Most public interest lawsuits ‘blackmail’: apex court judge

April 11th, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Dismissing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by reputed non-government organisation (NGO) Common Cause, the Supreme Court Friday said “much of PIL is really blackmail.” The apparently controversial remark against PILs was made in a judgement written by Justice Markanday Katju.

Justice Katju said: “As stated in Dattarji Nathuji Thaware’s case, public interest litigation has now-a-days largely become ‘publicity interest litigation’, ‘private interest litigation’, or ‘politics interest litigation’ or the latest trend ‘paisa income litigation.’ Much of PIL is really blackmail.”

The petition was filed in 2003 by the NGO, founded by former Union Minister Arun Shuorie’s late father H.D. Shourie and reputed for successfully taking up causes of public interest by moving higher courts through PILs.

The dismissed lawsuit had sought direction to the government for enforcing strict implementation of various traffic rules and road safety measures to check rising number of casualties in road accidents across the country.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a bench of Justice H.K. Sema and Justice Katju. Both judges wrote their separate judgements.

Though Justice Sema did not agree with several observations and views of Justice Katju’s ruling - and specifically disapproved of various paragraphs in the judgement of his colleague - he too favoured dismissing the PIL, without actually disassociating himself from Justice Katju’s remarks against PILs.

Apprised of the remark made against the PIL filed by Common Cause, former Union minister and eminent journalist Arun Shourie appeared to be deeply hurt.

Speaking from Morocco, Shourie told IANS: “It is a disconcerting remark. It would sound disconcerting to anybody who knew my father and the institution Common Cause, which has always fought for public rights.”

Dismissing the PIL, Justice Katju wrote: “Public interest litigation, which was initially created as a useful judicial tool to help the poor and the weaker sections of the society, who could not afford to come to courts, has in course of time, largely developed into an uncontrollable Frankenstein and a nuisance, which is threatening to choke the dockets of the superior courts, obstructing the hearing of regular cases.”

He further observed: “The view that the judiciary can run the government and can solve the problems of the people is not only unconstitutional, but also fallacious and creates the illusion that judiciary is a panacea for all ills in society.”

Known for his strident views against judicial activism, espoused in one of his judgements last December that asked the judiciary to refrain from encroaching upon the domains of the executive and the legislature, Justice Katju wrote in his 35-page ruling Friday: “We would like to make it clear that we are not against judicial activism. But judicial activism can be both legitimate and illegitimate.”

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