Litigants who file ‘false claims’ before the Delhi High Court and the lower courts may soon face serious criminal action, as the HC has been working on guidelines to punish such persons.
The HC is also looking into suggestions to “cut down” landlord-tenant litigation, which is responsible for a large number of petty cases in courts.
The bench of Justice J R Midha will be creating guidelines on how to implement the provisions of Section 209, IPC. This provides for punishment of up to two years imprisonment and a fine for making a false claim before a court of law.
Courts are also increasingly taking a stricter stand against perjury – the offence of giving a false statement during a case – with several instances of witnesses and alleged ‘victims’ of crime being punished with fines or even imprisonment for giving a false testimony.
The bench has issued notice under Section 209 in multiple cases since April, in a bid to cut down on the number of “false claims’ made before courts.
The bench took up the matter after it was forced to issue a showcause notice under Section 209 IPC in a case involving a false claim made by a landlord against the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which had rented his premises.
The NHAI had rented the building in New Friends Colony between 1998-2001, and had vacated the property in September 2001. A dispute had arisen when the NHAI asked the landlord, H S Bedi, to return its security deposit of over Rs 12.2 lakh.
Bedi had filed a counter claim alleging that the NHAI had damaged the property. He also claimed that the NHAI had continued to occupy the building till January 2002, and therefore also owed rent.
The HC found that Bedi had made a false claim regarding the date of the hand-over of property in order to ‘misappropriate’ the security deposit. It issued notice for criminal proceedings under Section 209 on May 14 this year.
During the course of proceedings, it was found that there was a need to create guidelines for invoking the penal provision as there were slight ambiguities.
Suggestions for invoking the criminal provisions have been given by senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, who was made amicus curiae in the case, and senior advocate Suhail Dutt, who was representing Bedi.
The suggestions deal with the interpretation of the various provisions, including the question of which courts, tribunals and judicial bodies can invoke the provision.
The court is also examining how to define “claim” before a ‘court’, and which kind of claims will fall under the ambit of Section 209. This analysis is necessary since in many judgments of the high courts and the Supreme Court, various bodies such as the Sales tax office have been held to be a “court” which can invoke penal provisions.
In the NHAI case, the bench is also looking into setting up guidelines to cut down on the increasing number of landlord-tenant disputes. Observing that “landlord – tenant litigation is increasing day by day”, the bench has sent a suggestion to the Centre to evolve a mechanism for “statutory protection of security deposits of tenants”.