Global Spiritual Leaders Using Court Proceedings To Settle Personal Scores: SC Imposes ₹1 Lakh Cost On ISKCON Kolkata Manager
The Supreme Court has imposed Rs. 1 lakh cost on ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Kolkata Manager for filing a frivolous case against ISKCON Bengaluru officials, while quashing the criminal proceedings arising out an FIR registered in West Bengal.
During the hearing of the case, Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal appearing on behalf of ISKCON Kolkata Manager had made some remarks that irked the Bench and invoked sharp remarks from the Bench.
"Why would my Lords take such a special interest in this particular case, in case of a man who has been repeatedly found...", the Senior Advocate had said, when he was interrupted by Justice Ajay Rastogi saying that the Bench has absolutely no interest in the case. The Judge said that the Lawyer must restrain himself. The Judge said that such "loose statements" should not be used by any Lawyer in Court "knowingly or unknowingly". Justice Bela M. Trivedi then said that the Senior Advocate is probably referring to a passing reference made by Justice Rastogi that he had visited some of the temples. Justice Trivedi remarked that judges visit temples but may not even remember whom they meet there and that it does not mean that the judges have any special interest. She also said that such a remark from a Senior Advocate was not expected. Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal then apologised and withdrew his remark.
In their judgment, the Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Bela M. Trivedi observed that the complaint filed by the Respondent-Complainant after an inordinate unexplained delay of eight years was nothing but sheer misuse and abuse of the process of law.
"The allegations made against the appellants are so absurd and improbable that no prudent person can ever reach to a conclusion that there is a sufficient ground for proceeding against the appellants-accused", the Court held while quashing the criminal proceedings.
The Bench further held, “The matter should be viewed more seriously when people who claim themselves and project themselves to be the global spiritual leaders, engage themselves into such kind of frivolous litigations and use the court proceedings as a platform to settle their personal scores or to nurture their personal ego.”
Furthermore, the Court also added that the investigating officer had not even bothered to collect any cogent or substantive evidence against the Appellants-Accused to prosecute them for the alleged offences.
In this case, the Appellants were accused of the offences under Sections 468, 471, 406, and 120-B of IPC. The appellant Madhu Pandit Das (accused no.1) is the President of ISKCON, Bengaluru since 1984 and the appellant Chanchalpati Das (accused no. 2) is the Vice President of ISKCON, Bengaluru since 1985. Both of them claim to be global spiritual leaders and humanitarians.
It was alleged by the Respondent that when the new management took over the management of ISKCON Kolkata, a 42-seat deluxe bus of Ashok Leyland make was not found in the premises of the Kolkata branch. Further, it was alleged that the Respondents came to know that said bus was in the illegal custody of Madhu Pandit Das residing in Bengaluru.
It was also alleged that Mr. Adridharan Das had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Mr. Madhu Pandit Das and others and that Mr. Adridharan Das had committed theft as well as criminal breach of trust in respect of the said vehicle, which was taken to Bengaluru.
The Respondent argued before the Court that since the Ballygunge Police Station did not take any action upon his complaint, he in the year 2009 filed a private complaint in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore, against the accused Madhu Pandit Das, Chanchalpati Das, Mahajan Das and Adridharan Das seeking investigation under Section 156(3) of Cr.P.C.
The High Court dismissed the Criminal Revisions of the Appellants-Accused who had approached the Court to quash the criminal proceedings initiated against them.
Senior Advocate Shyam Divan along with Advocate Kartik Seth appeared for the Appellants-Accused while Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal appeared for the Respondent before the Court.
The Apex Court noted that as per the case of the Respondent, the alleged incident of bus theft took place in the year 2001 and it was only in 2009 that the substantial complaint was made in the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore. In this context, the Bench further observed –
“It is just not believable that the concerned Ballygunge Police Station, Kolkata would not have taken any action on the report made in 2002 on behalf of the powerful body like the ISKCON Kolkata, or on the letter dated 30.09.2006 written by the Branch Manager of the ISKCON, Kolkata. The respondent no. 2- complainant also did not take any concrete action for getting the said complaint registered with regard to the alleged theft of bus for a long period of eight years, till the complaint in the Court was filed in the year 2009.”
The Court thus held that such an inordinate delay of eight years in filing the complaint in the Court would itself would be sufficient ground to quash the proceedings.
Further, it was observed, “If the luxury bus owned by the ISKCON, Kolkata Branch in 1998 was so precious to them, they would not have sat silent for such a long time of eight years. In our opinion, the criminal machinery set into motion by filing the complaint for the alleged incident which had taken place eight years ago, that act itself was nothing but a sheer misuse and abuse of the process of the court.”
“There was no expert opinion obtained or scientific evidence collected on the documents allegedly forged to show as to by whom, when and how the theft of vehicle and forgery of documents were committed. Under the circumstances, allowing such prosecution to continue would not only be an empty formality but would be gross wastage of court’s precious time,” the Bench held.
The Court held that the allegations made against the Appellants were so absurd and improbable that no prudent person can ever reach to a conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the Appellants.
While emphasizing on the aspect of the frivolous litigations, the Court observed –
“…just as bad coins drive out good coins from circulation, bad cases drive out good cases from being heard on time. Because of the proliferation of frivolous cases in the courts, the real and genuine cases have to take a backseat and are not being heard for years together. The party who initiates and continues a frivolous, irresponsible and senseless litigation or who abuses the process of the court must be saddled with exemplary cost, so that others may deter to follow such course.”
Thus, the Court imposed a cost of Rs. 1, 00,000 on the Respondent-Complainant, quashed the proceedings pending before the Chief Judicial Magistrate against the Appellants, and allowed the appeal.
Cause Title: Chanchalpati Das v. The State of West Bengal & Anr.