False, Malicious and Vexatious Proceedings

In a recent Judgment of the Supreme Court, it was held as under:
“The dictionary meaning of the word ‘false’ means that, which is in essence, incorrect, or purposefully untrue, deceitful etc. Thus the word, ‘false’ is used to cover only unlawful falsehood. It means something that is dishonestly, untrue and deceitful and implies an intention to perpetrate some treachery or fraud. In jurisprudence, the word ‘false’ is used to characterize a wrongful or criminal act, done intentionally and knowingly, with knowledge, actual or constructive. The word ‘false’ may also be used in a wide or narrower sense. When used in its wider sense, it means something that is untrue whether or not stated intentionally or knowingly, but when used in its narrower sense, it may cover only such falsehoods, which are intentional. The question whether in a particular enactment, the word ‘false’ is used in a restricted sense or a wider sense, depends upon the context in which it is used.
In Commissioner of Sales Tax, Uttar Pradesh v. Sanjiv Fabrics, (2010) 9 SCC 630, the Court, after relying upon certain legal dictionaries, explained that the word false describes an untruth, coupled with wrong intention or an intention to deceive. The Court further held that in case of criminal prosecution, where consequences are serious, findings of fact must be recorded with respect to mens rea in case a falsehood as a condition precedent for imposing any punishment.
In West Bengal State Electricity Board v. Dilip Kumar Ray, (2007) 14 SCC 568, the Court dealt with the term “malicious prosecution” by referring to various dictionaries etc. as:
“Malice in the legal sense imports (1) the absence of all elements of justification, excuse or recognized mitigation, and (2) the presence of either (a) an actual intent to cause the particular harm which is produced or harm of the same general nature, or (b) the wanton and willful doing of an act with awareness of a plain and strong likelihood that such harm may result.
‘Malice’ consists in a conscious violation of the law to the prejudice of another and certainly has different meanings with respect to responsibility for civil wrongs and responsibility for crime.
Malicious prosecution means – a desire to obtain a collateral advantage. The principles to be borne in mind in the case of actions for malicious prosecutions are these:-
Malice is not merely the doing of a wrongful act intentionally but it must be established that the defendant was actuated by malus animus, that is to say, by spite or ill will or any indirect or improper motive. But if the defendant had reasonable or probable cause of launching the criminal prosecution no amount of malice will make him liable for damages. Reasonable and probable cause must be such as would operate on the mind of a discreet and reasonable man; ‘malice’ and ‘want of reasonable and probable cause’ have reference to the state of the defendant’s mind at the date of the initiation of criminal proceedings and the onus rests on the plaintiff to prove them.”
The word “vexatious” means ‘harassment by the process of law’. ‘lacking justification’ or with ‘intention to harass’. It signifies an action not having sufficient grounds and which therefore, only seeks to annoy the adversary.
The hallmark of a vexatious proceeding is that it has no basis in law (or at least no discernible basis) and that whatever the intention of the proceeding may be, its only effect is to subject the other party to inconvenience, harassment and expense, which is so great, that it is disproportionate to any gain likely to accrue to the claimant; and that it involves an abuse of process of the Court. Such proceedings are different from those that involve ordinary and proper use of the process of the Court. Ravinder Singh v. Sukhbir Singh, 2013 (80) ACC 950.


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