Crooks that clog the courts, denying the honest the time to have matters heard
Friday afternoon. It was getting late in the Thane district court. The next day was a holiday. The opposing advocate had not turned up. We asked the judge to consider our situation, coming all the way from Mumbai and not getting ahead.
His Honour was sympathetic but asked us to be patient, saying that he had to hear the other side and, maybe, they had a legitimate reason.
Now you be the judge.
What would you have done?
We got to talking of cabbages and kings—of how overburdened the judiciary was; the pay increase meant longer hours. Saturday meant work with the Lok Adaalat, not a holiday like the lawyers and others got.
As we were discussing ways to tweak the system for speed, the opposing lawyer arrived and all was well. We progressed. Patience had paid dividends.
Three days later, a news report carried a story about the Thane court’s Lok Adaalat and how a Rs79-lakh award was granted by it in just six months. The speedy settlement was applauded by all, insurers included. The system had worked well. Good had prevailed.
On the Internet that morning was another bit of news. Two Delhi women had approached the West Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, asking for relief. They had two bills from a beauty parlour. The bills guaranteed ‘life-time’ service, something denied to them.
As in all cases, documentary evidence is of utmost importance. The bills had the words ‘life-time’ written on them. The women said that was proof enough. They must be compensated. The complainants had told the Forum that they had registered for the beauticians’ life-time course for limited services from Global Looks Beauty Parlour in June 2010, but the salon neither gave any services of this particular course nor did it refund their course fee of Rs16,000.
Open and shut case? Well, not exactly. On proper scrutiny of the bills, it was found that the words ‘life-time’ had been added later. Even the handwriting was different.
Now you be the judge.
The consumer forum is not a place to be toyed with. It held that the complainants tried to take undue advantage of the system, tampered with the receipts (forgery would be the correct word) and filed the complaint on frivolous grounds. Anyone so inclined, it said, must be shown the door.
“The legal system is meant not only to protect the poor litigant and a consumer who is not having enough bargaining power in comparison to the service provider but it is also meant to do justice to both the parties before it….” the Forum member, Urmila Gupta, said.
At a Moneylife Foundation seminar, the topic of bogus cases had come up and it was pointed that a very large majority of cases is filed by dishonest people. The beauty parlour case is one more instance of crooks that clog the courts, denying the honest the time to have matters heard.
If readers are at the receiving end in something similar, what should they do? First, win the case. It is easy, if you are in the right. Next, take the perpetrators to court. Forgery is a crime. Coupled with malicious prosecution, you will be awarded costs, for expenses and harassment. And you will find that the courts are, surprisingly and quickly, decongested. To cry oneself hoarse with suggestions of 24X7, 365-day courts, more judges and more staff, is not the answer. The real solution is before us. It is up to us.
Bapoo Malcolm is a practising lawyer in Mumbai. Please email your comments to [email protected]
WITH ALL OUR BEST WISHES, ALWAYS,
Bapoo M. Malcolm,
Advocate, Bombay High Court,