pay Rs 4.5 lakh to the defendant for not filing a single affidavit since 2016. The judge calculated the penalty at the rate of Rs 1000 per day for the 450-day delay and said that imposing token penalties of Rs 5000 or Rs 25000 was counter-productive as parties had started taking this for granted. He said that "the costs must be real. They must be sufficient to convey the message that non-compliance with our orders bring consequences; that these consequences are inevitable and unavoidable," He also allowed just two days for the plaintiff to make the payment to the defendant.
By Sunil Garodia
The case under hearing was one that involved a public charitable trust named Ram Nagar Trust. Lawyers of the plaintiff tired every trick in the book to seek relief. But they were up against a judge whose threshold of patience was breached by repeated adjournments sought by the lawyers of the trust. When the lawyers said that relief should be allowed as it was a charitable trust and the land for educational purpose was in contention in the suit, Justice Patel got even angrier. He said that "this is even more shocking. That a trust should be so utterly negligent about its own case is reason enough to warrant immediate action against the trustees and have every one of them removed. A public trust has a higher duty of care, not a lower one." He added further that while the court was ready to make concessions for the poor, the helpless and the illiterate and protect them, a free pass would not be given to educated trustees who are charged with a solemn fiduciary duty only because they claim to espouse some worthy cause.
One hopes that judges in every court in every corner of the country are as strict as Justice Patel. It has become a racket to seek adjournments from courts on flimsy grounds. It benefits the lawyers as they charge fees from the litigant without actually getting any work done. I have written this earlier but it warrants repetition. There must be a law that limits the number of cases a lawyer can take up at any given point of time. It is only because lawyers are stressed for time that they keep seeking tareekh pe tareekh and make a mockery of the judicial process. As long as adjournments are freely allowed, the number of pending cases will never come down in India.