It is ostensibly designed to prevent people from initiating unnecessary litigation
GN Bureau | July 23, 2015
The supreme court in 2011 had suggested hiking the penalty by 3,000% to curb frivolous petitions and that solution has seen reduction in cases in the nature of PILs (public interest litigation). But the law passed by the Madhya Pradesh assembly looks to be too draconian.
The state assembly passed the Madhya Pradesh Tang Karnewali Mukadmebaji (Nivaran) Vidheyak, 2015 — Madhya Pradesh Vexatious Litigation (Prevention) Bill, 2015 — by a voice vote on Wednesday. The main purpose of the Bill is to prevent people from initiating litigation “without reasonable ground”.
The legislation allows the high court to declare a person “a vexatious litigant” on an application filed by the advocate general.
The bill required extensive debate as judicial remedy is a fundamental right. However, the house okayed it without any debate.
The genesis of legislation stems from the report prepared by the Law Commission in a 2005. It had proposed penalty to curb vexatious litigation.
Under the MP legislation, the advocate general can file an application in the high court to declare a person “a vexatious litigant”, arguing that he has initiated civil or criminal proceedings “without reasonable ground”. The high court will first hear the litigant, before passing an order to prevent him from filing civil or criminal proceedings in the high court or subordinate courts. The order will also apply to cases already filed in courts.
One reason for such law was to use available resources judiciously as frivolous cases take away the time of judges and the real justice gets delayed. However, if the MP law comes into effect, a person has to prove that the petition is worth being heard. Once a litigant is declared vexatious, he would have to start with a pre-trial hearing (which is normally not practiced in India), where he has to convince the court that his matter merits the court’s attention and time. This will surely delay other cases.
There is also danger of getting the stuck with the stigma as once one is declared a vexatious litigant, he or she will get relief only from the supreme court.
The state cabinet had approved the bill in March this year but had not gone ahead with it due to public pressure. Now, what prompted the government take up the bill remains a mystery.
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