After 30 yrs & 11 deaths, legal dispute undecidedhttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/after-30-yrs-11-deaths-legal-dispute-undecided/

After 30 yrs & 11 deaths, legal dispute undecided

HC fines ‘unscrupulous litigant’ Rs 1 lakh for ‘frivolous’ case

HC fines ‘unscrupulous litigant’ Rs 1 lakh for ‘frivolous’ case

Even after three decades of fruitless litigation,11 deaths,litigation expenditure of over Rs 55 lakh and three auctions,the dispute over a coal depot in Sector 20,Chandigarh,remains undecided. Arguably the oldest case hanging fire in the Chandigarh District Courts,the dispute has twice reached the Supreme Court and thrice the Punjab and Haryana High Court. All the five friends who had jointly got the coal depot for Rs 45,000 in 1959 have died. It is the third generation which is now pursuing the legal battle over the partition of coal depot,of around 2 kanals,which now costs over Rs 20 crores.

The High Court on Tuesday finally decided the case,putting an end to the “frivolous litigation”. Disgusted over the tactics used by one of the owners of the property who is in possession of the coal depot for the past over three decades,Justice L N Mittal has slapped an exemplary penalty of Rs 1 lakh rupees on the person. Putting an end to the unending litigation,he directed the Chandigarh District Court to hold the final auction and dispose of the matter. The HC has passed strictures against the petitioner describing him as an “unscrupulous litigant”.

In his order,Justice Mittal has held “instant case illustrates how an unscrupulous litigant can abuse process of the court to his own advantage and to the disadvantage of the opposite party”. The order further reads,“It is,thus,manifest that the petitioners who are in possession of the suit property are grossly abusing the process of the court to perpetuate their possession and thereby depriving the plaintiffs to get the fruits of the decree secured by them almost 30 years ago and also depriving the decree holders of the user of their share in the suit property.”

Began with 1959 auction

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In 1959 five friends of village Bajwara,Gurdial Singh,Arjun Singh,Asha Singh,Kabil Singh and Om Prakash,participated in an auction held by the Administration and got a coal depot for Rs 45,000. While Kabil Singh and Om Prakash decided to use the premises,the other three demanded rent and user charges.

“Everything was smooth till 1972 when son of one of the co-owners died and fraud was committed by one of the five in the partnership deed. The remaining four demanded rent from Om Prakash and his son Chand Kishore but to no avail. The four moved a lower court in the year 1982 and filed a suit for partition” Mohan Singh,grandson of Kabil Singh told Newsline. The 54-year-old lost his grandfather and father who had been pursuing the legal battle since 1982.

Senior lawyer Chetan Mittal,counsel for Mohan Singh,had contested the petition filed by Chand Kishore stating that the petitioner (Chand Kishore) wants to delay the case as he is having the possession of the coal depot. A lower Court of Chandigarh on December 23,1987 decreed the partition after it appointed a local commissioner. The Commissioner opined that the property cannot be divided by leaps and bounds and that it should be auctioned among the five.

The first auction was held in 1989 and settled for Rs 5 lakh. The final amount was to be equally distributed amongst the five. But this was challenged in a Court. A court ordered fresh auction which was held in 1991 and settled for Rs 10.5 lakh. Again,this was contested before a lower Court. Finally,the Court concluded that the auction among members will not bear fruit and that a public auction be held. In 1993 a public auction was held and the final amount decided was 27 lakhs. This again was challenged by Chand Kishore on various grounds.

Meanwhile,sons of original four owners decided to withdraw their offer and also contested the case. Two lower Courts upheld the public auction which was then challenged,in appeal,before the High Court in 2008. The appeal was decided by Justice L N Mittal on Tuesday. A fresh and final auction will now be held to decide the dispute.