Holding that a litigant, caught in a frivolous case, loses a self of himself in the legal battle to protect himself and his reputation, a bench of Justices M M Shantanagoudar and R Subhash Reddy said it is the duty of the trial court, being the first line of defence of the criminal justice system, to protect people from vexatious litigation.
“We are of the considered opinion that the trial courts have the power to not merely decide on acquittal or conviction of the accused person after the trial, but also the duty to nip frivolous litigations in the bud even before they reach the stage of trial by discharging the accused in fit cases. This would not only save judicial time that comes at the cost of public money, but would also protect the right to liberty that every person is entitled to under Article 21 of the Constitution,” Justice Shantanagoudar, who wrote the judgement, said.
Courts are instruments to obtain justice, not avenues where private vendettas are carried out through legal means. The apex court has rightly said that such proclivities must be discouraged. In fact, in cases where mala fide intention is proved beyond doubt, penalties must be imposed.
The bench said a significant factor in this backlog is the vast “mass of frivolous litigation” instituted year after year by litigants with an intent to use the courts of justice for their own mischievous ends. “Curtailing such vexatious litigation is, thus, a crucial step towards a more effective justice system — a step that cannot be taken without the active involvement of the lower judiciary, especially in criminal proceedings,” it said.
The court passed the order while quashing proceedings against four members of a family, including one 84-year old man and a person of unsound mind, against whom complaints were filed six years after an alleged case of assault.
Holding that a trial judge is duty-bound under the Constitution and CrPC to identify and dispose of frivolous litigation at an early stage, the bench said, “A falsely accused person not only suffers monetary damages but is exposed to disrepute and stigma from society. While running from pillar to post to find a lawyer to represent his case and arranging finances to defend himself before the court of law, he loses a part of himself.”