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Civil courts’ failure to rein in unscrupulous litigants has caused lakhs of house owners not to rent out their premises for fear that tenants would not vacate these and resort to law suits, the Supreme Court has said.‘It is a matter of common knowledge that lakhs of flats and houses are kept locked for years, particularly in big cities and metropolitan cities, because the owners are not certain that even after expiry of lease or licence period, the house, flat or the apartment would be vacated,’ said the apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma in a judgment delivered eaerlier in the week.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Bhandari said: ‘It takes decades for the final determination of the controversy and the wrongdoers (unscrupulous litigants) are never punished. Pragmatic approach of the courts would partly solve the housing problem of this country.’The court made the observation while dismissing an appeal by Rameshwari Devi and others staking claim over the property of Nirmala Devi and others of a colony in south Delhi. Describing the appellant as ‘unscrupulous litigants’, the court imposed a cost of Rs.2 lakh on them.This was the second round of litigation as in the first round the court decided the case against the appellants.

The court said the situation has come to such a pass because going by cost (risk)-benefit ratio, a person engaged in frivolous litigation finds it profitable in procrastinating the litigation.

The deceitful acts of such litigants get aided by the reluctance of the courts to ‘order restitution and actual costs incurred by the other side’, the apex court observed.‘Unfortunately, our courts are flooded with these cases because there is an inherent profit for the wrongdoers in our system,’ the judgment said.

The judgment said: ‘It is happening because it is the general impression that even if ultimately an unauthorised person is thrown out of the premises, the court would not ordinarily punish the unauthorised person by awarding realistic and actual mesne (average) profits, imposing costs and ordering prosecution.’

Asking the civil courts not to grant ex-parte injunctions without hearing the other side, the judgment said that even if injunction had to be granted, it should be time-bound and for a short period.The apex court issued 10 commandants that the trial courts in civil matters must follow, both in letter and spirit, in dealing with such cases.

‘In our considered opinion the existing system can be drastically changed or improved’ if the suggested steps are followed in civil courts, the judgment said.It said that the imposition of ‘actual, realistic or proper cost and ordering prosecution would go a long way in controlling the tendency of introducing false pleadings and forged and fabricated documents by the litigants’ and thus save the ‘scarce and valuable time’ of the court.

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