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.