January,23,2016: Litigants who file ‘false claims’ before the Delhi High Court and the lower courts will now face serious criminal action, as the HC has issued working guidelines to punish such persons.
The HC is also suggested to “cut down” landlord-tenant litigation, which is responsible for a large number of petty cases in courts.
The bench of Justice J R Midha has created guidelines on how to implement the provisions of Section 209, IPC. This provides for punishment of up to two years imprisonment and a fine for making a false claim before a court of law.
Courts are also increasingly taking a stricter stand against perjury – the offence of giving a false statement during a case – with several instances of witnesses and alleged ‘victims’ of crime being punished with fines or even imprisonment for giving a false testimony.
The bench had issued notice under Section 209 in multiple cases since April, in a bid to cut down on the number of “false claims’ made before courts. The bench took up the matter after it was forced to issue a show cause notice under Section 209 IPC in a case involving a false claim made by a landlord against the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which had rented his premises.
The NHAI had rented the building in New Friends Colony between 1998-2001, and had vacated the property in September 2001. A dispute had arisen when the NHAI asked the landlord, H S Bedi, to return its security deposit of over Rs 12.2 lakh. Bedi had filed a counter claim alleging that the NHAI had damaged the property. He also claimed that the NHAI had continued to occupy the building till January 2002, and therefore also owed rent.
The HC found that Bedi had made a false claim regarding the date of the hand-over of property in order to ‘misappropriate’ the security deposit. It had issued notice for criminal proceedings under Section 209 on May 14 this year. During the course of proceedings, it was found that there was a need to create guidelines for invoking the penal provision as there were slight ambiguities.
Suggestions for invoking the criminal provisions have been given by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who was made amicus curiae in the case, and senior advocate Suhail Dutt, who was representing Bedi.
The suggestions deal with the interpretation of the various provisions, including the question of which courts, tribunals and judicial bodies can invoke the provision.
The court is also examining how to define “claim” before a ‘court’, and which kind of claims will fall under the ambit of Section 209. This analysis is necessary since in many judgments of the high courts and the Supreme Court, various bodies such as the Sales tax office have been held to be a “court” which can invoke penal provisions.
In the NHAI case, the bench also looked into setting up guidelines to cut down on the increasing number of landlord-tenant disputes. Observing that “landlord – tenant litigation is increasing day by day”.
The Bench observed “a lawyer having actual knowledge about the falsity of a client’s claim (or after he subsequently acquires that knowledge), is not supposed to proceed to make that claim in Court and thereby, allow the client to gain something that he is not legally entitled to, or causes the adversary to lose something which he is legally entitled to. A lawyer should decline to accept instructions and/or doubt his client’s instructions if they plainly appear to be without foundation (eg, lacking in logical and/or legal coherence). However, a lawyer is not obliged to verify his client’s instructions with other sources unless there is compelling evidence to indicate that it is dubious. The fact that the opposing parties (or parties allied to them) dispute the veracity of his client’s instructions is not a reason for a lawyer to disbelieve or refuse to act on those instructions, and a lawyer should not be faulted if there are no reasonable means of objectively assessing the veracity of those instructions”.
The Court also made following observation qua litigants “The Courts of law are meant for imparting justice between the parties. One who comes to the Court, must come with clean hands. More often than not, process of the Court is being abused. Property grabbers, tax-evaders, bank-loan-dodgers and other unscrupulous persons from all walks of life find the Court-process a convenient lever to retain the illegal gains indefinitely. A person, whose case is based on falsehood, has no right to approach the Court. He can be summarily thrown out at any stage of the litigation.”
The court ruled that a Judge is not a mere umpire at a wit-combat between the lawyers for the parties whose only duty is to enforce the rules of the game and declare at the end of the combat who has won and who has lost. He is expected, and indeed it is his duty, to explore all avenues open to him in order to discover the truth and to that end, question witnesses on points which the lawyers for the parties have either overlooked or left obscure or wilfully avoided. A Judge, who at the trial merely sits and records evidence without caring so to conduct the examination of the witnesses that every point is brought out, is not fulfilling his duty, the Court observed.
Read Full Text of the Judgment Here-