This article has been written by Vasu Manchanda, a second-year student at the Faculty of Law, Delhi University.
C S Aggarwal versus State (2019), a judgment on how to tackle the rising frivolous cases in Indian courts, is probably the only judgment in the recent history of the Indian legal system that pertains to how a lawyer should be and what a judge’s duties are. Emphasizing “truth” from the beginning itself, Hon’ble Mr. Justice J.R. Midha talks about its essence in judicial proceedings and also how the budding lawyers and Magistrates can prevent from falling prey to corruption and exploitation. Also, as majorly “observe and learn” culture instead of giving adequate formal training to law students is followed in India, it makes them more vulnerable to fall prey to the existing system, where some lawyers focus more on finding loopholes to win than on the truth of the matter. This is one of the reasons why the courts are flooded with pending cases, most of them being frivolous. In such times and to give the right direction to the law students and fresh law graduates, a judgment like this becomes immensely important. The ratio decidendi of the judgment can be summarised in the words of Loretta Lynch, former Attorney General of the United States – “A license to practice law is not a license to violate it.”
Though this case is of the forgery the ratio applies to other cases as well. In this, the objectors raised a false claim before the court which is punishable under Section 209 Indian Penal Code, 1860. The judge observed that the objectors had no respect for truth and had polluted the fountain of justice with tainted hands and imposed a heavy cost of Rs.1,00,000 on the objector. The reason why mentioning the facts in detail of the case are not important is because the judgment pertains to almost all types of frivolous cases ranging from matrimonial, defamation, bail, cheque bouncing, forgery to property disputes. The intention of the judge through this judgment is to reduce the menace of the piling up of frivolous cases in the courts.
Often in legal disputes, the matter is not as big as the lawyers have made it so. When there is no accountability, some lawyers tend to walk on the road already traveled by many in the pursuit of winning and making a few quick bucks. They perpetuate illegal acts by filing for injunctions or stays dragging on the matter and delaying justice for years, as a result of which there is a huge backlog of cases in India. Over 43.5 lakh cases are pending in the High courts and around 3.11 crore cases in the lower courts with a good number of them being at least a decade old. There is a shortage of fast track courts and judicial officers because of the same reason.
As noble a profession as the law is, spoiling it is no different than dumping waste in Ganga, the holy river and then complaining that it became polluted and spending another fortune in cleansing it. It is the prime responsibility of lawyers and judges to serve justice and keep the truth at a higher pedestal than personal gains or ego. A lawyer is first an officer of the court then a representative of his clients. Law should be all about ethics, truth, and justice and not only about finding loopholes and exploiting and corrupting the whole institution. As law students and lower judiciary services aspirants, not many realize this but the reality becomes grimmer as more and more time they spend in the courts. The only way to stand apart from the crowd in by standing by your principles. Lawyers need not only represent their client’s interests but also realize that they are the officers of the court. Something that they often tend to forget. Their duty is not only towards their client but also majorly towards the court, the judicial system, society and more importantly towards finding the “truth”. There cannot be a more unfortunate event when the well educated, skilled and trained lawyers use their knowledge to delay or deny justice than to impart it. It’s no different than an engineer stealing a tech-savvy luxury car instead of inventing and getting one patented.
The judgment further emphasizes that people would have faith in courts when the truth alone triumphs. A paragraph emphasizing the need to extract truth can be cited from Mohan Singh v State of Madhya Pradesh, “A genuine effort should be made to find the truth that is the very object for which the courts are created. The courts have to proceed further and make genuine efforts within the judicial sphere to search out the truth and not stop at the threshold of creation of doubt to confer a benefit of the doubt.” The main and the most important question that arises after having read the need to find the truth is how to discover it. The judgment emphasizes sections 3, 114 and 165 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to determine what the truth is and how it can be discovered by the judge expeditiously.
Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 talks about when a fact is proved, disproved and not proved after considering the matters before the court. A fact is said to be proved when a court either believes it to exist or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man ought, under the circumstances of the particular case, to act upon the supposition that it exists. To ascertain the right and wrong, the judge like a prudent man has to use his judgment and experience and is not bound by any rules except his judicial discretion, human experience, and judicial sense.
Nothing can be said to be “proved”, however much material there may be available until the court believes the fact to exist or considers its existence so probable that a prudent man will act under the supposition that it exists. Emphasising on this point, a beautiful example was given by the Hon’ble Mr. Justice J.R. Midha – ten witnesses may say that they saw the sun rising from the West and all the witnesses may withstand the cross-examination, the court would not believe it to be true being against the law of nature and, therefore, the fact is disproved.
Further, section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, aids the court in its quest for truth by using common sense as a judicial tool. It recognizes the general power of the court to raise inferences as to the existence or non-existence of unknown facts on proof or admission of other facts.
However, the most important tool to empower the judge is section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, that invests him with plenary powers to put any question to any witness or party, in any form, of any time, about any fact relevant or irrelevant. Section 165 is intended to arm the Judge with the most extensive power possible for getting at the truth. The effect of this section is that to get to the bottom of the matter before it the court will be able to look at and inquire into every fact and thus possibly acquire valuable indicative evidence which may lead to other evidence strictly relevant and admissible that might not have been raised by the opposing counsel. Hon’ble Mr. Justice J.R. Midha contemplated that, “Section 165 of the Indian Evidence Act,1872 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 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.” The judgment further emphasized that a judge, who at the trial merely sits and records evidence without caring much to examine the witnesses and parties so that every point is brought out, is not fulfilling his duty.
Reference was made to Ram Chander v. State of Haryana, in which it was observed that under Section 165, the Court has ample power and discretion to control the trial effectively. While conducting a trial, the Court is not required to sit as a silent spectator or umpire but to take an active part within the boundaries of the law by putting questions to witnesses to elicit the truth and to protect the weak and the innocent. A Judge must discover the truth and for that purpose, he may ask any question, in any form, at any time, of any witness or the parties, about any fact, relevant or irrelevant.
Furthermore, the grave issue of false claims and defenses was also addressed in this judgment as it is one of the major factors of the cases piling up in the courts for years. False claims are serious obstacles with real estate litigation, predominantly because of the ever-escalating prices of the real estate. Litigation about valuable real estate properties is dragged on by unscrupulous litigants in the hope that the other party will tire out and ultimately would settle with them by paying a huge amount. It is a matter of common experience that the court’s otherwise scarce time is consumed or rather wasted in a large number of uncalled for cases. False claims are a huge strain on the judicial system. The courts must see that such wrongdoers are discouraged at every step and even if they succeed in prolonging the litigation, ultimately they must suffer the costs of all these years-long litigation. The judge further suggested that the imposition of actual, realistic and proper costs and/or ordering prosecution in appropriate cases would go a long way in controlling the tendency of filing false cases. Although the Supreme Court has time and again held that heavy costs should be imposed in frivolous cases and if need be, prosecution be ordered to maintain the sanctity of judicial proceedings but it seems like it all has been in vain.
The courts are often engaged in frivolous litigation by the litigants that are dragged for as long as possible. In the end, even if these litigants lose, they still become the ultimate winners and have a good laugh. They perpetuate illegal acts by filing for injunctions or stays dragging on the matter and delaying justice for years. Burdening such litigants with exemplary costs and fines would instill the sense of the faith of people and the suffering party in the judiciary. The persons on the right side of the law should not feel like a fool by winning a case after fighting it for decades as it would be the wrongdoer who would be the real gainer as he reaped benefits all those ten-twenty years. Time gained until the matter was decided in the court would be his real gain. Thus, it becomes the duty of the court to ensure that such litigants and wrongdoers are not only discouraged but also made to suffer the costs for all these years-long litigation.
This judgment should have a huge social-political and educational impact on fresh law graduates, judiciary services aspirants, magistrates, judges, and especially law students as it highlights that the judicial system in India is choked with false claims and some litigants are consuming the court’s time for a wrong cause. The system’s biggest challenge is frivolous litigation which needs to be addressed at the earliest, by all.
All the sections emphasized upon in this judgment empower the judge or magistrate to discover the truth of the matter rather than to just sit as an umpire and record evidence. It reminds the judge of his duties, responsibilities, and powers.
The budding lawyers who get inspired by the likes of Harvey Spectre, a character playing the best attorney in an infamous TV show, Suits, who doesn’t mind bending the law to win, and has an “I play to win” attitude, making “justice delayed is justice denied” common parlance, the judgment highlights how wrong and catastrophic such an approach can be. If after reading it, even a minute percentage of budding lawyers and magistrates can realize the right path and practice, the purpose of this article would be solved.
- Judgment dated 29th March TEST.CAS. 8/1995. Available at : http://lobis.nic.in/ddir/dhc/JRM/judgement/05-04-2019/JRM29032019PR81995.pdf
 Judgment dated 29th March 2019. TEST.CAS. 8/1995.
 (1999) 2 SCC 428
 (1981) 3 SCC 191
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