Refusing to grant further adjournments in a case, the Bombay High Court on Monday said there would be no more ‘tareekh pe tareekh’, while imposing a cost of Rs 4.5 lakh on a public charitable trust for non-compliance of previous court orders.
Taking into account the delay since November 25, 2016, when the last order was passed, the court said a period of 450 days had passed. “Costs must be imposed for each day’s delay. I do not think that in this day and age and especially in this city, costs of Rs 1,000 per day are at all unreasonable. Anything less than that is illusory and meaningless,” said the court.
“Parties believe that even if the delay is inordinate, the costs of that delay will be negligible and hence they continue to extend the delay. The costs must be real. They must be sufficient to convey the message that non-compliance with our orders brings consequences; that these consequences are inevitable and unavoidable; and the consequences are not some piffling trifle,” added the court, while imposing a cost of Rs 4,50,000 and directing the party to pay the amount by March 7, 2018.
“No more adjournments. No more ‘tareekh pe tareekh’. Enough is enough. That a court will endlessly grant adjournments is not something that parties or advocates can take for granted,” said Justice Gautam Patel.
Even as the parties urged the court not to impose heavy costs, Justice Patel observed, “Courts have assumed that condoning delay by saying this is a ‘final opportunity’ is sufficient. Clearly, it is not. It is only when there is an order of the kind I have passed that the defaulting party seems to get galvanised into compliance, and that we see, for the first time, some alertness… I make it clear that in future cases, the daily delay cost rate will, on any such application for reduction, be doubled. As a matter of mathematical certainty, there is always near at hand the Fibonacci sequence of numbers,” said Justice Patel.
The High Court was hearing a suit filed by a public charitable trust Ram Nagar Trust over an ownership dispute of a piece of land in Bandra. The suit had been filed in 2009, in which the trust had been ordered to file its affidavit by November 5, 2016, after being granted extensions previously for compliance in the matter.
“This is even more shocking. That a trust should be so utterly negligent about its own case is reason enough to warrant immediate action against the trustees and have every one of them removed. A public trust has a higher duty of care, not a lower one. Besides, this submission is utterly egregious: what am I being told? That because it is a trust therefore a different standard applies? Before courts, all parties are exactly the same. We will make exceptions for the poor, the illiterate, the helpless. They will receive our protection. But educated trustees charged with a solemn fiduciary duty will not get a free pass only because they claim to espouse some worthy cause,” said Justice Patel.
The court took exception to the fact that the trust had continued to default and had made no application for an extension of time or for condonation of delay. Their lawyer, in fact, sought one more week to comply with previous court orders. This was opposed by one of the defendants, who pointed out that this cannot be permitted especially in a suit of 2009.