Author: Nikitha Panchagnula, Student at University College of Law, Osmania University.
Date of Decision: February 12, 2014
Bench: Sh. D.K. Malhotra
Original Copy: N/A
Statutes Involved: Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, Indian Evidence Act, 1872, Specific Relief Act, 1963
Issues in Question:
- If the plaintiffs have come to the Court with clean hands?
- Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to perpetual injunction as prayed in the prayer?
Background of the Case:
- Plaintiff no-2 is an employee in a company who is plaintiff-1 in the present case. Plaintiff no-2 is a gentleman who is a very hardworking and capable man. Because of his abilities, he was appointed as the Managing Director of the company. The plaintiff no-2 stated that he had been receiving various e-mails which were vulgar, abusive, filthy, humiliating, defamatory, obscene. These mails have defamed the plaintiff in the eyes of the people who hold him in high esteem. These mails were sent through the sales department to the higher officials of different subsidiary companies located in different countries where the plaintiff no-2 was known or has worked and was later forwarded to the Managing Director. It is contended that these mails have been sent to poison the mind of such officials and to destroy career opportunities to the plaintiff and to destabilize him. Later, the plaintiff acquired a copy of these mails as they were forwarded to him by these people.
- Indiatimes.com, having received a complaint regarding the obscene mails and after checking the same, blocked the person’s mail address from whom the plaintiff received such e-mails. With regard to the mails which were defamatory, the plaintiff with the help of a private computer expert traced the origin of one such mail. Based on the enquiry of the expert and a report thereafter, after identifying the defendant from a group photograph, investigations further showed that the origin of the mail was from Dishnet Cyber Cafe, New Delhi. The attender in the Cyber Cafe had identified the person in the photograph is the same person who had sent the mail in question.
- The plaintiff had filed a police complaint which was pending proceeding. It was also stated by the plaintiff that the defendant was terminated from the service of the company for violating the appointment letter and on account of sending mails in order to defame and harm the reputation of plaintiff no-1 and 2 beside the other consequences. Hence, the plaintiff n0-1 along with plaintiff no-2(its Managing Director) filed a suit before the Hon’ble District Court at Delhi seeking a perpetual injunction against the defendant.
- The allegations made by the plaintiffs were denied categorically by the defendant contending mainly that the plaintiffs have not come before the Hon’ble Court with clean hands and prayed for the dismissal of the suit.
Findings on issue 1:
- The Court held that even if the plaintiff could prove or establish the cause of action showing the violation of his legal right, he is not entitled to an injunction if he has not come praying before the Court with clean hands. The injunction remedy thus becomes a statutory remedy under Specific Relief Act but such a remedy cannot be availed if the plaintiff is guilty of not coming to the Court with clean hands. But the defendant could not prove to the point or put evidence as to the point he contended that plaintiff has not come to the Court with clean hands. The only reason the Court could find was the interse battle between the manager and the ex-employee to teach him a lesson for which no such allegations were made. Hence, the court decided the issue having become infructuous.
Findings on issue 2:
- The Court made a note of the following:
- The photograph on which the plaintiff relies on to contend that one of the attender in the Cyber Cafe identified the defendant to be the same person who sent the mails after having a look at it is not placed before the Court as evidence on record.
- The plaintiffs failed to produce such attender at least before the Court to prove the allegation.
- No information was sought by the plaintiff as to the sender of the mails which the plaintiff no-2 claimed to have been received directly as forwarded. No attempt was made by the plaintiff to find out the origin of the sender.
- It was not only not pleaded, but no efforts were made by the plaintiffs to connect the e-mails to the defendant.
- The only crucial evidence produced by the plaintiff were the e-mails which were only electronic evidence which cannot be considered as the supporting evidence which was unaccompanied by a certificate under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- The Court held that the allegations made before the Court are too general in nature and due to the absence of direct evidence to prove that it was the defendant who was sending such e-mails to defame the reputation of the plaintiffs.
- It also held that the test of balance of probabilities is to be applied to the evidence available on record and not to the inferences. Therefore, the Court applying the same test of balance of probabilities has decided the issue in favour of the defendant against the plaintiffs and hence dismissed the suit filed by the plaintiffs.
- This case is a critical example to illustrate how the Court denies equitable justice to the party who does not come to the Court with clean hands. This is known as the Clean Hands Doctrine which is based on the maxim of equity which states that “one who comes into equity must come with clean hands”. The doctrine’s objective is to prevent a party from getting relief when that party’s own improper conduct makes it impossible to offer relief in good conscience. It is an affirmative defence that the defendant may claim. The main purpose of this doctrine is to protect the integrity of the Court.
- Any person who has engaged in improper conduct in the matter at hand is barred from receiving the relief under this doctrine. Its purpose is to prevent the person with “unclean hands” from recovering no matter how unfairly his or her opponent has treated him or her.
- Notable judgments where in various Courts denied relief in a suit to the parties who has not appeared with clean hands before the Court are:
- M/s Prestige Lights Ltd. vs. State Bank of India [Appeal (civil) 3827 of 2007]
- M. Lilly vs. The District Collector [W.A. No. 367 of 2017]
- A. Tajuthin vs. State of Uttarakhand [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 566 of 2019].