It referred to Section 35A of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) which provided for compensatory cost in respect of false or vexatious claims or defence.The maximum amount to be levied on a person indulging in false litigation was amended in 1977 from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000. Justice Raveendran,who has since retired,expressed dismay at the cost remaining unchanged for the last 34 years and said, Unless the compensatory cost is brought to a realistic level,the present provision authorizing levy of an absurdly small sum by present day standards may,instead of discouraging such litigation,encourage false and vexatious claims.
Times View : We have consistently maintained that the judiciary needs to take a tough stance against frivolous litigation.The observation of SC should go a long way towards curbing the menace,at least as far as individual litigants are concerned. It remains to be seen whether the much stiffer monetary penalty becomes a serious deterrent also for organisations out to earn cheap publicity. If this too fails to rein them in, the court should think in terms of going beyond just monetary fines for dealing with the problem.That step, however, can wait till the current measure has had a fair trial.
Apex Court wants normal litigation cost as penalty
The bench also did not approve the present day tendency of courts not to award even normal litigation cost,different from exemplary cost,to the litigant who wins a case.Prosecution and defence of cases is a time consuming and costly process. A plaintiff /petitioner /appellant who is driven to the court by the illegal acts of the defendant/ respondent,or denial of a right to which he is entitled,if he succeeds,to be reimbursed of his expenses in accordance with law.
The court said it was talking of normal litigation cost and it should not be calculated on the basis of actual cost of fighting a case.For,a wealthy person may engage five senior advocates with fees running into lakhs of rupees per day and other side cannot be asked to reimburse such astronomical amounts, it said. Appreciating assistance rendered to court by Dr Arun Mohan and Sr advocate A Mariarputham, the bench said there was a misconception among people that the court fees for litigation were high.It said in Supreme Court,the maximum court fee payable was Rs 250, whether it was a suit or a special leave petition. But it said the time had come for courts to ask for fees commensurate with that spent by the courts on highvalue litigation.
Arbitration matters,company matters,tax matters,for example,may involve huge amounts. There is no reason why a nominal fee should be collected in this regard to such cases. While we are not advocat-ing ad valorem fee with reference to value in such matters,at least the fixed fee should be sufficiently high to have some kind of quid pro quo to the cost involved, said Justice Raveendran,who authored the judgment.