"No more 'tareekh pe tareekh'. Enough is enough," an irked Bombay High Court said here while ruling out any more adjournments in a case, and imposed a fine of Rs 4.50 lakh on a public charitable trust for failing to file an affidavit since 2016.
Justice Gautam Patel last week passed the order directing 'Ram Nagar Trust' to pay Rs 1,000 per day for the 450-day delay (Rs4.5 lakh in total) to the defendant in the suit filed by the trust in 2009.
The court noted that in September 2016, the high court had framed issue in the suit and directed both the plaintiff (trust) and the defendants to submit before the registry an affidavit of documents they would be relying on.
Last week when the suit came up before Justice Patel, the trust's lawyer sought a week's time to submit the same.
This was opposed by the defendants who claimed that time and again adjournments were being sought by the plaintiff trust.
Agreeing to this, Justice Patel in his order said, "No more adjournments. No more 'tareekh pe tareekh'. Enough is enough".
"That a court will endlessly grant adjournments is not something that parties or advocates can take for granted. Nor should they assume that there will be no consequences to continued defaults and unexplained delay," Justice Patel said.
The famous dialogue 'tareekh pe tareekh' from Bollywood movie 'Damini' starring Sunny Deol has virtually become synonymous with the plight of litigants who have to wait for years and even decades for justice due to frequent delays in the judicial process.
Computing the delay from November 25, 2016 till date, the court said this was a period of around 450 days.
"Computed at Rs 1000 per day for each day's delay for 450 days, the costs work out to Rs 4,50,000. This amount of Rs 4,50,000 will be paid to the first defendant as costs by 7th March 2018," the court said.
The court added that fixing random figures like Rs 5,000 or Rs 25,000 was counter-productive as parties think such costs are negligible.
"The costs must be real. They must be sufficient to convey the message that non-compliance with our orders brings consequences; that these consequences are inevitable and unavoidable," Justice Patel said.
He refused to accept the contention of the plaintiff's lawyer that it was a charitable trust and that the suit pertained to land for educational purposes.
"This is even more shocking. That a trust should be so utterly negligent about its own case is reason enough to warrant immediate action against the trustees and have every one of them removed. A public trust has a higher duty of care, not a lower one," the court said.
"We will make exceptions for the poor, the illiterate, the helpless. They will receive our protection. But educated trustees charged with a solemn fiduciary duty will not get a free pass only because they claim to espouse some worthy cause," Justice Patel noted.