Observing that it was “unfair and unconscionable” to consume the court’s time when other litigants with more pressing needs are waiting, the Bombay high court has imposed cost of ₹1 lakh each on three litigants who took one hour of court’s time to decide on amending their petitions.
'Taken an unconscionable amount of this Court's time': HC
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale observed: “The three petitions have taken an unconscionable amount of this Court’s time, although it was clear from the moment the matters were called that, at the very least, the Petitioners ought to have considered amending the Petition ...”
The justices further added: “It is not just a matter of ‘wasting the Court’s time’. It is the consumption of that time at the cost of other litigants, many of them in extremely dire straits, some very needy and in abject conditions.”
After hearing the counsels for the three petitioners for over an hour, the court indicated its intention to reject the plea. To avoid the dismissal, the counsels sought time to amend the petition to incorporate a factual development.
However, at the beginning of the hearing, the counsel for Enforcement Directorate (ED) had informed by the court that a detailed order was passed in the matter and the petitioners ought to challenge the same.
Petitioners had challenged ED's order to conduct search and seizure
The HC was hearing three petitions filed by Hotel Balwas Pvt. Ltd., and two of its owners, Ali Mohammed Balwa and Salim Usman Balwa.
They had challenged the an order of the ED under Section 17 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for conducting a search and seizure on the company's premises on suspicions of money laundering.
ED counsel Hiten Venegavkar informed the Court that after this order was passed, a provisional order to attach property that was allegedly the proceeds of a crime had been passed under Section 8 of PMLA by an adjudicating authority on January 30, 2023.
Venegavkar suggested that the petitioners could challenge this subsequent development.
After court hinted at dismissing petitions, they sought permission to amend plea
When the court asked petitioners’ counsels Vijay Aggarwal and Chetan Kapadia whether they wanted to amend the petition, they refused and argued on the ‘unreasoned order’ passed by ED.
Unimpressed, when the bench suggested that it was inclined to dismiss the petitions, the counsels sought permission to amend the same.
The court imposed cost of Rs1 lakh each on three petitioners which is to be paid by February 17, 2023, to St Jude Child Care Centres, a voluntary organisation that supports cancer-affected children and their families.
The Court allowed amendment to the petitions, subject to payment of cost.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)