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Courts Have 'Time Machines' Where Cases Live On, Says Bombay High Court

In a judgment in a case pertaining to the rent control act, the court said that the litigation started in 1986. Several appeals, applications and pleas later, the issue remained unresolved, while the original landowner and original tenant are no more.

PTI

Updated:September 7, 2019, 7:13 PM IST
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Bombay High Court
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Mumbai: Referring to the inordinate time litigations take to end in Indian courts, the Bombay High Court has said courts seem to have "time machines", where cases go on indefinitely.

In a judgment in a case pertaining to the rent control act, the court said on Friday that the litigation started in 1986. Several appeals, applications and pleas later, the issue remained unresolved, while the original landowner and original tenant are no more.

In several cases litigants on both sides die but the litigation is carried on by subsequent generations, said Justice Dama S Naidu.

"Courts and delays are correlatives, they go together. The reasons are a legion. They range from infrastructural inadequacies to insufficient adjudicators to protracted procedures to plain misplaced priorities," he said.

The petition had been filed by Rukminibai, a city resident, seeking to evict some tenants from her property. She died as the case wound its way, and her heirs took over.

According to the petitioners, the property was leased to the family of Manoramabai generations ago. Manoramabai, too, has passed away.

Eviction proceedings were initiated against the tenants in 1986, and the trial court and the high court ruled in the owners' favour subsequently.

In 2016, the tenants moved the HC again, citing a change in circumstances.

Securing favourable orders in the past, the owners claimed they needed the property back to be used as shops by their unemployed children.

While the Maharashtra Rent Control Act largely protects tenants, owners' bonafide need is a valid ground for eviction.

But two of the children had since secured government jobs and did not need the place anymore, the tenants argued.

The arguments led Justice Naidu to cite novelist Charles Dickens' words about endless court proceedings. The owners' family was large, and even if two members got jobs, the premises might be required by others, he said.

"In Dickensian diction, innumerable children may have been born into the cause...young people may have married into it, innumerable old people may have died out of it.

"The little of the plaintiffs may have been promised a new toy (bi)cycle when the case is settled, but may have grown up pending the case, possessed a real cycle, ridden it through his life, and ridden away into the other world," the judge said.

"A case can be perennial but not the life, nor its needs. As it were, courts have time machines for cases remain constant for decades on end. But not the clients or causes," the judge said, ruling that the tenants' plea had no merit.

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