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Judges ought to not ever forget that courts are of justice and not of procedure: Delhi High Court

The Court was hearing a review application against a judgement which put an end to a protracted and financially draining litigation between a wife and her husband/sisters-in-law.

Aditi Singh

Judges presiding over courts ought not to ever forget that the courts are of justice and not of procedure, the Delhi High Court recently remarked as it re-affirmed its decision to put an end to a protracted and financially draining litigation between a wife and her husband/sisters-in-law. (Kumkum Talwar & ors vs Natasha Kohli & Anr)

"Where justice collides, in the facts of a particular case, with the established rules, the Courts cannot forget that it is justice and not the rules which have to prevail", the Court remarked.

The statement forms part of an order passed by a single Judge Bench of Jutsice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw while deciding a review application against a judgment passed by it.

Since 2006, there were several legal proceedings that commenced as disputes between a husband and wife i.e. Mon Mohan Kohli (MMK) and Natasha Kohli (Natasha).

MMK and Natasha' son, Rishab Kohli (Rishab) was also a party to some of the legal proceedings, as a minor, represented through his mother.

During the pendency of the litigation, the sisters of MMK namely Kumkum Talwar (Kumkum) and Vinay Mahajan (Vinay) were appointed as guardians ad litem of MMK on the ground of their brother, MMK's ill health after he suffered a stroke.

Resultantly, the litigation which had commenced out of disputes between husband and wife, turned into a litigation of the wife with her sisters-in-law i.e. sisters of her husband and the litigation grew and was refusing to die down.”, the Court recorded.

All these years, MMK's assets were used for not only meeting the fee and expenses of the 'Court Observers' but also in meeting the substantial legal fee and costs of ever-growing litigation.

The Court noted that owing to the fact that MMK was not actively carrying out his business due to his health, his assets, which were highly profitable once, had become static.

Finally, in 2019, Natasha agreed to give up all the rights asserted by her in various litigations after MMK executed a Will bequeathing his entire estate in favour of Rishab, except certain bequests.

The sisters, however, suggested that the litigation be kept in abeyance rather than being ended.

Keeping in mind that MMK's assets were bleeding and since 2013, he was living with the intellect of a six years old, the Court disposed of all the pending litigation before it in February 2020 to do substantial justice.

Sufficient safeguards, as per the comprehension of the Court, were built in the judgment to ensure that no prejudice was caused to MMK in his lifetime.

Subsequently, a Review Application along with another interlocutory application (IA) was moved before the Court against the judgment. Upon inquiry, the Court found that while the Review Application was filed only on behalf of Kumkum, the IA was by Vinay, though in reference to the Review Application.

The Court further observed that a new set of counsel were now representing the sisters and controverting what was attributed to them in the judgment passed in February.

The Court stated that the arguments put forth by the sisters did not address how the judgment was not in the best interest of MMK or was prejudicial to him. The Court even enquired if the sisters' endeavor was to continue the litigation for the satisfaction of their own egos and not for the benefit of MMK.

While reiterating that the judgment was in the spirit of doing justice to the affairs of MMK, who was/is personally incapacitated from crying out for justice, the Court remarked,

The Judges presiding over the Courts ought not to ever forget, that the Courts are of justice, and not of procedure..great injustice would be caused to the person qua whose affairs the game of litigation was being played/continued to be played in the Courts, out of personal prejudices and egos of the warring parties and forgetting the interest of the said person.
Delhi High Court

Stating that justice prevails over rules in case of a collision between the two, the Court added,

In my view, no cannon of justice requires the Court to be a slave to the procedure, even if it does great harm/injustice to the person whose affairs are being litigated. Rules, undoubtedly are one of law’s attributes but frequently fail as guide to outcome of a particular incipient case.. Being a Judge, is not only about knowing the rules, which are but to serve justice, but also about knowing, when an exception is to be made to the rules. In such cases, avoiding the rules, though undoubtedly may appear to be equivalent to denial of justice, because legitimate expectations are frustrated, but it has to be remembered that rules are not the law but mere instruments/implements of law and justice and that rules are not justice.
Delhi High Court

The Court also opined that even the Review Application and the arguments thereon were beyond the scope of review.

In view of the above, the Court stated that the judgment was a "judgment/order of conscience" and was meant to "best serve justice to MMK".

The review application was thus dismissed.

The sisters were represented by Advocate Deepak Khosla.

Natasha Kohli was presented by Advocate Nandita Rao and Advocate Sanjeev Mahajan appeared for the son.

Read the Order:

Kumkum Talwar vs Natasha Kohli.pdf
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