November 26, 2022
“O Judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English dramatic poet in Julius Caesar.
Does this hold good in present day-India in the context of a recent judgment of Karnataka High Court. You be the judge. First the facts as widely covered in the media.
Bengaluru: Officials should pay cost of frivolous cases, says HC
Coming down heavily on the government for filing frivolous petitions and ignoring the law department’s opinion, the high court said, in future, the cost of such litigations should be recovered from erring officials. While dismissing a petition filed against one M Rahamathulla, a retired assistant sub inspector of police, a division bench headed by Justice G Narendar observed in their order that if a department goes against the opinion of the law department and still files a petition/appeal/revision, etc, the head of the department concerned should clearly record the reasons for doing so in writing. “In the event of such petition/appeal/revision, etc., is not entertained by the court, then the government shall mandatorily calculate and recover the cost of that particular limb of litigation from the official concerned,” the bench said.
The court went on to say, “We feel the time has come where this court is required to send a message to the biggest litigant [government], that it does not have the licence to file all and sundry cases, which eat into the valuable judicial time, just because it is the biggest litigant. The irony is that the state is one of the prime movers to popularize the alternate dispute resolution system and it cannot be the reason for docket explosion. ” The court suggested that the law department issue a direction to this effect to everyone from the chief secretary down to all departments/ establishments and other stakeholders.
As for the case involved, the bench pointed out that allegations against Rahamathulla were ripped apart from every conceivable angle during cross examination. The bench said it was proven that Rahamathulla’s wife was carrying on a tailoring business and had an independent source of income and that his son, an engineer by profession, was gainfully employed in Bengaluru. The bench also noted that Rahamathulla possessed property even prior to the date of his entry into service and was in receipt of rental income from buildings which he owned and from agricultural lands in his possession.
“The icing on the cake is that all these sources of income were declared to the employer. The enquiry officer and the disciplinary authority conveniently ignored this declaration, which we feel is not an inadvertent act but a deliberate omission. Despite the weight of evidence against them and despite categorical admissions during cross-examination at the enquiry, an attempt was made before this court to prove otherwise. This has caused us consternation,” the bench observed.
On October 20, 2020, the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal (KSAT) had quashed the enquiry against Rahamathulla in relation to a disproportionate assets case, but the government challenged the order.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is welcome in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit). Once again welcome to reason.