“Judges presiding over courts ought not to ever forget that the courts are of justice and not of procedure”, the Delhi High Court recently remarked as it re-affirmed its decision to end a protracted and financially draining litigation between a wife and her husband/sisters-in-law. (KumkumTalwar&ors vs Natasha Kohli&Anr)
The single judge bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw while deciding a review application observed,
“Where justice collides, in the facts of a particular case, with the established rules, the Courts cannot forget that it is justice and not the rules which have to prevail“.
Since 2006, there were several legal proceedings that commenced between a husband and wife i.e. Mon Mohan Kohli (MMK) and Natasha Kohli (Natasha).
As a result, their sonRishabKohli (Rishab) also became a party to some of the legal proceedings, as a minor, represented through his mother.
During the pendency of the litigation, the sisters of MMK namely Kumkum Talwar (Kumkum) and Vinay Mahajan (Vinay) were appointed as guardian’s ad litem for MMK on account of his ill health after he suffered a stroke.
The court recorded,
“Resultantly, the litigation which had commenced out of disputes between husband and wife, turned into a litigation of the wife with her sisters-in-law i.e. sisters of her husband and the litigation grew and was refusing to die down.”
All these years, MMK’s assets were only used in meeting the fee and expenses of the ‘Court Observers’ and substantial legal fee and costs of ever-growing litigation.
The Court also noted the fact that all of MMK’s assets that were highly profitable at one time had become static owing to his ill-health.
Finally, in 2019, Natasha agreed to give up all the rights arising through various litigations after MMK executed a will entrusting his entire estate in favour of his son, except certain bequests.
The sisters, however, suggested that the litigation should not be ended and be kept in abeyance
However, keeping in mind that MMK’s assets were bleeding since 2013 and he was living with the intellect of a six years old, the Court decided to dispose of all the pending litigation before it in February 2020 to do substantial justice.
According to the court’s decision sufficient safeguards were built in the judgment to ensure that prejudice was not caused to MMK in his lifetime.
Subsequently, a Review Application along with another interlocutory application (IA) was moved against the judgment. Upon inquiry, the Court found that the Review Application had been filed on behalf of Kumkum and the IA was by Vinay, though in reference to the Review Application.
The Court observed that a new set of counsel representing the sisters did not address how the judgement affected MMK but was controverting what was attributed to the sisters in the judgment passed in February.
The Court even enquired if the sisters’ endeavor was to continue the litigation purely for the satisfaction of their own egos and not for the benefit of MMK.
While reiterating that the judgment was in the spirit of doing justice to the affairs of MMK, who himself was incapacitated from crying out for justice, the Court remarked,
The Judges presiding over the Courts ought not to ever forget, that the Courts are of justice, and not of procedure.great injustice would be caused to the person qua whose affairs the game of litigation was being played/continued to be played in the Courts, out of personal prejudices and egos of the warring parties and forgetting the interest of the said person.
Observing that justice prevails over rules in case of a collision of the two, the Court added,
In my view, no cannon of justice requires the Court to be a slave to the procedure, even if it does great harm/injustice to the person whose affairs are being litigated. Rules, undoubtedly are one of law’s attributes but frequently fail as guide to outcome of a particular incipient case.. Being a Judge, is not only about knowing the rules, which are but to serve justice, but also about knowing, when an exception is to be made to the rules. In such cases, avoiding the rules, though undoubtedly may appear to be equivalent to denial of justice, because legitimate expectations are frustrated, but it has to be remembered that rules are not the law but mere instruments/implements of law and justice and that rules are not justice.
The Court also opined that even the Review Application was beyond the scope of review.
Thus review application was dismissed.
The sisters were represented by Advocate Deepak Khosla.
Natasha Kohli was presented by Advocate Nandita Rao and Advocate Sanjeev Mahajan appeared for the son.
Read the review application here: