Of this, there is ample evidence: unless the court gives some direction, rarely do authorities act decisively to implement laws and rules. It is more likely than not that the court has to intervene to stir authorities into action.

A submission to this effect by an advocate at the High Court perhaps sums up the significance of public interest litigation to seek redressal of grievances or to make the authorities, particularly civic body officials, act on petitions submitted by individuals or associations.

Social activist A. Narayanan of Virugambakkam who initiated a public interest litigation against manual scavenging and drunk driving, said, “The court is the last resort of the common man, especially when constitutional guarantees are violated with impunity. The court orders are helpful, but the government’s response is not sufficient. There is a need for constant follow-up or advocacy by the petitioners.”

Thus, when the First Bench headed by Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal took suo motu cognisance of the death of class-II student S. Sruthi, after she fell through a hole in the floor of her school bus last month, it raised hopes in the public.

As expected, the court’s initiative coupled with the government’s action in arresting a motor vehicles inspector and others, spurred a flurry of activity such as checking of school buses. What was more, on the court’s directions, the State Government came up with the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicles (Regulation and Control of School Buses), Special Rules 2012.

A few days ago, the rodent menace in government hospitals was taken up before the court through a plea. In July, the residents of a colony in Tiruvannamalai sought the court’s help to direct officials to remove stagnated sewage. They said the municipality should not let out sewage in the locality. The court said in the interest of the public it was directing the authorities to remove the sewage.

The list of court interventions which brought cheer to the common man contains more such instances. By an order, a direction was given to the authorities to remove a liquor shop in the city after residents approached the court highlighting the hardship they underwent because of the retail outlet.

Of course, the High Court had strongly criticised frivolous petitions filed in the name of PILs. In one case, it imposed costs of Rs. 25,000 on a petitioner for making false allegations and wasting the court’s time.

‘Traffic’ Ramaswamy, a social activist, said the authorities did not comply with court orders in several cases. Only when contempt petitions were filed, they heeded the court’s direction, he said.


Vivek NarayananJune 28, 2012

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