Slaps Rs. 5 lakh fine each on former SP MLA, another petitioner

Holding that the reputation and image of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had been tarnished by unscrupulous elements by filing false habeas pleas, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed the petitioners to pay a fine of Rs. 5 lakh each.

A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said that while Rs. 5 lakh should be paid to Mr. Gandhi by the first petitioner and former Samajwadi Party MLA, Kishore Samrite, an equal amount should be paid by the next friend Gajender Pal Singh, to Kirti Singh, Balram Singh and Sushila alias Mohini Devi, who were alleged to have been kidnapped by Mr. Gandhi.

Writing the judgment, Justice Swatanter Kumar said the habeas corpus petition filed by Mr. Samrite was based on falsehood, was abuse of the process of court and was driven by malice and political vendetta and he had no locus standi to file the petitions in the Allahabad High Court. The Bench said the second petition was filed in the High Court by Gajender Pal Singh as next friend of those who were stated to be missing.

The Bench dismissed the appeal filed by Mr. Samrite against the High Court order imposing Rs. 50 lakh costs on him. But it said the costs imposed by the High Court were exorbitant and reduced it to Rs. 5 lakh.

The Supreme Court stayed the order last April.

The Bench observed: “Right to enjoyment of a good reputation is a valuable privilege of ancient origin and necessary to human society. ‘Reputation’ is an element of personal security and is protected by the Constitution equally with the right to enjoyment of life, liberty and property. Although ‘character’ and ‘reputation’ are often used synonymously, these terms are distinguishable. ‘Character’ is what a man is and ‘reputation’ is what he is supposed to be in what people say he is.”

The court said “the alleged incident which, according to the petitioners, the police and the CBI, never happened and the illegal detention of the petitioners has been falsified by the petitioners themselves in the writ petitions. It is a matter of regret that the process of the court has been abused by unscrupulous litigants just to attain publicity and adversely affect the reputation of another politician [Mr. Gandhi], one of the obvious reasons which can reasonably be inferred from the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case is the political rivalry.”

The Supreme Court said: “The next friend in the second petition had approached the court with unclean hands, without disclosing complete facts and misusing the judicial process. In fact, he filed the petition without any proper authority, in fact and in law. Thus, this petition is also dismissed with exemplary costs of Rs. 5 lakh for abuse of the process of the court and/or for such other offences that they are found to have committed, which shall be payable to the three petitioners produced before the Allahabad High Court.”

The Bench said that “from the petitions, it is clear that both these petitioners have approached the court with falsehood, unclean hands and have misled the courts by showing urgency and exigencies in relation to an incident of December 3, 2006 which, in fact, according to the three petitioners and the police, was false, have thus abused the process of the court and misused the judicial process. They maliciously and with ulterior motives encroached upon the valuable time of the court and wasted public money.”

The apex court said: “It is a settled canon that no litigant has a right to unlimited drought upon the court time and public money in order to get his affairs settled in the manner as he wishes. The privilege of easy access to justice has been abused by these petitioners by filing frivolous and misconceived petitions. On the basis of incorrect and incomplete allegations, they had created urgency for expeditious hearing of the petitions, which never existed. Even this court had to spend days to arrive at the truth. Prima facie it is clear that both these petitioners have mis-stated facts, withheld true facts and even given false and incorrect affidavits. This court cannot permit the judicial process to become an instrument of oppression or abuse or to subvert justice by unscrupulous litigants like the petitioners in the present case.”

The Bench directed the CBI to continue the investigation in furtherance to the High Court order against the petitioner in Writ Petition No. 111/2011 and all other persons responsible for the abuse of the process of court, making false statement in pleadings, filing false affidavits and committing such other offences as the investigating agency may find during the probe. The CBI must submit its report to the court of competent jurisdiction as expeditiously as possible and not later than six months.