no relief to people who come to courts with unclean hands : Supreme Court 2009

Dalip Singh …Appellant
State of U.P. and others …Respondents
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 justice delivery system
which was in vogue in 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. 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.
2. In Hari Narain v. Badri Das AIR 1963 SC 1558, this Court
adverted to the aforesaid rule and revoked the leave granted to the
appellant by making the following observations:
“It is of utmost importance that in making material
statements and setting forth grounds in applications for
special leave made under Article 136 of the Constitution, care
must be taken not to make any statements which are
inaccurate, untrue and misleading. In dealing with
applications for special leave, the Court naturally takes
statements of fact and grounds of fact contained in the
petitions at their face value and it would be unfair to
betray the confidence of the Court by making statements
which are untrue and misleading. Thus, if at the hearing of
the appeal the Supreme Court is satisfied that the material
statements made by the appellant in his application for special
leave are inaccurate and misleading, and the respondent is
entitled to contend that the appellant may have obtained
special leave from the Supreme Court on the strength of what
he characterizes as misrepresentations of facts contained in
the petition for special leave, the Supreme Court may come to
the conclusion that in such a case special leave granted to the
appellant ought to be revoked.”
3. In Welcome Hotel and others v. State of Andhra Pradesh and
others etc. AIR 1983 SC 1015, the Court held that a party which has
misled the Court in passing an order in its favour is not entitled to be
heard on the merits of the case.
4. In G. Narayanaswamy Reddy and others v. Governor of
Karnataka and another AIR 1991 SC 1726, the Court denied relief to
the appellant who had concealed the fact that the award was not made by
the Land Acquisition Officer within the time specified in Section 11-A of the
Land Acquisition Act because of the stay order passed by the High Court.
While dismissing the special leave petition, the Court observed:
“Curiously enough, there is no reference in the Special Leave
Petitions to any of the stay orders and we came to know
about these orders only when the respondents appeared in
response to the notice and filed their counter affidavit. In our
view, the said interim orders have a direct bearing on the
question raised and the non-disclosure of the same certainly
amounts to suppression of material facts. On this ground
alone, the Special Leave Petitions are liable to be rejected. It
is well settled in law that the relief under Article 136 of the
Constitution is discretionary and a petitioner who approaches
this Court for such relief must come with frank and full
disclosure of facts. If he fails to do so and suppresses
material facts, his application is liable to be dismissed. We
accordingly dismiss the Special Leave Petitions.”
5. In S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu (dead) by L.Rs. v. Jagannath
(dead) by L.Rs. and others JT 1993 (6) SC 331, the Court held that
where a preliminary decree was obtained by withholding an important
document from the court, the party concerned deserves to be thrown out
at any stage of the litigation.
6. In Prestige Lights Ltd. V. State Bank of India (2007) 8 SCC
449, it was held that in exercising power under Article 226 of the
Constitution of India the High Court is not just a court of law, but is also a
court of equity and a person who invokes the High Court’s jurisdiction
under article 226 of the Constitution is duty bound to place all the facts
before the court without any reservation. If there is suppression of
material facts or twisted facts have been placed before the High Court
then it will be fully justified in refusing to entertain petition filed under
Article 226 of the Constitution. This Court referred to the judgment of
Scrutton, L.J. in R v Kensington Income Tax Commissioners (1917) 1
K.B. 486, and observed:
“In exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the
Constitution, the High Court will always keep in mind the
conduct of the party who is invoking such jurisdiction. If the
applicant does not disclose full facts or suppresses relevant
materials or is otherwise guilty of misleading the Court, then
the Court may dismiss the action without adjudicating the
matter on merits. The rule has been evolved in larger public
interest to deter unscrupulous litigants from abusing the
process of Court by deceiving it. The very basis of the writ
jurisdiction rests in disclosure of true, complete and correct
facts. If the material facts are not candidly stated or are
suppressed or are distorted, the very functioning of the writ
courts would become impossible.”
7. In A.V. Papayya Sastry and others v. Government of A.P. and
others, AIR 2007 SC 1546, the Court held that Article 136 does not confer
a right of appeal on any party. It confers discretion on this Court to grant
leave to appeal in appropriate cases. In other words, the Constitution has
not made the Supreme Court a regular Court of Appeal or a Court of Error.
This Court only intervenes where justice, equity and good conscience
require such intervention.
8. In Sunil Poddar & Ors. v Union Bank of India (2008) 2 326, the
Court held that while exercising discretionary and equitable jurisdiction
under Article 136 of the Constitution, the facts and circumstances of the
case should be seen in their entirety to find out if there is miscarriage of
justice. If the appellant has not come forward with clean hands, has not
candidly disclosed all the facts that he is aware of and he intends to delay
the proceedings, then the Court will non-suit him on the ground of
contumacious conduct.
9. In K.D. Sharma v. Steel Authority of India Ltd. and others
(2008) 12 SCC 481, the court held that the jurisdiction of the Supreme
Court under Article 32 and of the High Court under Article 226 of the
Constitution is extraordinary, equitable and discretionary and it is
imperative that the petitioner approaching the Writ Court must come with
clean hands and put forward all the facts before the Court without
concealing or suppressing anything and seek an appropriate relief. If
there is no candid disclosure of relevant and material facts or the
petitioner is guilty of misleading the Court, his petition may be dismissed
at the threshold without considering the merits of the claim. The same
rule was reiterated in G. Jayshree and others v. Bhagwandas S. Patel
and others (2009) 3 SCC 141.
10. This appeal, which is directed against order dated 21.5.2001 passed
by the Allahabad High Court is illustrative of how unscrupulous litigants
can mislead the authorities entrusted with the task of implementing the
provisions of U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960 (for
short, “the Act”) and the courts for retaining possession of the surplus
land. The tenure-holder – Praveen Singh did not file statement in terms of
Section 9(2-A) of the Act in respect of his holding as on 24.1.1971. After
about four years, the Prescribed Authority issued notice dated 29.11.1975
under Section 10(2) of the Act and called upon Shri Praveen Singh to show
cause as to why the statement prepared under Section 10(1) of the Act
may not be taken as correct and his land may not be declared surplus
accordingly. A copy of the statement was sent to Shri Praveen Singh
along with the notice in C.L.H. Form No.4. For the sake of convenient
reference, the notice is reproduced below:
“C.L.H. FORM NO. 4
(See Rule 8)
(Form of Notice under Section 10(2) of the imposition of
Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1961)
Name of tenure-holder Sri Praveen Singh
With parentage s/o. Shri Raghubir Singh and
Address r/o Village Tisotara, P.O. Khas, Pargana
Kirat Pur, Tehsil Najibabad, District Bijnor.
Whereas you have failed to submit a statement/have
furnished incomplete/incorrect statement in respect of all your
holdings in the State of Uttar Pradesh including holdings of
your family members with all the required particulars within
the time mentioned in the notice in C.L.H. Form 1, published
under Section 9;
And whereas the statement of all holdings held by you
in the State on 8th June, 1973, statement showing proposed
ceiling area applicable to you and the proposed surplus land
have been prepared under sub-section (1) of Section 10, they
are sent to you herewith and you are hereby called upon to
show cause within a period of 15 days from the date of
service of this notice, why the said statement be not taken as
On your failure to dispute the correctness of the
statements in any court, within the time allowed, the
aforesaid statement shall be treated as final and ceiling area
applicable to you and the surplus land shall be determined
Given under my hand and seal of the Court this day of
Signature of the Prescribed Authority of the Sub-
Division Prescribed Authority
Tehsil Najibabad.”
11. The notice was delivered to Shri Praveen Singh on 3.12.1975, but he
neither filed any objection to the proposed determination of his surplus
land nor sought extension of time for the said purpose. After service of
notice, the Prescribed Authority adjourned the case on 10.12.1975 and
again on 19.12.1975 apparently with the hope that the tenure-holder may
file objection to the statement prepared under Section 10(1). This is
evident from the proceeding sheets of the two dates, which are
reproduced below:
Proceedings dated 10.12.1975
10.12.1965 File received after service of notice on the
tenure-holder on 3.12.1975.
It is ordered that the file be put up on
19.12.1975 after receipt of objections.
Prescribed Authority
Proceedings dated 19.12.1975
19.12.1975 File put up. The tenure-holder has not filed
any objection despite service.
It is ordered that the file be put up for exparte
orders on 27.12.1975.
Prescribed Authority”
12. On 27.12.1975, the Prescribed Authority noted that Shri Praveen
Singh has not filed any objection and declared that 18.22 acres of irrigated
land was surplus in the hands of the tenure-holder. After six months and
twelve days, Shri Praveen Singh submitted an application dated 8.7.1976
along with what was termed as an affidavit before the Prescribed Authority
and prayed that ex parte order dated 27.12.1975 may be set aside and he
may be given opportunity to file objections and tender evidence. The
Prescribed Authority rejected the application on the same day i.e. 8.7.1976
by observing that no valid ground has been made out for reconsidering the
matter after six months. The appeal preferred by Shri Praveen Singh
against the order of the Prescribed Authority was dismissed by Additional
Commissioner (Judicial), Allahabad (Appellate Authority) in default because
no one appeared on the date of hearing. The restoration application filed
by Shri Praveen Singh was dismissed on 27.8.1980. He then challenged
the orders of the Prescribed Authority and Appellate Authority in Writ
Petition No. 8342/1980, which was allowed by the High Court and the
matter was remitted to the Appellate Authority with a direction to decide
the application of Shri Praveen Singh afresh in accordance with law.
13. In compliance of the direction given by the High Court, the Appellate
Authority reconsidered the appeal of Shri Praveen Singh but dismissed the
same on the ground that the tenure-holder had not filed an application
under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condonation of the delay and
even in the application filed for setting aside the ex parte order, no cause
was shown for the delay. The Appellate Authority also observed that the
tenure-holder had not denied receipt of notice dated 29.11.1975 issued
under Section 10(2) of the Act, but did not file any objection till the
passing of ex parte order on 27.12.1975 and that his assertion of having
come to know of the ex parte order from Lekhpal Halqa on 7.7.1976 is not
believable. It appears that after remand of the matter by the High Court,
Shri Praveen Singh died and, therefore, his legal representatives (including
the appellant herein) were substituted in his place.
14. The legal representatives of Shri Praveen Singh jointly filed Civil
Miscellaneous Writ Petition No. 22790/1990 and prayed for quashing of
orders dated 27.12.1975, 8.7.1976, 7.8.1990 passed by the Prescribed
Authority and the Appellate Authority respectively. They also prayed for
issue of a direction to the Appellate Authority to remand the case to the
Prescribed Authority for entertaining their objections. In paragraph 3 of
the writ petition, the following statement was made:
“That the petitioner’s late father, against whom the
proceedings had been initiated under Section 10(2) of the
Ceiling Act, filed application on 8.7.1976 supported by an
affidavit stating therein clearly that he was seriously ill for
about ten months as such he was not in a position to file
objection, and as a matter of fact he did not have any
knowledge of the date of the proceedings that were being
conducted before the prescribed authority. True copy of
the application dated 8.7.1976 of petitioners’ late father is
annexed herewith as Annexure 2. True copy of the
affidavit filed in support of the application dated 8.7.1976
of the petitioners’ father is annexed herewith as annexure
(Emphasis added)
15. By an order dated 7.9.1990, the learned Single Judge of the
Allahabad High Court stayed the operation of the orders passed by the
Prescribed Authority and the Appellate Authority. The interim order
remained operative till 21.5.2001 that is the date on which the writ
petition was finally dismissed and during the interregnum the appellant
continued to enjoy the property.
16. In the special leave petition filed against the order of the High Court,
notice was issued on 12.10.2001, but the appellants prayer for stay was
declined. Thereafter, the surplus land of the tenure-holder was distributed
among the landless persons who were joined as parties pursuant to order
dated 27.3.2006 passed in I.A. No. 9/2004.
17. After service of notice, respondent Nos. 1 to 3 filed counter in the
form of an affidavit of Shri Pradip Kumar Singh, Additional Tehsildar,
District Bijnor, U.P. In his affidavit, Shri Pradip Kumar gave details of the
steps taken by the Prescribed Authority in terms of Section 10(1) and
10(2) of the Act and made a categorical assertion that notice issued on
29.11.1975 was duly served upon Shri Praveen Singh on 3.12.1975. This
is evident from paragraphs 4(iv) and (v) of the counter affidavit read as
“(iv) That the averments of facts made in the list of dates
against date 7.7.1976 are not admitted being incorrect. The
notice in CLH Form No. 4 having been served on the tenureholder
on 3.12.1975, it was for him to have filed his objection.
It was for the tenure-holder to have managed his affairs. It is
not for a Court or an Authority to communicate to the tenureholder
each and every order passed by it once service of the
notice is complete, the Act does not require that each and
every date of proceedings and the copy or information about
the final order ex parte or otherwise be served on him. The
tenure-holder avoided to file his objections since he had none.
The statement of surplus land is prepared by the revenue
authorities in accordance with the provisions of the Act which
is prepared on the basis of revenue records of land held by a
tenure-holder in his name and there is `Presumption of
correctness of the revenue record.’
(v) That the averments of fact in list of date against date
8.7.1976 are not admitted as stated. It is submitted that an
application dated 8.7.1976 filed by the tenure-holder did not
dispute service of notice in CLH Form No. 4 dated 29.11.1975.
The application was of a general nature. If a tenure-holder
having been asked to file objections within 15 days of the
date of service of him `chooses not to do so’, would proceed
to a presumption that he has nothing to say. Section 11 o the
Act provides that where a tenure-holder chooses not to
dispute and not to file any objection to the statement
prepared by the Prescribed Authority under Section 10 of the
Act within the stipulated period, the Prescribed Authority
`shall’ accordingly determine the surplus land of the tenureholder.
Sub-section (2) of Section 11 of the Act further
provides that where an application is made by a tenure-holder
within thirty days of the date of an order under sub-section
(11) of the Act, that being a statutory duly cast on the
Prescribed Authority. In the present case the Prescribed
Authority after passing order dated 27.12.1975 fixed the next
date as 27.1.1976 i.e. after 30 days and it is only on
27.1.1976 that the Prescribed Authority sent notification
regarding publication of surplus land in official Gazette which
was so published on 5.6.1976.”
18. Shri Sunil Kumar Singh, son of the appellant Dalip Singh and
grandson of late Shri Praveen Singh filed rejoinder affidavit dated 18th
February, 2002. In paragraph 3 of the rejoinder affidavit Shri Sunil Kumar
Singh made the following statement :-
“That it is denied categorically that the father of the
petitioner had ever received the notice dated 29.11.1975
along with the statement of surplus land, prepared under
section 10(1) of the Act. It is humbly stated that father
of the petitioner could not file any show cause without
going through the above referred statement prepared
under Section 10(1) of the Act.”
19. We have heard learned counsel for the parties and scrutinized the
record. In our opinion, the appeal is liable to be dismissed only on the
ground that the tenure-holder Shri Praveen Singh did not state correct
facts in the application filed by him on 8.7.1976 before the Prescribed
Authority for setting aside the ex parte order and the appellant did not
approach the High Court with clean hands inasmuch as, by making a
misleading statement in paragraph 3 of the writ petition, an impression
was created that the tenure-holder did not know of the proceedings
initiated by the Prescribed Authority. By making the said statement, the
appellant succeeded in persuading the High Court to pass an interim order
which resulted in frustrating the efforts made by the concerned authority
to distribute the surplus land among landless persons. Even before this
Court, a patently false statement has been made in the rejoinder affidavit
on the issue of receipt of notice dated 29.11.1975 by Shri Praveen Singh.
20. A perusal of application dated 8.7.1976 submitted by Shri Praveen
Singh for setting aside ex parte order dated 27.12.1975 passed by the
Prescribed Authority makes it clear that he had pleaded his continuous
illness for ten months as the cause for his inability to file objection. In
paragraph 2 of the application, Shri Praveen Singh made a suggestive
assertion that he had no knowledge of the proceedings initiated by the
Prescribed Authority and he came to know about the case having been
decided ex parte only on 7.7.1976 when he went to Lekhpal to procure
memo. There was not even a whisper in the application that notice dated
29.11.1975 issued by the Prescribed Authority under Section 10(2) of the
Act had not been served upon him and on that account he could not file
objections within 15 days. The application filed by Shri Praveen Singh was
not supported by any medical certificate or other evidence which could
prima facie establish that he was really sick for ten months. This is the
reason why the Prescribed Authority refused to reconsider order dated
27.11.1975 and the Appellate Authority declined to entertain his prayer for
remand of the case to the Prescribed Authority for the purpose of fresh
determination of surplus area case. Notwithstanding this, in the writ
petition filed before the High Court a misleading statement was made that
due to serious illness, Shri Praveen Singh could not file objection and, as a
matter of fact, he did not have any knowledge of the dates of proceedings
which were conducted by the Prescribed Authority. In view of that
statement, the learned Single Judge of the High Court felt persuaded to
stay the orders passed by the Prescribed Authority and Appellate Authority
which, as mentioned above, resulted in frustration of the action to be
taken by the concerned authority for distribution of the surplus land to
landless persons for a good period of more than eleven years and enabled
the heirs of Shri Praveen Singh to retain possession of the surplus land
and enjoy the same. Before the High Court also, no evidence was
produced in support of the assertion regarding serious illness of Shri
Praveen Singh. Insofar as this Court is concerned, Shri Sunil Kumar Singh,
grandson of Shri Praveen Singh and son of the appellant, boldly made a
false statement that his grandfather did not receive notice dated
29.11.1975 along with the statement of surplus land prepared under
Section 10(1) and he could not file any show cause without going through
the statement. We are amazed at the degree of audacity with which Shri
Sunil Kumar Singh could make a patently false statement on oath.
21. From what we have mentioned above, it is clear that in this case
efforts to mislead the authorities and the courts have transmitted through
three generations and the conduct of the appellant and his son to mislead
the High Court and this Court cannot, but be treated as reprehensible.
They belong to the category of persons who not only attempt, but succeed
in polluting the course of justice. Therefore, we do not find any
justification to interfere with the order under challenge or entertain the
appellant’s prayer for setting aside the orders passed by the Prescribed
Authority and the Appellate Authority.
22. In the result, the appeal is dismissed. We would have saddled the
appellants with exemplary costs but, keeping in view the fact that
possession of the surplus land was taken in 2002 and the same has been
distributed among landless poor persons, we refrain from doing so.
[G.S. Singhvi]
[Asok Kumar Ganguly]
New Delhi
December 3, 2009