Truth is the foundation of justice. It must be the endeavour of all the judicial officers and judges to ascertain truth in every matter and no stone should be left unturned in achieving this object.Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes v. Erasmo Jack de Sequeria, (2012) 5 SCC 370
In A.V. Papayya Sastry v. Government of A.P., (2007) 4 SCC 221, the Supreme Court held that a judgment obtained by playing fraud on the Court is a nullity. The relevant portion is as under:-
―21. Now, it is well-settled principle of law that if any judgment or order is obtained by fraud, it cannot be said to be a judgment or order in law. Before three centuries, Chief Justice Edward Coke proclaimed:
―Fraud avoids all judicial acts, ecclesiastical or temporal.‖
It is thus settled proposition of law that a judgment, decree or order obtained by playing fraud on the court, tribunal or authority is a nullity and non est in the eye of the law. Such a judgment, decree or order–by the first court or by the final court–has to be treated as nullity by every court, superior or inferior. It can be challenged in any court, at any time, in appeal, revision, writ or even in collateral proceedings.
In the leading case of Lazarus Estates Ltd. v. Beasley [(1956) 1 All ER 341 : (1956) 1 QB 702 : (1956) 2 WLR 502 (CA)] Lord Denning observed: (All ER p. 345 C) ―No judgment of a court, no order of a Minister, can be allowed to stand if it has been obtained by fraud.‖
In Duchess of Kingstone, Smith’s Leading Cases, 13th Edn., p. 644, explaining the nature of fraud, de Grey, C.J. stated that though a judgment would be res judicata and not impeachable from within, it might be impeachable from without. In other words, though it is not permissible to show that the court was ―mistaken‖, it might be shown that it was ―misled‖.
There is an essential distinction between mistake and trickery. The clear implication of the distinction is that an action to set aside a judgment cannot be brought on the ground that it has been decided wrongly, namely, that on the merits, the decision was one which should not have been rendered, but it can be set aside, if the court was imposed upon or tricked into giving the judgment.
It has been said: fraud and justice never dwell together (fraus et jus nunquam cohabitant); or fraud and deceit ought to benefit none (fraus et dolus nemini patrocinari debent).
Fraud may be defined as an act of deliberate deception with the design of securing some unfair or undeserved benefit by taking undue advantage of another. In fraud one gains at the loss of another. Even most solemn proceedings stand vitiated if they are actuated by fraud. Fraud is thus an extrinsic collateral act which vitiates all judicial acts, whether in rem or in personam. The principle of ―finality of litigation‖ cannot be stretched to the extent of an absurdity that it can be utilised as an engine of oppression by dishonest and fraudulent litigants.
In S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu v. Jagannath [(1994) 1 SCC 1] this Court had an occasion to consider the doctrine of fraud and the effect thereof on the judgment obtained by a party. In that case, one A by a registered deed, relinquished all his rights in the suit property in favour of C who sold the property to B. Without disclosing that fact, A filed a suit for possession against B and obtained preliminary decree. During the pendency of an application for final decree, B came to know about the fact of release deed by A in favour of C. He, therefore, contended that the decree was obtained by playing fraud on the court and was a nullity. The trial court upheld the contention and dismissed the application. The High Court, however, set aside the order of the trial court, observing that ―there is no legal duty cast upon the plaintiff to come to court with a true case and prove it by true evidence‖. B approached this Court.Allowing the appeal, setting aside the judgment of the High Court and describing the observations of the High Court as ―wholly perverse‖, Kuldip Singh, J. stated: (SCC p. 5, para 5) ―The courts of law are meant for imparting justice between the parties. One who comes to the court, must come with clean hands. We are constrained to say that more often than not, process of the court is being abused. Property grabbers, tax-evaders, bank-loan-dodgers and other unscrupulous persons from all walks of life find the court process a convenient lever to retain the illegal gains indefinitely. We have no hesitation to say that a person, whose case is based on falsehood, has no right to approach the court. He can be summarily thrown out at any stage of the litigation.‖
The Court proceeded to state: (SCC p. 5, para 6) ―A litigant, who approaches the court, is bound to produce all the documents executed by him which are relevant to the litigation. If he withholds a vital document in order to gain advantage on the other side then he would be guilty of playing fraud on the court as well as on the opposite party.‖
30. The Court concluded: (SCC p. 5, para 5) ―The principle of ‗finality of litigation’ cannot be pressed to the extent of such an absurdity that it becomes an engine of fraud in the hands of dishonest litigants.‖ XXX XXX XXX
39. …Once it is established that the order was obtained by a successful party by practising or playing fraud, it is vitiated.
Such order cannot be held legal, valid or in consonance with law. It is non-existent and non est and cannot be allowed to stand. This is the fundamental principle of law and needs no further elaboration. Therefore, it has been said that a judgment, decree or order obtained by fraud has to be treated as a nullity, whether by the court of first instance or by the final court. And it has to be treated as non est by every court, superior or inferior.‖ (Emphasis supplied)
Truth should be the Guiding Star in the entire Judicial Process. It is the duty of the Court to ascertain the truth. Truth is the foundation of justice. Dispensation of justice, based on truth, is an essential feature in the justice delivery system. People would have faith in Courts when truth alone triumphs. The justice based on truth would establish peace in the society.
Krishna Iyer J. in Jasraj Inder Singh v. Hemraj Multanchand, (1977) 2 SCC 155 described truth and justice as under:
―8. …Truth, like song, is whole, and half-truth can be noise! Justice is truth, is beauty and the strategy of healing injustice is discovery of the whole truth and harmonising human relations. Law’s finest hour is not in meditating on abstractions but in being the delivery agent of full fairness. This divagation is justified by the need to remind ourselves that the grammar of justice according to law is not little litigative solution of isolated problems but resolving the conflict in its wider bearings.‖
In Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India, (1989) 3 SCC 38, the Supreme Court described justice and truth to mean the same. The observations of the Supreme Court are as under:
―30. …when one speaks of justice and truth, these words mean the same thing to all men whose judgment is uncommitted. Of Truth and Justice, Anatole France said :
―Truth passes within herself a penetrating force unknown alike to error and falsehood. I say truth and you must understand my meaning. For the beautiful words Truth and Justice need not be defined in order to be understood in their true sense. They bear within them a shining beauty and a heavenly light. I firmly believe in the triumph of truth and justice. That is what upholds me in times of trial….‖
In Mohanlal Shamji Soni v. Union of India, 1991 Supp (1) SCC 271, the Supreme Court observed that the presiding officer of a Court should not simply sit as a mere umpire at a contest between two parties and declare at the end of the combat who has won and who has lost and that there is a legal duty of his own, independent of the parties, to take an active role in the proceedings in finding the truth and administering justice.
In Chandra Shashi v. Anil Kumar Verma, (1995) 1 SCC 421, the Supreme Court observed that to enable the Courts to ward off unjustified interference in their working, those who indulge in immoral acts like perjury, pre-variation and motivated falsehoods have to be appropriately dealt with, without which it would not be possible for any Court to administer justice in the true sense and to the satisfaction of those who approach it in the hope that truth would ultimately prevail. People would have faith in Courts when they would find that truth alone triumphs in Courts.
In Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State of Gujarat, (2006) 3 SCC 374, the Supreme Court observed that right from the inception of the judicial system it has been accepted that discovery, vindication and establishment of truth are the main purposes underlying existence of Courts of justice.
In Himanshu Singh Sabharwal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (2008) 3 SCC 602, the Supreme Court held that the trial should be a search for the truth and not about over technicalities. The Supreme Court’s observation are as under:
―5. … 31. In 1846, in a judgment which Lord Chancellor Selborne would later describe as ‗one of the ablest judgments of one of the ablest judges who ever sat in this Court’, Vice-Chancellor Knight Bruce said [Pearse v. Pearse, (1846) 1 De G&Sm. 12 : 16 LJ Ch 153 : 63 ER 950 : 18 Digest (Repl.) 91, 748] : (De G&Sm. pp. 28-29):
―31. The discovery and vindication and establishment of truth are main purposes certainly of the existence of courts of justice; still, for the obtaining of these objects, which, however valuable and important, cannot be usefully pursued without moderation, cannot be either usefully or creditably pursued unfairly or gained by unfair means, not every channel is or ought to be open to them.
The practical inefficacy of torture is not, I suppose, the most weighty objection to that mode of examination,… Truth, like all other good things, may be loved unwisely–may be pursued too keenly–may cost too much.
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35. Courts have always been considered to have an overriding duty to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice–often referred to as the duty to vindicate and uphold the ‗majesty of the law’.
In Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes v. Erasmo Jack de Sequeria, (2012) 5 SCC 370, the Supreme Court again highlighted the significance of truth and observed that the truth should be the guiding star in the entire legal process and it is the duty of the Judge to discover truth to do complete justice. The Supreme Court stressed that Judge has to play an active role to discover the truth and he should explore all avenues open to him in order to discover the truth. The Supreme Court observed as under:
―32. In this unfortunate litigation, the Court’s serious endeavour has to be to find out where in fact the truth lies.
33. The truth should be the guiding star in the entire judicial process. Truth alone has to be the foundation of justice. The entire judicial system has been created only to discern and find out the real truth. Judges at all levels have to seriously engage themselves in the journey of discovering the truth. That is their mandate, obligation and bounden duty. Justice system will acquire credibility only when people will be convinced that justice is based on the foundation of the truth.
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35. What people expect is that the Court should discharge its obligation to find out where in fact the truth lies. Right from inception of the judicial system it has been accepted that discovery, vindication and establishment of truth are the main purposes underlying the existence of the courts of justice.
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―43. ―Satyameva Jayate‖ (literally ―truth stands invincible‖) is a mantra from the ancient scripture Mundaka Upanishad. Upon Independence of India, it was adopted as the national motto of India. It is inscribed in Devnagri script at the base of the national emblem. The meaning of the full mantra is as follows: ―Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach where that supreme treasure of truth resides.‖
51. In the administration of justice, Judges and lawyers play equal roles. Like Judges, lawyers also must ensure that truth triumphs in the administration of justice.
52. Truth is the foundation of justice. It must be the endeavour of all the judicial officers and judges to ascertain truth in every matter and no stone should be left unturned in achieving this object.‖
In S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu v. Jagannath, (1994) 1 SCC 1 the Supreme Court held that a person, who’s case is based on falsehood, has no right to approach the Court and he can be thrown out at any stage of the litigation. The Supreme Court held as under:
―5. The High Court, in our view, fell into patent error. The short question before the High Court was whether in the facts and circumstances of this case, Jagannath obtained the preliminary decree by playing fraud on the court. The High Court, however, went haywire and made observations which are wholly perverse. We do not agree with the High Court that ―there is no legal duty cast upon the plaintiff to come to court with a true case and prove it by true evidence‖. The principle of ―finality of litigation‖ cannot be pressed to the extent of such an absurdity that it becomes an engine of fraud in the hands of dishonest litigants. The courts of law are meant for imparting justice between the parties. One who comes to the court, must come with clean hands. We are constrained to say that more often than not, process of the court is being abused.
Property-grabbers, tax-evaders, bank-loan-dodgers and other unscrupulous persons from all walks of life find the court-process a convenient lever to retain the illegal gains indefinitely.
In Ramrameshwari Devi v. Nirmala Devi & Ors. (2011) 8 SCC 249, the Supreme Court considered the use of civil litigation by unscrupulous litigants to the prejudice, harassment and deprivation of the hapless other side and the necessity to put an end to such practice and observed as under:-
―43. ……..unless we ensure that wrongdoers are denied profit or undue benefit from the frivolous litigation, it would be difficult to control frivolous and uncalled for litigations. In order to curb uncalled for and frivolous litigation, the Courts have to ensure that there is no incentive or motive for uncalled for litigation. It is a matter of common experience that Court’s otherwise scarce and valuable time is consumed or more appropriately, wasted in a large number of uncalled for cases.
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47. We have to dispel the common impression that a party by obtaining an injunction based on even false averments and forged documents will tire out the true owner and ultimately the true owner will have to give up to the wrongdoer his legitimate profit. It is also a matter of common experience that to achieve clandestine objects, false pleas are often taken and forged documents are filed indiscriminately in our courts because they have hardly any apprehension of being prosecuted for perjury by the courts or even pay heavy costs. In Swaran v. State of Punjab[(2000) 5 SCC 668: 2001 SCC (Cri) 190] this Court was constrained to observe that perjury has become a way of life in our courts.‖
In Maria Margarida Sequeria Fernandes v. Erasmo Jack de Sequeria, (2012) 5 SCC 370, the Supreme Court observed that false claims and defences are serious problems.
The Supreme Court held as under: –
“False claims and defences are really serious problems with real estate litigation, predominantly because of ever escalating prices of the real estate. Litigation pertaining to valuable real estate properties is dragged on by unscrupulous litigants in the hope that the other party will tire out and ultimately would settle with them by paying a huge amount. This happens because of the enormous delay in adjudication of cases in our Courts. If pragmatic approach is adopted, then this problem can be minimized to a large extent.
In Dalip Singh v. State of U.P., (2010) 2 SCC 114, the Supreme Court observed that a new creed of litigants have cropped up in the last 40 years who do not have any respect for truth and shamelessly resort to falsehood and unethical means for achieving their goals. The observations of the Supreme Court are as under:-
―1. For many centuries, Indian society cherished two basic values of life i.e., ‘Satya’ (truth) and ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence). Mahavir, Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi guided the people to ingrain these values in their daily life. Truth constituted an integral part of the justice-delivery system which was in vogue in the pre-Independence era and the people used to feel proud to tell truth in the courts irrespective of the consequences. However, post-Independence period has seen drastic changes in our value system. The materialism has over shadowed the old ethos and the quest for personal gain has become so intense that those involved in litigation do not hesitate to take shelter of falsehood, misrepresentation and suppression of facts in the court proceedings.
2. In last 40 years, a new creed of litigants has cropped up. Those who belong to this creed do not have any respect for truth. They shamelessly resort to falsehood and unethical means for achieving their goals. In order to meet the challenge posed by this new creed of litigants, the courts have, from time to time, evolved new rules and it is now well established that a litigant, who attempts to pollute the stream of justice or who touches the pure fountain of justice with tainted hands, is not entitled to any relief, interim or final.”
In the recent case of Subrata Roy Sahara v. Union of India, (2014) 8 SCC 470, J.S. Khehar, J. observed that the Indian judicial system is grossly afflicted with frivolous litigation. Relevant portion of the said judgment is as under:
“188. The number of similar litigants, as the parties in this group of cases, is on the increase. They derive their strength from abuse of the legal process. Counsel are available, if the litigant is willing to pay their fee. Their percentage is slightly higher at the lower levels of the judicial hierarchy, and almost non-existent at the level of the Supreme Court. One wonders what is it that a Judge should be made of, to deal with such litigants who have nothing to lose. What is the level of merit, grit and composure required to stand up to the pressures of today’s litigants? What is it that is needed to bear the affront, scorn and ridicule hurled at officers presiding over courts? Surely one would need superhumans to handle the emerging pressures on the judicial system. The resultant duress is gruelling. One would hope for support for officers presiding over courts from the legal fraternity, as also, from the superior judiciary up to the highest level. Then and only then, will it be possible to maintain equilibrium essential to deal with complicated disputations which arise for determination all the time irrespective of the level and the stature of the court concerned. And also, to deal with such litigants.
191. The Indian judicial system is grossly afflicted, with frivolous litigation. Ways and means need to be evolved, to deter litigants from their compulsive obsession, towards senseless and ill-considered claims. One needs to keep in mind, that in the process of litigation, there is an innocent sufferer on the other side, of every irresponsible and senseless claim. He suffers long drawn anxious periods of nervousness and restlessness, whilst the litigation is pending, without any fault on his part. He pays for the litigation, from out of his savings (or out of his borrowings), worrying that the other side may trick him into defeat, for no fault of his. He spends invaluable time briefing counsel and preparing them for his claim. Time which he should have spent at work, or with his family, is lost, for no fault of his. Should a litigant not be compensated for, what he has lost, for no fault?…
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193. This abuse of the judicial process is not limited to any particular class of litigants. The State and its agencies litigate endlessly upto the highest Court, just because of the lack of responsibility, to take decisions. So much so, that we have started to entertain the impression, that all administrative and executive decision making, are being left to Courts, just for that reason. In private litigation as well, the concerned litigant would continue to approach the higher Court, despite the fact that he had lost in every Court hitherto before. The effort is not to discourage a litigant, in whose perception, his cause is fair and legitimate. The effort is only to introduce consequences, if the litigant’s perception was incorrect, and if his cause is found to be, not fair and legitimate, he must pay for the same. In the present setting of the adjudicatory process, a litigant, no matter how irresponsible he is, suffers no consequences. Every litigant, therefore likes to take a chance, even when counsel’s advice is otherwise.
194. Does the concerned litigant realize, that the litigant on the other side has had to defend himself, from Court to Court, and has had to incur expenses towards such defence? And there are some litigants who continue to pursue senseless and ill-considered claims, to somehow or the other, defeat the process of law. …