“Litigants Who Come To Court With Unclean Hands” Are Not Entitled To Be Heard: Kerala High Court

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Excerpt

On 4th March 2021, a Single Judge Bench consisting of Hon’ble Mr. Justice V.G. Arun heard Johnson Padamadan v. State of Kerala.

A petition was filed to issue a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction commanding the Respondents to register a vigilance case and conduct a detailed investigation regarding the Respondent’s inspection of vehicles near the toll booth of Indira Gandhi Road, Welligdon Island.

Facts of the case

The Petitioner was the President of Kerala Bus Transport Association State Committee and was concerned about the Transport Commissioner’s office’s functioning and the unauthorised, illegal and corrupt practices adopted by officers in the Motor Vehicles Department. 

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The Petitioner alleged that corrupt practices were adopted by the Respondent while working as Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector at the Sub Regional Transport Office, Mattancherry. The Respondent conducted vehicle checking after duty hours and without obtaining prior permission from superior officers. The Respondent had reached the spot in her husband’s car and not in the departmental vehicle. Further, during the inspection, the folder containing the fine amount collected, the check report book, the TR-5 book and seized driving licences kept inside the car were reportedly lost. Instead of reporting the matter at the Harbour Police Station situated close by, the Respondent lodged a complaint before the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mattancherry and the complaint was forwarded to the Harbour Police Station only three days after the incident. Even though a crime was registered under Section 379 IPC [Punishment for theft], it was closed as undetected.

Instead of conducting a departmental enquiry and imposing severe punishment on the Respondent, the superior officials blindly accepted her explanation. They closed the proceedings by directing to recover the amount of Rs.21,400/- lost from the Respondent’s possession. 

Contentions of the respondent

Learned Counsel for the Respondent submitted that the writ petition was nothing but witch hunting, motivated by a personal vendetta against the Respondent, for having carried out her duties honestly and without caving into the allegations of the Petitioner. The Counsel contended that an Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector is a full-time field officer in charge of a circle. Hence, there is no prohibition in conducting vehicle checking after regular office hours. 

Contentions of the petitioner

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Learned Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that, being a public-spirited citizen, he is legally entitled to bring the malpractices committed by public servants to the authorities’ notice and on their failure to act, to the notice of this Court.

Court’s analysis

The Court observed that the writ petition amounted to an abuse of process of Court. Further, as far as departmental proceedings against the Respondent are concerned, it is settled law that third parties have no right to challenge the disciplinary proceedings and that there is no scope for public interest litigation in service matters.

The Court opined that the Petitioner had miserably failed to substantiate the contention that the Respondent could not have conducted the checking after duty hours. On the other hand, the Respondent succeeded in establishing that an Assistant Motor Vehicle Inspector being a full-time officer, no particular time for checking of vehicles is prescribed. 

The Court observed that the writ petition’s unequivocal conclusion was that it was filed with the sole objective of defaming and demoralizing the Respondent.

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The Court referred to the case of Kishore Samrite v. State of U.P. (2013) 2 SCC 398, which held that “Courts have, over the centuries, frowned upon litigants who, with intent to deceive and mislead the courts, are neither entitled to be heard on the merits of the case nor are entitled to any relief.”

Court’s decision

The Court dismissed the writ petition and observed that despite the attempts to curb abuse of public interest jurisdiction, the propensity to file frivolous cases, garbed as public interest litigations, was on the increase, where the instant case was a classic example of such abuse. 

The Court further directed the Petitioner to pay the Respondent, cost of Rs.25,000/-. If the fee were not paid within one month, the District Collector, Ernakulam, would initiate recovery proceedings to realise the amount.

Click here to view the judgment. 


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