Himachal Pradesh High Court has made a Bilaspur resident pay IAS officer Mansi Sahay Thakur Rs 25,000 as ‘special costs’ for dragging her to ‘unnecessary’ litigation and abusing the process of court.
Thakur had filed an execution petition in the case which the high court disposed off on March 26, after Bilaspur resident Madan Lal Sharma submitted a draft of Rs 25,000 in the court.
In 2015, Thakur was DC Bilspur.
Sharma had filed appeals in three RTI applications and Thakur was the appellate authority.
On July 13, 2015, Sharma appeared before her and filed a power of attorney of his counsel to contest the RTI appeals.
He claimed that she refused to accept the power of attorney and used ‘hot, harass and insulting’ words to his counsel.
After that, the counsel left her office.
Claiming that his legal right was violated, he claimed damages of Rs 1 lakh.
He also claimed loss of reputation, unnecessary harassment and mental agonies.
He filed a suit for recovery in a lower court.
Thakur filed an application for the dismissal of the suit, but it was dismissed on September 4, 2017, she then approached the high court.
The high court not only set aside the lower court’s order, but also imposed a cost on Sharma which he was to pay to Thakur.
In the judgment, dated November 19, 2018, Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan observed that the mere non-acceptance of the power of attorney per se could not be a ground to file a suit and claim damages as Sharma, had a remedy to file an appeal before the HP State Information Commission.
He added that the action of Thakur was in a quasi-judicial capacity and she was protected not only under the Judicial Officers’ Protection Act, 1850, but even under the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985.
He commented that the sequence of events reflected that Sharma, throughout the proceedings, was trying “to browbeat, terrorise and intimidate” Thakur.
“No affront to the majesty of law can be permitted. The fountain of justice cannot be allowed to be polluted by disgruntled litigants.
The protection is necessary for the Courts and quasi-judicial authorities to enable them to discharge their functions without fear,” said the judgment.
It added, “Any person, aggrieved by the order, which, according to him, is not in accordance with law, has a legal remedy or approaching the next higher authority or the writ Court etc. for redressal of the grievances, but cannot file a suit for damages against the Officer and such suit is obviously barred under Section 3 of the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985.”
Justice Chauhan added that demoralising of the officers discharging their duties needed to be avoided.
He said that the case reflected a dismal picture, where the “subordinate courts without even caring to go through the contents of the plaint(s), especially with regard to its maintainability, not only entertain such suits, but randomly issue notices to the opposite parties, thereby compelling them to incur unnecessary and otherwise avoidable expenses in defending such litigation(s) and making them unnecessary go through the ordeal and agony of a full-fledged trial”.