This legal maxim demands that a litigant must not wilfully mislead the courts and justice
“In its order, the apex commission also said that ‘it is well settled that if any litigant approaches any judicial fora by making false assertions in its complaint and tries to mislead the judicial fora, then such litigant is not entitled to any relief in equity.’ Such petition should be thrown away at the threshold itself.” — a news report.
Hallelujah! If only more courts had the guts that the Delhi consumer forum has shown.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), has been giving such orders against frivolous and lying litigants. We had carried a story of tampered receipts, by two aspiring Delhi beauticians, who were caught red-handed. It is called the ‘Doctrine of Clean Hands’. A person who approaches a temple of justice cannot do so with wrong or evil intent.
Unfortunately, the situation is not uncommon. Plenty of false and frivolous litigation continues to be filed everyday, clogging up our courts. Senior advocates, who should know better, openly admit that they will lie in court for the sake of their clients. Worse, litigants expect their lawyer to lie. It is justified by the argument that the other side is also lying.
One client said to this author that he would give a false statement in court. When warned that he would be stopped from doing that, he rebelled vociferously. He wanted to know why his own lawyer would not side with him!
For those who want to know what happened next; I had to give up the case, even though we were winning.
This, we are sure, must come as a shock to most readers. But the explanation is simple. A court of law is constituted to pass judgements, or orders, or convictions, or acquittals. It is, however, most importantly set up to find the truth. That is the court’s primary duty.
Now, you be the judge.
In the instant case before the NCDRC, the aggrieved party, or so he pretended, made perjurious statements. He had purchased a machine. He found it not in working condition. He approached the consumer court (district forum). An award was passed ordering a replacement and a fine of Rs55,000/-. The supplier appealed (state forum) and was ordered to pay only the fine. That meant the machine was with the complainant, who then went to the NCDRC and blamed his advocate for averring that the machine was repaired, when he still had the original.
NCDRC was not amused. There were too many contradictions in the complaints. Even though the man may be entitled to some relief, he was not telling the truth. Should he, therefore, be punished or not? He was fined Rs50,000/-.
There is a feeling that going to the consumer courts is to surely win a case against the supplier.
Maybe, it has something to do with the court’s common language title. ‘Consumer Court’. It is misleading. This appellation evokes the sense that the court belongs to the consumers. And where else but one’s ‘own court’ to get what one wants? No one calls it a forum for redressal and understands that the other party can, and will, be allowed to have its say.
Another angle to the argument is the complaint against the advocate. The advocate is the representative of his client. He pleads as per the instructions given to him. The countersign and oath mean that the client has read the papers, understood them AND that they tell the truth.
The moral of the exercise, then, is this. Go to court with clean hands. Tell the truth. Hide nothing, even if it is inconvenient; it will come out later, rest assured. The other side is no fool. If you are lying, then it is his neck you are putting on the line. And he will do his damnedest to save it.
(Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org