New Delhi: Supreme Court on Tuesday slapped a fine of Rs 25 lakh each on three companies, including a German firm, which have been involved in legal battles emanating from their contracts, saying it was a classic case of "unscrupulous litigants with money power" abusing the judicial process.
"We ... deem it appropriate to impose exemplary costs quantified at Rs 25,00,000 to be paid by each of the three parties i.e. GGL, MGG and RUIAS.
"The said amount is to be paid to National Legal Services Authority as compensation for the loss of judicial time of this country and the same may be utilised by the National Legal Services Authority to fund poor litigants to pursue their claims before this Court in deserving cases," a bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and A M Sapre said.
The companies which have been fined are German firm Messer Griesham GmbH (MGG) and Indian firms Goyal Gases Ltd (GGL) and Bombay Oxygen Corporation Limited.
The apex court, in its order, said "this case, in our view, is a classic example of abuse of the judicial process by unscrupulous litigants with money power, all in the name of legal rights by resorting to half-truths, misleading representations and suppression of facts.
"Each and every party is guilty of one or the other of the above-mentioned misconducts. It can be demonstrated (by a more elaborate explanation but we believe the facts narrated so far would be sufficient to indicate) but we do not wish to waste any more time in these matters."
Initially, German firm MGG entered into a Share Purchase and Cooperation Agreement with the shareholders of GGL.
Subsequently, MGG entered into a similar agreement with BOCL, in a move that was objected to by the GGL.
The legal battles ensued among them which went on for nearly two decades at various judicial fora, including the apex court.
"The net effect of all the litigation is this. For the last 18 years, the litigation is going on. Considerable judicial time of this country is spent on this litigation. The conduct of none of the parties to this litigation is wholesome," the apex court said.