The Delhi High Court on Thursday reduced the costs imposed on actor Juhi Chawla and two others from Rs 20 lakh to Rs two lakh in a 5G-related suit and expunged the adverse observations made against her in the verdict.
The court had on Tuesday said that she would have to voluntarily do some service for a public cause, a condition which was agreed to by Chawla.
Chawla had filed an appeal against a Single-Bench order, which in June 2021, had dismissed her suit against the introduction of 5G technology in India.
The Single-Judge Bench, in the order dismissing the suit, had said it was filed to gain publicity and imposed a cost of Rs 20 lakh on the three plaintiffs, including Chawla, for “waste of judicial time”.
Allowing the appeal and setting aside the judgment passed by the single-bench, the Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh said the plaintiffs should not be made to share the blame or consequences for the manner in which the suit and applications were drafted.
“You have been taking up public causes and we have no reason to doubt that you had good intentions when you preferred the suit and raised the issue about the 5G suit. Just that the frame in which your suit was prepared and the kind of applications, the kind of exemptions you sought, all that was something which probably hurt the learned judge. You don’t come to court and say ‘look, don’t take court fees because you haven’t decided cases for 20 years’,” the court told Chawla.
It added, “Even if you have to challenge a law like that, you have to lay a separate challenge to that and till that challenge is decided in your favour, you cannot seek exemption. Maybe you should have had a better counsel to tell you how to proceed with the matter.”Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) Member Secretary Kanwal Jeet Arora earlier told the court that Chawla could voluntarily become brand ambassador for the authority and highlight certain of their causes related to marginalised women and children.
Chawla, who appeared virtually before the court, submitted that she would be very happy to assist in a matter of public interest and try to help in any manner that she can. Chawla was represented by senior advocate Salman Khurshid.
“I thank you for your consideration in reducing the costs substantially and gracefully accept the decision. However, I would like to mention that I moved the suit questioning the safety of 5G radiation for relief to my immediate family as well as to citizens and every living being of the entire country.
“I have been actively pursuing the cause of harmful effects on the health of radiations since 2010, even appearing before the parliamentary standing committee in 2015,” Chawla submitted.
She further said that the aspects relating to her work were totally ignored by the single bench.
“Today events are happening. We see it in the newspapers…which are proving us correct, namely that there are unknown hazards of 5G technology. It would have been truly heartening that the costs had been struck down completely, as, in principle, I feel I did no wrong, but I accept the decision of the honourable court.
“However, I respectfully request that the observations against me that I had filed the suit as a measure of garnering publicity be expunged from the records,” she said.
While reducing the costs, the court said it was inclined to retain a part of it since it finds that the applications moved along with the plaint were indeed completely meritless.
It also recorded that Chawla has volunteered to work with DSLSA to advance the cause of the deprived children and women who are in need of legal aid.“She states that it would be an honour for her to render social service by featuring in their programmes,” said the court, adding that it will be open for her and others to pursue their cause in respect of 5G rollout appropriately in other proceedings.
Justice Jag Jivan Ram Midha on June 4 had termed the suit as “defective” and “not maintainable” and said the plaint includes “unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous and vexatious averments”, which are liable to be struck down under the Code of Civil Procedure.
The primary argument in the suit was that the government should certify to the public at large that the 5G technology will not have any significant adverse effects “on the health, life, organ or limb of adult, child, whether of the present or future generation(s), or to any living organism, or to flora and fauna”.
In the appeal, it was argued that a lawsuit is only rejected or returned under the Code of Civil Procedure and can only be dismissed once it has been allowed to be registered as a suit by the court. Chawla and others have also argued that the dismissal was not warranted, especially seeing the national health emergency already facing the nation and that imposition of cost also was “without jurisdiction”.
The single bench in June 2021 had also taken note of the disruptions caused during the virtual hearing before it and directed Delhi Police to identify the “unknown miscreants”.Before the hearing, Chawla had shared the link on her Twitter and Instagram accounts and appealed to people to attend the proceedings. Subsequently, the hearing was repeatedly disrupted by unknown persons, who passed comments and sang songs from the actor’s movies.The appeal stated that Chawla is a film star of international renown and her life is already filled with media attention and publicity. “It is rather unfair to opine that notwithstanding her untiring efforts for the last 11 years at fighting cellular radiation from telecommunication devices…her motive to file the plaint before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court was dictated by a motive to garner publicity,” it said, adding that the virtual link of the court was publicly accessible from the High Court website.
The suit, citing “scientific studies”, had contended that there is an “invisible enemy”, which is “slowly killing us as a result of this ongoing battle between the network service providers to provide ‘faster’ and ‘wider’” service. It stated that no studies have been conducted with regards to radiofrequency radiation in India and sought research on the subject.