On and off we see advocates being held responsible for the delay in the cases; however we fail to take note that the litigants can also be responsible for the delay. In the case of Moddus Media Pvt. Ltd the High Court of Delhi has said that the “litigants need to be vigilant, and can’t put entire blame on advocate to get delay condoned”.
In the given matter the Appellant-company was rapped for their lack of vigilance in conducting a suit for recovery of money, and their subsequent conduct in blaming the Counsel for the delay in filing an Appeal.
It was observed by Justice Vinod Goel that “The litigant owes a duty to be vigilant of his rights and is also expected to be equally vigilant about the judicial proceedings pending in the court of law against him or initiated at his instance. The litigant cannot be permitted to cast the entire blame on the Advocate. It appears that the blame is being attributed on the Advocate with a view to get the delay condoned and avoids the decree. After filing the civil suit or written statement, the litigant cannot go off to sleep and wake up from a deep slumber after passing a long time as if the court is storage of the suits filed by such negligent litigants. Putting the entire blame upon the advocate and trying to make it out as if they were totally unaware of the nature or significance of the proceedings is a theory put forth by the appellant/applicant/defendant company, which cannot be accepted and ought not to have been accepted”.
The Court was hearing an application filed under Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963, read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, seeking condonation of delay of 400 days in filing an appeal against an August, 2015 judgment passed by the Additional District Judge.
Justice Goel, rapped the litigants for placing the blame entirely on the Counsel, and observed, the appellant is not a simple or rustic illiterate person but a Private Limited Company managed by educated businessmen, who know very well where their interest lies. The litigant is to be vigilant and pursue his case diligently on all the hearings. If the litigant does not appear in the court and leaves the case at the mercy of his counsel without caring as to what different frivolous pleas/defences being taken by his counsel for adjournments is bound to suffer. If the litigant does not turn up to obtain the copies of judgment and orders of the court so as to find out what orders are passed by the court is liable to bear the consequences.”
The Court opined that Moddus was not “serious at all” regarding the litigation, as it had other remedies at its disposal such as taking services of another lawyer or appearing in person. It further noted discrepancies in the allegations levelled against the Counsel before the Court, when compared with the complaint addressed to the Bar Council of India. The Court thereby concluded that it was the Applicant that was “careless and negligent” in its approach, and refused to condone the delay.
The increasing number of unrepresented litigants poses challenges for the courts. In responding to these challenges it is essential to have regards to the fundamental principle that the courts must be and must be seen fair to the unrepresented litigants. But equally important, the courts must be fair to the other parties in the case, including those that are legally represented. The courts have to be conscious of this, particularly in cases where on party is represented but the other is not.
The courts could guide litigants on matter like forms completion but the courts could not cross the line and act as a lawyer for the unrepresented litigant through giving legal advice or acting as an advocate.
As we move forward, it is of great importance that our community continues to exercise strong vigilance on all matters concerning the law.
Such vigilance must be exercised by all, by those who have been entrusted to govern as well as by the public, by lawyers who have a special role to play as well as by non-lawyers. And such vigilance must be exercised not only in relation to the enforcement and interpretation of laws but also, in relation to the formulation and enactment of new laws.