CJI Lodha slaps Rs. 25,000 cost on ML Sharma; Dismisses frivolous PIL for quashing sale of AIR India Hotels
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CJI Lodha slaps Rs. 25,000 cost on ML Sharma; Dismisses frivolous PIL for quashing sale of AIR India Hotels

Murali Krishnan

Chief Justice RM Lodha seems determined to leave a mark in his very short tenure. Today “Public Interest Litigators” including Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma were at the receiving end as Justice Lodha came down upon the practice of filing frivolous PILs without “bonafides”.

First to face the heat was ML Sharma. Sharma’s petition, pertaining to quashing of the sale of two Air India owned hotels at Bombay, irked Justice Lodha who dismissed it at the outset. When Sharma insisted on being heard, Justice Lodha remarked that the PIL was totally “frivolous” and without “bonafides” and imposed a cost of Rs. 50,000 on Sharma.

Sharma then beseeched the Bench that, he “fights for the cause of poor people and cost of Rs. 50,000 would break him”. After much pleading, the cost was reduced to Rs, 25,000 with a warning that it would be raised to Rs. 1 lakh if he spoke any further.

Having observed Justice Lodha’s approach towards Sharma, it seemed that others would have learnt a lesson. But to the contrary, in the very next matter, another petitioner-in-person, Adesh Kumar repeated the mistake of persisting with his arguments after the case was dismissed. Annoyed and agitated, Justice Lodha proceeded to impose costs of Rs. 50,000. Subsequently, he withdrew the costs but not before shouting down Kumar.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, Sharma had this to say:

“CJI was absolutely right. I had no cause of action today as the matter is pending before CBI.”

CJI Lodha has, since taking over the reins of the Supreme Court, sought to bring about radical changes. His 365 day working policy to reduce the backlog of cases met with opposition from the Bar. Recommendation of members from the Bar for judgeship is another notable effort in a bid to increase the competitiveness of the Bench.

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