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Soli Sorabjee concerned at `misuse' of PIL

By Our Staff Reporter

COIMBATORE, DEC. 25. The former Attorney General of India, Soli J. Sorabjee, has expressed concern at the misuse of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) rather than utilising it for protecting the fundamental rights of the underprivileged and downtrodden.

Addressing the members of the Coimbatore Bar Association here recently, he pointed out that the very genesis of PILs was to give a locus standi to the members of the public with a social concern to legally fight the denial of fundamental rights.

Of late, the PILs have been misused and they have proved to be litigations born out of desire to protect personal, political and publicity interests.

He exhorted the legal fraternity to ensure that the PIL was used only for a worthy cause and end with a view to protecting the rights of those people who suffer from poverty and ignorance.

Citing instance of "benevolent legislations" relating to child labour and bonded labour, which are being flouted with impunity, wherein neither of the affected parties could knock the doors of justice, Mr. Sorabjee advocated that PILs could play a crucial role in ensuring the enforcement of these legislations. He expressed concern that the failure to ensure and protect fundamental rights would lead to the subversion of rule of law.

Increasing activism

Commenting on the increasing activism in PILs, the former Attorney General pointed out that "judges cannot assume themselves with power and try adventurous attempts on areas where they have no expertise." The Attorney General held the media responsible besides advocates and the bench for "encouraging the misuse of PIL."

"PILs should ensure that fundamental rights are not made to remain just on paper and they should be made a living reality," Mr. Sorabjee added.

Noting that PILs had in fact ensured protection of rights in many cases, Mr. Sorabjee said the Supreme Court in fact accepted prima facie in a PIL, which sought to ensure liberty for a number of undertrials in Bihar, who had actually completed more days of imprisonment in the form of trial period.

`Long imprisonment'

The litigant had pointed out that a number of undertrials were undergoing "intolerantly long imprisonment" because of the protracted investigations and trial.

The litigation based on a media report pointed out that the trial period had in fact exceeded the conviction and sentence (for the charges levelled against them).

"The court after perusing the records relating to the charges, date of arrest, time consumed for investigation and trial, in its ruling had ensured the fundamental right of personal liberty for these undertrials."

Delayed justice

"Prolonged litigations would make people lose faith in the judicial system and make them resort to extra legal authorities like illegal arbitrators and mafia's for ensuring speedy and instant justice."

Under such circumstances "delayed justice would no longer be a denied justice but a destruction of the rule of law," he pointed out.

It is not suffice, if Governments just filled up vacancies in courts and established new courts to clear arrears, there should not be reservations in judiciary at the cost of merit.

The advocates should realise that the judiciary existed only for the benefit of litigants and urged them to fight the crusade against pendency of cases rather than seeking frequent adjournments, he said.

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