“ROLE OF JUDICIARY IN PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION”
Author: Suyogya Awasthy, NLU Visakhapatnam
Justice without force is impotent; force without justice is tyranny – Pascal in Pensees.
The litigants, till the year 1961, were considered as going to the Courts or Tribunals for somebody who wanted to adjudicate their legal rights before the Court of law or the Tribunals or other authorities create by law.
The litigants used to file complaints for individual against another individual or for a group of people against a group of people etc. The Court decided the rights and wrongs of the parties based on the provisions which were statutory as well as non-statutory laws. The litigation may be broadly divided into Constitutional, Civil and Criminal.
Before the 1980s, only the aggrieved party could approach the courts for justice. After the emergency era the high court reached out to the people, devising a means for any person of the public (or an NGO) to approach the court seeking legal remedy in cases where the public interest is at stake. Justice P. N. Bhagwati and Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer were among the first judges to admit PILs in court. Filing a PIL is not as cumbersome as a usual legal case; there have been instances when letters and telegrams addressed to the court have been taken up as PILs and heard.
The Supreme Court and the High Courts started entertaining the petitions both under writ jurisdiction as well as under other statutory provisions be it labor laws, environmental laws, constitutional laws etc. and the Courts also changed their approach towards the question of ‘locus standi’ of the petitioner. The Supreme Court and the High Courts even started initiating proceedings suo moto (that means of its own without anyone approaching the court) when something important came to their notice through newspapers, television or through a letter etc. In the initial stage the PIL was less entertained and the courts used to use it sparingly. However, the court also kept on increasing the scope, frequency and the area in which the jurisdiction would be exercised.This became more and more prevalent initially. These are the various fields in which the court said that ‘locus standi’ rule will not apply in case of PIL.
The Hawala scandal or hawala scam was an Indian political scandal involving payments allegedly received by politicians through four hawala brokers, the Jain brothers. It was a US$18 million bribery scandal that implicated some of the country’s leading politicians.
Ganga Pollution: Recently in January 2014, a PIL was filed by Askok Narain Sharma who sought the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe violation of various statutes by government officials and other people and a special designated court to try them who have turned a blind eye towards city waste and sewerage flowing into Ganga.
Carpet Industries: Supreme Court in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs Union of India and Others in 1997 entertained a petition of even unregistered organisation for observing the cause of downtrodden and its members. Carpet industries in Uttar Pradesh employed children, under the age of 14, where they were “being treated as slaves” and were “subjected to physical torture.”
Corporate frauds: Supreme Court has been vigilant in taking action through PIL against the giant companies who indulge in committing economic frauds and losses. Recently Supreme Court heard the PIL filed by an NGO through Advocate Prashant Bhushan challenging grant of 4G licenses to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL).
After the perusal of the PIL and the giving of the orders by the Supreme Court, if the orders are not followed according to the given directions then the Hon’ble Court can punish any person, corporation or even bureaucrats for its contempt. The Constitution under Article 129 states that the Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Even the Insolvency laws are supposed to control those who are feigning and those who are unable to pay debts due to reasons beyond their control but these have been misused. New insolvency bill has come and some comments and press release have come from the Parliament.
Therefore, each one of us are beneficiaries of PIL but I would like you to do something to bring to the notice of the Court or some lawyers who would like to do free of charge cases for public good. One of the worst crimes which a citizen can do is to be indifferent despite watching injustice and breach of laws but right now that you will do something to raise your voice either individually or as a group against the injustice specially if it is caused by rich, influential, powerful people and if it affects the poor, the downtrodden, those at the lowest of the low part of the pyramid of our country.
This Article was prepared or accomplished by Suyogya Awasthy in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the LawOF.in
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