SC objects to frivolous PIL petitions, ‘luxury litigation’ eating up court time

A Vacation Bench asked a litigant to pay ₹18 lakh but later slashed the amount to ₹2 lakh on the request of the counsel.

June 03, 2022 04:42 pm | Updated 06:19 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitioner in the Supreme Court on Friday barely escaped having to pay ₹18 lakh for indulging in a “luxury litigation”.

A Vacation Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Hima Kohli initially asked the litigant to pay ₹18 lakh, that is, ₹1 lakh for every one of the 18 minutes the case took up. However, the court later, in its order, slashed the amount to ₹2 lakh on the request of the litigant’s counsel.

This case came up shortly after the same Bench had pronounced a judgment underlining how flippant PIL petitions both encroach into valuable judicial time and stall development work undertaken by the government. The judgment came in a challenge to redevelopment work undertaken by the Odisha government around the Puri Jagannath temple.

Justice Gavai, speaking for the Bench, observed that “the highly derogatory practice of filing frivolous petitions encroach on valuable judicial time which can otherwise be utilised for addressing genuine concerns”.

However, in a February 2022 judgment in Esteem Properties Pvt. Ltd. vs Chetan Kamble, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana takes a balanced view of the good and the bad in the PIL petitions.

In that judgment, the top court had acknowledged that “thousands of frivolous petitions are filed, burdening the docket of both the Supreme Court and the High Courts”.

‘Beneficial effect’

But PIL petitions have also had a “beneficial effect on the Indian jurisprudence and has alleviated the conditions of the citizens in general”, the judgment had noted.

The court in Jaipur Shahar Hindu Vikas Samiti v. State of Rajasthan had emphasised how such petitions “bring justice to people who are handicapped by ignorance, indigence, illiteracy”

The Supreme Court had also issued eight directions in its Balwant Singh Chaufal judgment to help constitutional courts separate genuine PIL petitions from the barmy ones.

It had asked every High Court to frame its own rules to encourage bona fide PIL petitions and curb motivated ones.

Some of these directions included verifying the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining the plea; checking the correctness of the contents; ensuring the petition involves issues of “larger public interest, gravity and urgency” which requires priority; ensuring there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind the PIL petition; ensuring that it is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury.

The Supreme Court had directed that PIL petitions filed by “busybodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs”.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.