The Supreme Court, while coming down heavily on frivolous public interest litigation petitions for personal or extraneous reasons, has laid down guidelines to be followed by courts in entertaining PIL. The filing of indiscriminate petitions “creates unnecessary strain on the judicial system and consequently leads to inordinate delay in disposal of genuine and bona fide cases,” said a Bench consisting of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Mukundakam Sharma. Tracing the origin and development of PIL in various countries, Justice Bhandari, writing the judgment, said: “The courts’ contribution in helping the poorer sections by giving a new definition to life and liberty and in protecting ecology, environment and forests is extremely significant.” However, the Bench said, “unfortunately, of late, such an important jurisdiction, which has been carefully carved out, created and nurtured with great care and caution by the courts, is being blatantly abused by filing some petitions with oblique motives.”
The Court in State of Uttranchal Vs Balwant Singh Chaufal stated Civil Appeal No 1132 -1134 of 2002 in its Judgment dated 18.01.2010 ordered the following:
198. In order to preserve the purity and sanctity of the PIL, it has become imperative to issue the following directions:-
(1) The courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PIL and effectively discourage and curb the PIL filed for extraneous considerations.
(2) Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with the public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each High Court to properly formulate rules for encouraging the genuine PIL and discouraging the PIL filed with oblique motives. Consequently, we request that the High Courts who have not yet framed the rules, should frame the rules within three months. The Registrar General of each High Court is directed to ensure that a copy of the Rules prepared by the High Court is sent to the Secretary General of this court immediately thereafter.
(3) The courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining a P.I.L.
(4) The court should be prima facie satisfied regarding the correctness of the contents of the petition before entertaining a PIL.
(5) The court should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition.
(6) The court should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest, gravity and urgency must be given priority over other petitions.
(7) The courts before entertaining the PIL should ensure that the PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury. The court should also ensure that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind filing the public interest litigation.
(8) The court should also ensure that the petitions filed by busybodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs or by adopting similar novel methods to curb frivolous petitions and the petitions filed for extraneous considerations.
J.(Dr. Mukundakam Sharma)
New Delhi; January 18, 2010.
READ THE DESCRIPTIVE JUDGMENT WHICH DETAILS THE PIL MOVEMENT IN THE COUNTRY AND DISCUSSES THE GROWTH OF PUBLIC INTEREST LAW IN INDIA.
BY RAKESH BHATNAGAR IN DNA INDIAN
New Delhi: Chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan’s term will expire in May. Among other things, he will be remembered for heading a bench that kept a judgment reserved for more than two years, which is a record.
This delayed dispensation is bothering him, though. “Judges don’t get time. Everyday, 40 to 50 cases have to be read. Before March , I will finish all the cases and judgments will be delivered,’’ he told an interviewer. But the CJI has left open a discussion whether judgment delayed could also mean justice delayed, thus denied. If one goes by a Supreme Court (SC) judgment of 2001 by justices KT Thomas and RP Sethi, there is a legal mandate to not keep a matter hanging after arguments have been completed. A judgment must be pronounced within reasonable time after the end of hearing. In this case, by no stretch of imagination can two years or more be termed ‘reasonable time’.
The Sethi-Thomas judgment — the only case-law available on the issue — was about how the Patna high court (HC) was sitting on cases and delaying justice even after hearings had been completed months ago. What’s more, the HC was doing this even after it had scolded a lower court for slow dispensation. However, the matter went to SC, when a petitioner asked whether the Patna high court was exempt from the advice it had given the lower court? SC said it wasn’t.
By expanding the reasoning given by the Sethi-Thomas bench, it could be argued that SC can’t be left untouched from the guidelines issued for HC. The Sethi-Thomas bench also gave a solution to the problem. If a judgment isn’t pronounced within three months, any of the parties involved in a lawsuit can move the chief justice of the high court for early dispensation. If the judgment, for any reason, is not pronounced within six months, any of the parties can move an application before the chief justice seeking withdrawal of the case and giving it to another bench for fresh arguments.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENT IN DEMOCRATIC SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT. IF CORPORATES OPENLY START FUNDING ELECTION CAMPAIGNS THE VOICE OF AN ORDINARY CITIZEN WILL NOT BE HEARD. AS THE THINGS STAND TODAY LINCOLN MAXIM ON DEMOCRACY WILL HAVE TO BE CHANGED ” BY THE CORPORATES – FOR THE CORPORATES – TO THE CORPORATES” . FOR ALL OF US WHO LOVE DEMOCRACY IT IS AN IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENT AS NOW THE US FOREIGN POLICY WHICH HAS GREAT RAMIFICATIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE WILL BE RUN BY CORPORATES. THE BUSINESS OF THE CORPORATES WILL BE TO EARN MORE PROFIT FOR THE BUSINESS RATHER THAN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND WELFARE OF THE MANKIND. JUST IMAGINE THE RAMIFICATIONS ACROSS THE GLOBE. THIS IS A NEW FORM OF COLONIZATION AND NEEDS TO BE CONDEMNED ACROSS THE WORLD AND AMERICANS IN PARTICULAR.
DETAILS OF THE JUDGMENT
In a sweeping 5-4 ruling, the US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down several longstanding prohibitions on corporate political contributions, saying legislative measures to control such spending infringed upon corporate First Amendment free speech rights. The majority framed the decision, which will now allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited treasury funds on independent campaign expenditures, as essential to American democracy.
“Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people,” wrote Justice Kennedy, who authored the majority opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. “Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it, whether by design or inadvertently.”
Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the 90-page dissenting opinion, called the decision “profoundly misguided.”
The 57-page majority opinion held that provisions of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act, prohibiting corporations from spending general treasury funds on “electioneering communications” and independent campaign advertisements, are unconstitutional. In reaching the decision, the Court overturned the 20-year-old Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce decision, which held that corporations could be banned from using general treasury funds for political purposes.
“The government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether,” wrote Justice Kennedy.
By DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN THE TIMES OF INDIA / JANUARY 25 2010
It’s a landmark judgment from the US Supreme Court that has left President Barack Obama and many like minded people fuming. On Thursday, the SC by a 5:4 majority overturned a 20-year-old ruling that prohibited corporations from opening their purse strings for presidential and congressional elections. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the long-standing campaign against finance limits violated constitutional free-speech rights of the corporations. Without appearing to be critical of the SC judgment, Obama said, “The Supreme Court has given a green light to the new stampede of special interest money in our politics.”
Imagine such a judgment coming from the Indian Supreme Court. Immediately, the knives would have been out against the judges and the rumour mills would have gone berserk circulating that the judges, who favoured open funding of candidates in elections, were bought over by corporate honchos. The Supreme Court of India had mostly taken a traditional view of political funding as it has always laid a great deal of emphasis on the core value of democracy, be it the Mohinder Singh Gill vs Chief Election Commissioner [1978 (1) SCC 405] or Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms [2002 (5) SCC 294].
In both these cases, the common reference point was the common voter, identified as the little man by Winston Churchill, who had said, “At the bottom of all tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper; no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point.” Keeping in mind this “overwhelming importance of the point”, the SC had in 1996 examined the allegation that during elections, crores of rupees were spent by political parties without indicating the source of the money so spent. Petitioner Common Cause through its president H D Shourie had said, “Elections in this country are fought with the help of money power which is gathered from black sources. Once elected to power, it becomes easy to collect tons of black money which is used for retaining power and for re-election. This vicious circle has totally polluted the basic democracy in the country.” Though the apex court did not lay down any law preventing use of “corporate donations” in elections by political parties, it put a rider — all political parties must file return of income in respect of every assessment year as required under the Income Tax Act.
It lambasted the I-T authorities, saying they had been wholly remiss in the performance of their statutory duties under law. “The said authorities have for a long period failed to take appropriate action against the defaulter political parties,” the SC had said in the April 4, 1996, judgment. It had also asked the finance ministry to appoint an inquiring body “to find out why and in what circumstances the mandatory provisions of Income Tax Act regarding filing of return of income by political parties were not enforced.” There had been no case of a single political party been penalised for not furnishing proper income returns. Everything appears to have been normal and within law. If that is so, then in this era of right to information, will the political parties be pleased to answer this open RTI query: Which industrial house paid how much as political donation in a normal year and during the election year?”