Colossal Harm by rolling out of 5G Technology: Delhi HC dismisses suit for defective plaint, filed for gaining publicity; Imposes costs of Rs 20 lakhs

Delhi High Court: J.R. Midha, J., dismisses the suit filed regarding the rollout of 5G technology on observing that the suit was filed with the motive of gaining publicity and also the Court reasoned out various defects in the plaint.

I.A. No. 6905/2021 under Section 149 of CPC

Plaintiffs submitted that if the justice dispensation system requires 15-20 years for settlement of a suit, Court has lost the moral as well as legal right to require the Court fees to be paid upfront at the beginning of the suit.

Plaintiffs sought time to pay the Court fees under Section 149 read with Section 148 CPC because of COVID-19 constraints.

Court while allowing the above application and granting deferment for whatever period of time this Court deemed it fit that the quantum of Court fees as yet to be decided by this Court, thereby allowing fair opportunity to plaintiffs.

Findings

Plaintiffs valued the suit for purpose of jurisdiction at Rs 2 crore.

Law is well-settled that the valuation of the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction and Court fees has to be same.  

Section 149 of Code of Civil Procedure empowers this Court to extend the time to pay the deficient Court-fees. However, the challenge sought by the plaintiffs into the validity of the Court fees Act is not permissible under Section 149 CPC. Therefore, no case for determination of the Court fees was made out.

Bench held that the application was misconceived, frivolous and unsustainable. The law with respect to valuation and computation of Court-fees is well settled. However, the plaintiffs have taken a stand not to pay the Court-fees in utter disregard of well-settled law.

I.A. No. 6909/2021 under Section 80(2) of CPC

Plaintiffs sought dispensation from issuing notice to the State entities under Section 80(1) of CPC on the ground that same was an empty formality.

Plaintiff submitted that since the 5G roll out has not actually happened, though – equally damaging – trials involving the human population have started (which is not the same as doing trials on pigs and/ or rats, and/or in an empty Thar Desert, or on the employees of the private defendants) – so that not even one single human life is lost by these trials, the plaintiffs are agreeable if this Court, while waiving the requirement of Section 80(1) of the CPC, grants a fair opportunity to the State Defendants to show cause as to why no interim relief be granted.

Findings

It was stated that serving notice under Section 80(1) CPC to the Government is mandatory before institution of the suit against the Government.

In the Supreme Court decision of State of Andhra Pradesh v. Gundugola Venkata Suryanarayana Garu, AIR 1965 SC 11, wherein it was observed that the object of the notice under Section 80(1) CPC is to give an opportunity to the Government to reconsider the matter and to make amends and settle the claim out of Court. The Supreme Court further observed that failure to serve a notice complying with the requirements of the statute will entail dismissal of the suit

In the State of A.P. v. Pioneer Builders, A.P., (2006) 12 SCC 119, the Supreme Court held that service of notice under Section 80 is a condition precedent for the institution of a suit against the Government. The Supreme Court further observed that the object of Section 80 is the advancement of justice for securing public good by avoidance of unnecessary litigation.

Another, Supreme Court decision in State of Kerala v. Sudhir Kumar Sharma, (2013) 10 SCC 178, the Supreme Court observed that a suit filed without compliance of Section 80(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure cannot be regularized by simply filing an application under Section 80(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure

In view of the above discussion, it was held that notice under Section 80(1) is an empty formality that is contrary to the well-settled law and hence rejected.

I.A. No. 7001/2021 under Section 91(1)(b) of CPC

Plaintiff sought leave to institute the suit stating that the matter concerned public health and EMF radiation caused by cellular telecommunication technology must have caused harm to many members of general public.

I.A. No. 7002/2021 under Order VIII Rule 1 of CPC

Further, the plaintiff sought leave to sue on the ground that colossal harm is eminent to general public by the rollout of 5G Technology and the suit involved issues regarding the public health of the present as well as future generations.

Findings

Court found the plaintiff’s suit defective and not maintainable for the following reasons:

  • Order VI Rule 2(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure: Plaintiffs did not comply the said provision by not filing the statement in concise form and also by incorporating the evidence in the plaint.
  • Plaintiffs did not comply with Order VI Rule 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure and reproduced the documents in the plaint which was not supposed to be done.
  • Plaint stuffed with unnecessary scandalous frivolous and vexatious averments that are liable to be struck down under Order VI Rule 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
  • No compliance of Order I Rule 3 of CPC in joining 33 defendants in the suit.
  • Plaint not verified under Order VI Rule 5 of the CPC.
  • Plaintiffs have no personal knowledge of the averments made in the plaint and the suit is solely based upon information and legal advice.
  • Plaintiffs never approached the defendants claiming any right, hence maintainability of declaratory reliefs was doubtful.
  • The twin requirements of Section 39 of Specific Relief Act are the existence of an obligation of the defendant towards the plaintiff and the breach thereof by the defendant. Both these requirements are not fulfilled.
  • Suit has not been valued properly for the purpose of Court fees.
  • No mandatory notice given under Section 80(1) of CPC.

Bench also remarked that the observation of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in one of the cases that: This is a classic textbook case of, how not to draft a plaint, which should be taught in law colleges and to young lawyers so that such bloopers in drafting of pleadings, damaging to one’s own client, are avoided.’ is fully applicable in the present matter

Conclusion

High Court concluded stating that the plaintiffs abused and misused the process of law which resulted in a waste of judicial time. Hence, Rs 20 lakhs as costs were imposed on the plaintiffs.

Plaintiffs filed the suit only to gain publicity which was evident from the fact that plaintiff 1 circulated the video conferencing link of the Court on her social media accounts which resulted in disruption of Court proceedings.

“Court proceedings were disrupted thrice by the unknown miscreants who continued the disruptions despite repeated warnings.”

Court issued notice to such miscreants and listed matter for reporting compliance on 05-07-2021.[Juhi Chawla v. Science and Engineering Research Board,  2021 SCC OnLine Del 3030, decided on 04-06-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For the plaintiffs:

Deepak Khosla, Advocate along with Juhi Chawla Mehta, plaintiff 1 and Veeresh Malik, plaintiff 2.

For the Defendants:

Tushar Mehta, SGI with Amit Mahajan CGSC, Kanu Aggarwal and Dhruv Pande, Advocates for D-2/DoT/UOI

Anurag Ahluwalia, CGSC with Abhigayn Siddhant and Nitnem Singh Ghuman, Advocates for D-7/Indian Council of Medical Research

Arjun Mitra, Advocate for D-23/Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology Delhi

Kapil Sibal, Senior Advocate with Manjul Bajpai and Shashwat Bajpai, Advocates for D-25, D-26, D-27 and D-29/Cellular Operators Association of India.

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