The Karnataka High Court has imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on not for profit company-India Awake for Transparency, for filing multiple petitions on the very same cause of action, seeking to register a case against founder Chairman of Wipro Company, Azim Premji and others.
The Court noted that petitioner had filed multiple writ petitions in the High Court seeking criminal actions over allegations of financial irregularities in companies run by Azim Premji. Despite the dismissal of those petitions, the petitioner filed a fresh writ petition with similar allegations in substance.
A single bench of Justice PS Dinesh Kumar observed "Though the dates of complaint are different, the subject matter is again the same i.e., transactions involving three Companies namely Vidya Investment and Trading Company Pvt. Ltd., Regal Investment and Trading Company Pvt. Ltd. and Napean Trading and Investment Company Pvt. Ltd."
Following which the bench opined "There remains no doubt that petitioner is indulging in forum shopping on the very same cause of action. As held in Udyami2, this amounts to criminal contempt as the core issue in all these writ petitions is one and the same." It added "In the result, this writ petition is not only devoid of merits, but an absolute abuse of process of law."
The bench said "This writ petition is not only devoid of merits, but an absolute abuse of process of law. Though petitioner was forewarned, he chose to argue this writ petition as a stand-alone petition wasting the valuable time of this Court to deal with such frivolous cases. Therefore, imposition of punitive cost is necessary."
Accordingly, the court imposed a cost of Rs 10 lakh on the petitioner, which is payable to the Registrar General, High Court of Karnataka, Bengaluru within four weeks. The Registry is directed to report compliance after expiry of four weeks.
It was also said that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs against whom a direction is sought in this writ petition was arrayed as respondent No. 2 in the said PIL. Petitioner has unconditionally withdrawn the PIL. Thereafter, it has filed five separate writ petitions against various statutory authorities. W.P. No. 13838/2020 is against SEBI, W.P. No.12073/2020 is against the Enforcement Directorate, W.P. No.11482/2020 is against the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). All three writ petitions have been dismissed.
It was also contended that "This writ petition is directed against the Ministry of Corporate Affairs which was second respondent in the PIL. In view of unconditional withdrawal of the PIL, this petition is not maintainable and liable to be dismissed."
Advocate R Subramanian, appearing for the petitioner, opposed the preliminary objection raised by the respondents stating that the relief sought in the PIL and in this writ petition are not one and the same. If a petitioner seeks different relief on the same cause of action, the doctrine of res judicata does not apply. Further, It was said that "What was under consideration before the Division Bench while hearing the PIL was, maintainability of PIL at the instance of the petitioner. Petitioner withdrew the writ petition as a PIL was not maintainable and thereafter filed independent writ petitions against different respondents.
Finally he argued that the PIL was withdrawn as there was a formal defect which had rendered the writ petition incompetent. Therefore, the petitioner cannot be barred from agitating his cause in this writ petition.
Firstly, the court noted that the very same Bench has dismissed W.Ps. No.13838/2020 (India Awake for Transparency Vs. The Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India and others decided on January 8, 2021) and W.P. No.12073/2020 (India Awake for Transparency Vs. The Director, Directorate of Enforcement and others decided on January 21, 2021). A coordinate Bench of this Court has dismissed W.P. No.11482/2020 (India Awake for Transparency V/s. Reserve Bank of India and others decided on January 18, 2020). In all these three cases, this Court has followed the principle laid down in Sarguja Transport Service Vs. State Transport Appellate Tribunal, M.P.Gwalior and others.
Further the court observed that that petitioner's complaint dated March 14, 2017 upon which petitioner has relied is common in the PIL filed before the Delhi High Court and this writ petition.
The court also noted that in W.P. No.3635/2020 (India Awake for Transparency Vs. Union of India and others), the PIL filed in this Court, petitioner has sought directions against the respondents therein based on his representation/complaints dated January 30, 2020 and February 3, 2020.
Case Title: INDIA AWAKE FOR TRANSPARENCY And UNION OF INDIA
Case No: WRIT PETITION No.172 OF 2021 (GM-RES)
Date of Order: 12TH DAY OF FEBRUARY, 2021
Coram: Justice P S Dinesh Kumar
Appearance: Advocate R. SUBRAMANIAN for petitioner
Senior Advocate S. GANESH, Senior Advocate C.V. NAGESH a/w Advocate SANDEEP HUILGOL, FOR R5