Monday, 5 March 2018

Bombay High Court imposes fine of Rs. 4,50,000/- on Ram Nagar Trust for delay in compliance

Justice Gautam Patel recently passed an order directing 'Ram Nagar Trust' to pay Rs. 1,000/- per day for the 450 days delay (Rs. 4,50,000 in aggregate) to the defendant in the suit filed by the trust in 2009.

The court noted that in September 2016, the high court had framed issues in the suit and directed both the plaintiff (trust) and the defendants to submit before the registry an affidavit of documents they would be relying on. Last week when the suit came up before Justice Patel, the trust's lawyer sought a week's time to submit the same. This was opposed by the defendants who claimed that time and again adjournments were being sought by the plaintiff trust. Agreeing to this, Justice Patel in his order said, "No more adjournments. No more 'tareek pe tareek'. Enough is enough".

"That a court will endlessly grant adjournments is not something that parties or advocates can take for granted. Nor should they assume that there will be no consequences to continued defaults and unexplained delay," Justice Patel said.

The court added that fixing random figures like Rs 5,000 or Rs 25,000 was counterproductive as parties think such costs are negligible. "The costs must be real. They must be sufficient to convey the message that non-compliance with our orders brings consequences; that these consequences are inevitable and unavoidable; and the consequences are not some piffling trifle," Justice Patel said.

He refused to accept the contention of the plaintiff's lawyer that it was a charitable trust and that the suit pertained to land for educational purposes. "This is even more shocking. That a trust should be so utterly negligent about its own case is reason enough to warrant immediate action against the trustees and have every one of them removed. A public trust has a higher duty of care, not a lower one," the court said.

"We will make exceptions for the poor, the illiterate, the helpless. They will receive our protection. But, educated trustees charged with a solemn fiduciary duty will not get a free pass only because they claim to espouse some worthy cause," Justice Patel noted.

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