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The Delhi High Court yesterday came down heavily on NDTV for wasting the court’s time by constantly using delaying tactics in its own suit against MJ Akbar and the Sunday Guardian filed seven years ago.
NDTV had approached the Delhi High Court in 2011 against allegedly defamatory articles published in the Sunday Guardian which had alluded to foul play in the finances of the channel, as well as tax evasion on its part.
NDTV had sought damages of Rs 25 crore and an injunction on the publication of the said articles. However, ever since the framing of the issues, both the plaintiff as well as the defendants had been delaying the case by taking adjournments and not filing the required documents.
The Court in its judgment noted that NDTV had availed as many as eleven opportunities to lead evidence, each time asking for adjournment, and a condonation of delay thereafter. The defendants, it was noted, also dragged their feet after the Joint Registrar adjourned the suit for the defendants’ evidence.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw observed that,
“Surprisingly, the counsel for the defendants also played along and neither made a statement that there was no need for the defendants to lead evidence and the suit be listed before the Court for dismissal, nor took any steps in this regard after 29th January, 2016.”
Taking a dim view of the conduct of both parties during the suit, the Court observed,
“Advocacy and ingenuity was shown on each of the eleven dates of hearing when different grounds were put forward to take adjournments instead of leading evidence of the plaintiff. Thereafter seven dates were taken for defendants‟ evidence, before the Chamber Appeal was filed…
I have already hereinabove observed that the conduct in the said five years is clearly of, forgetting about the suit till the next date of hearing and merely attending the dates of hearing.”
Subsequently, NDTV had filed a Chamber Appeal against the decision of the Joint Registrar to close its evidence. While arguing on condonation of delay in filing the same, Senior Advocate Arvind Nayar had submitted that the suit was for a large sum of money and that his client had paid Rs. 25 lakh in court fees.
The Bench at this juncture asked whether a litigant, by paying court fees of lakhs of rupees, gets a right to purchase the time of the Court. It was observed that,
“Prejudice is suffered by the Court, which incurs cost of thousands of rupees for each listing of a case. Prejudice is also suffered by the Court by such cases adding to the inventory of the Court and being shown as arrears of pendency in the Court and bringing a bad name to the Court…
Prejudice is also suffered by other litigants pursuing/defending their bona fide disputes in the Court and who, owing to such non serious litigants as the parties herein are, are unable to get expeditious listings as they deserve.”
The Court also stated that NDTV woke up from its slumber only on realizing that the game of “tarikh pe tarikh” which it had been playing, was about to come to an end.
The Bench therefore dismissed the suit and reiterated that the procedure and time of the Court is not for sale and is not to be regulated by the litigants, but by the Court.