Delhi High Court Comes Down Heavily on the Civil Suit by Juhi Chawla
Updated July 14, 2023
The Delhi High Court has made clear critical comments about the civil lawsuit brought by Hindi film actor Juhi Chawla, who is apparently trying to halt the roll-out of 5G technology by stoking fears about the dangers of radiation. The court opined that this suit was a popularity stunt and calling it a "defective and vexatious" civil suit. Multiple flaws were cited by the court in the filing of this lawsuit and this might well be a good lesson in the effective presentation of a case, learned the hard way.
Key Flaws Pointed Out by the Court
The plaint seemed to be heavily non-compliant to stipulations containing the ingredients of a civil suit, joinder of parties and the presentation of the plaint. The issues pointed out by the court could be a ready reckoner to identifying mistakes that one should not commit while drafting a plaint.
Drafting and Presentation: The Civil Procedure Code mandates that a plain must contain a precise and brief presentation of the facts of the case and that the evidence cannot be included in the plaint at this stage. However, the plaintiff did not comply with Order VI of the Code of Civil Procedure, which mandates the above mentioned and went ahead with a non-concise elucidation of the facts and had also included evidence in the action.
Furthermore, the Code is specific about including only material content and averments in the plaint. However, as per the court's interpretation the plaint was cluttered with unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous argument and the abovementioned is in direct contravention of the Order VI, Rule 16 of the Code which sets out this drafting etiquette.
Joinder: Furthermore, the plaintiffs had also joined 33 defendants without complying with Order I Rule 3 of the CPC, which elucidates on who maybe joined as defendants in a suit. The plaintiffs had also included various causes of action, without complying with Order II, Rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Verification: The mandatory "verification" part in a Plaint, where the plaintiff verifies that the averments and contents of the plaint are true to the best of his/her knowledge and belief and that no material facts were concealed, was missing from the plaint and rightly pointed out. [Order VI Rule 15]
Affidavits: The affidavits presented the picture that the parties did not have a complete idea of the facts, and they were based on information or legal advice. To be more precise, in the affidavit filed in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs (paragraphs 1-8) alleged that the action was based on their knowledge (paragraphs 1-169) and that the briefs were based on information and legal advice, meaning that the plaintiffs had no personal knowledge of the deviations expressed by the plaintiff. Hence, the court declared that the same is not maintainable.
Mandatory Notification: The plaintiffs made no mandatory notification under paragraph 80 (1) of the Code of Civil Procedure and did not value the lawsuit properly for the purpose of court fees. When the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on 28 May 2021, the Registry had objected, stating the case might not be maintainable. However, the plaintiffs, instead of explaining maintainability, declared that the action could be maintained and asked them to list the matter anyways. Undertaking to bear the costs and consequences of it, whereupon the matter was listed.
Issues under the Specific Relief Act: The plaintiff never approached the defendant to assert a right and the defendants were not given an opportunity to address any of the plaintiff's alleged rights, which is in contravention of the requirements of Section 34 of the Specific Relief Act of 1963. Moreover, mandatory injunctions require an obligation to exist against the defendant where the same has to be breached. The requirement was not fulfilled as per the facts of this suit [Section 39 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963].
The Conclusions by the Court
The court described the plaintiffs "entire action as an abuse of procedure and law, leading to a waste of court time". The court opined that this suit was for publicity and a fine of Rs 20 lakh was imposed on direct deposit to the Delhi Legal Services Authority. It was also found by the court that the link for the hearing was shared by Juhi on social media, which led to repeated interruptions of the court proceedings. The remainder of the court fee of Rs. 1,95,594 was also earmarked for deposit.