The Supreme Court has issued comprehensive, eight-point guidelines to high courts to distinguish a genuine public interest lawsuit (PIL) from a bogus one, while imposing a Rs.100,000 fine on an Uttarakhand advocate for filing a frivolous PIL in the state high court.
The courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PILs and effectively discourage those filed for extraneous considerations, ruled a bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Mukundakam Sharma, while imposing a Rs.1 lakh fine on advocate Balwant Singh Chaufal of Nainital for questioning the appointment of the state’s advocate general L.P. Nathani in 2001.
"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," the bench said, while ordering the dismissal of Balwant Singh’s PIL in the Uttarakhand High court.
In its judgment Monday released Wednesday evening, the apex court bench asked the high courts across the country to expeditiously frame their uniform rules within three months for differentiating between genuine and bogus PILs. The bench also requested the high courts to send copies of their rules on PILs to the apex court.
"The courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining a PIL," the apex court bench said, adding that "the courts should be also be satisfied on the correctness of the contents of the PILs before entertaining them".
"The court should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition," the bench ruled, adding that the court should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest and urgency is given priority over other petitions.
"Before entertaining the PIL, the court should ensure that the PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury and has not been filed with motives of personal gain or private and oblique motives," the bench ruled.
The apex court also asked high courts "to 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."
"The PIL, which has been in existence in our country for more than four decades, has a glorious record," the bench observed. It added: "This court and the high courts by their judicial creativity and craftsmanship have passed a number of directions in the larger public interest in consonance with the inherent spirits of the constitution."
"The conditions of marginalised and vulnerable sections of society have significantly improved on account of courts directions in the PILs," said the bench.
–Indo-Asian News Service