Judges Must Adhere To Assigned Cases And Roster Protocols: SC Imposes Fine Of Rs. 50,000 In Classic Case Of Forum Hunting By Parties
The Supreme Court emphasized that judges must strictly adhere to discipline, only taking up cases specifically assigned by the Chief Justice. It emphasized that deviation from this protocol constitutes a grave impropriety. The Court strongly condemned the respondents for their gross abuse of the legal process. The respondents, accused in multiple First Information Reports (FIRs), attempted forum hunting by filing a Civil Writ Petition to consolidate these FIRs, aiming to evade the roster system established by the Chief Justice. In this case, the appellant brought forward serious allegations against the second to fourth respondents, accusing them of gross abuse of the legal process. Six First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered against the respondents at the appellant's instance, and two additional FIRs were filed by other informants. The respondents, dissatisfied with the lack of interim relief granted in their Section 482 CrPC petitions, resorted to filing a Civil Writ Petition requesting the consolidation of all eight FIRs. Despite objections to this maneuver, the respondents succeeded in obtaining an order preventing coercive action against them in connection with the FIRs.
A two judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal held, “The Judges have to follow discipline and ought not to take up any case unless it is specifically assigned by the Chief Justice. A Judge can take up a case provided either the cases of that category have been assigned to him as per the notified roster or the particular case is specifically assigned by the Chief Justice. Taking up a case not specifically assigned by the Chief Justice is an act of gross impropriety. Though a Civil Writ Petition was filed, the learned Judge ought to have converted into a Criminal Writ Petition which could have been placed only before the roster Judge taking up Criminal Writ Petitions.”
Advocate Pranab Prakash appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Ashutosh Shekhar Paarcha appeared for the Respondents.
The Court strongly criticized the respondents' actions, labeling them as forum hunting and a gross abuse of legal procedures. The Court found the filing of the Civil Writ Petition to be improper, considering the established rosters and procedures outlined by the Chief Justice. The Court said, “Thus, this is a case of gross abuse of process of law. We wonder how a Civil Writ Petition for clubbing First Information Reports could be entertained. In the Criminal Appeal No.3233 of 2023 Page 3 of 6 roster notified by the Chief Justice, there is a separate roster for Criminal Writ Petitions. If the Courts allow such sharp practices, the roster notified by the Chief Justice will have no meaning.”
The Court said that the judge in question should not have taken up the case unless specifically assigned, as per the rules. The Court added, “This is a classic case of forum hunting by the second to fourth respondents. It transpires that notwithstanding the aforesaid relief granted on 8th May, 2023 in the Civil Writ Petition, in the petitions under Section 482 of CrPC for quashing, on 1st June, 2023 the second to fourth respondents persuaded the concerned Bench to grant relief of not taking coercive action against them.”
Consequently, the Court allowed the appeal and dismissed the Civil Writ Petition filed by the respondents. The respondents were directed to pay a fine of Rs.50,000/- to the Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority within one month and produce the receipt within six weeks. Additionally, the Court ordered that the conduct of the respondents be brought to the attention of the relevant court handling their Section 482 CrPC petitions for quashing the FIRs. The Registrar (Judicial) of the Rajasthan High Court was instructed to distribute copies of this order to all eight petitions filed by the respondents under Section 482 CrPC for quashing the FIRs.
Cause Title: Ambalal Parihar v. State of Rajasthan & Ors., [2023 INSC 946]