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Supreme Court Sends Strong Message Against Frivolous Petitions, Imposes Token Cost

By - King Stubb & Kasiva on March 18, 2024

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has expressed its dissatisfaction with the rising trend of Special Leave Petitions (“SLPs”) being filed against High Court orders, particularly those merely issuing notices or granting adjournments. The apex court dismissed a petition challenging a High Court order posting a matter to April and imposed a token cost of Rs. 1 lakh, sending a stern message to Advocates-on-Record (“AoRs”) and counsels engaged by them to discourage the filing of frivolous petitions.[1]


In this case, “Ranbir Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Anr.,” the petitioner appealed a lower court decision that rejected his promotion. The High Court agreed to hear his case and set a date for further proceedings in April. However, the petitioner was not satisfied and took his case to the Supreme Court.

Court’s Analysis

The petitioner’s lawyer, Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora, tried to withdraw the petition during the hearing. However, the Supreme Court, led by Justices Gavai, Bindal, and Mehta, refused. They saw the petition as a misuse of the legal system.

The Court raised concerns about a growing trend of filing petitions against ordinary orders, like issuing notices, granting adjournments, or decisions concerning interim protections. They stressed that lawyers, especially senior counsels, are entrusted with upholding the court’s integrity and must act responsibly. The Court pointed out that these petitions waste valuable time and add unnecessary strain to the already burdened judicial system.

Token Cost and the Message

To discourage similar attempts in the future, the Supreme Court ordered the petitioner to pay a token cost of Rs. 1 lakh. This amount will be divided equally: Rs. 50,000 will go to the Supreme Court Bar Association’s library, and the remaining Rs. 50,000 will be allocated to the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association for lawyer well-being purposes. The Court emphasized that this penalty serves as a clear message to lawyers involved in such practices. The petitioner has two weeks to pay the fine. Additionally, the Court directed that copies of the order be sent to the presidents of both associations to be circulated amongst their members.

Past Examples

There have been multiple scenarios in the past, where this practice has been criticised and dealt with in the past.

For instance, Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has consistently emphasized the need to avoid burdening the judicial system with frivolous cases. Speaking at an event in 2017 while celebrating Legal Services Day organized by the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA), Justice Misra highlighted the proactive steps taken by high courts across the country, including working on Saturdays to dispose of over 2,100 criminal appeals pending for more than a decade. Stressing the importance of filing only genuine cases, he urged individuals to approach the court when they genuinely feel neglected.

In 2018,[2] the Supreme Court even reprimanded the Union government for its indifferent and careless approach to litigation, criticizing it for repeatedly filing appeals on identical legal questions despite being previously fined for overburdening the justice system with frivolous cases. Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s slow efforts to streamline its litigation policy, emphasizing the adverse impact on other litigants and the financial liabilities incurred by the government. The court highlighted that, under the guise of promoting ease of doing business, the judiciary is being asked to reform, emphasizing the need for the Union government to display concern for litigants and the justice delivery system. Despite earlier dismissals and fines, the court noted the government’s failure to withdraw appeals from the registry, questioning when the government would awaken to its duties and responsibilities to the justice delivery system. The court imposed an additional cost of Rs 1 lakh while dismissing the appeals, criticizing the Union of India’s excessive engagement of 10 lawyers, creating avoidable financial burdens and urging the government to reconsider its approach.

Furthermore, in 2022,[3] the Supreme Court strongly criticized the abuse of the legal process and the filing of frivolous litigation, affirming the imposition of a substantial cost of Rs 5 lakhs on a litigant. The petitioner, a 78-year-old woman, had approached the court challenging a trial court’s dismissal of her suit for a stay of auction under the SARFAESI Act. The court highlighted the petitioner’s history of filing numerous proceedings before various forums, deliberately omitting crucial facts. While considering contempt proceedings initially, the court refrained from taking such action due to the petitioner’s age but affirmed that the litigation was an abuse of the legal process. The court underscored the need to deter litigants from pursuing senseless claims, emphasizing the adverse impact on innocent parties involved in such cases.


The Supreme Court’s decision discourages frivolous petitions and promotes responsible conduct by lawyers.  A modest penalty reinforces the importance of bringing only legitimate and substantial matters before the Court. This, in turn, strengthens the efficiency and effectiveness of the judicial system.




King Stubb & Kasiva,
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