Coming down with heavy hands on those right to information (RTI) activists who indulge in fighting "proxy political battles" by approaching the courts through public interest litigations (PILs), the Punjab and Haryana high court has slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on one such activist.
"We feel it is time when an end should be put to such kind of frivolous PILs, which have different motives and consume precious judicial time. Cost, thus, is the only panacea," remarked the division bench headed by chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
The observation came while hearing a PIL filed by an SAS Nagar resident, Ram Kumar, claiming to be an RTI activist, against the Haryana government alleging uneven development in the state. The petitioner had alleged that the pace of development in Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda's home district Rohtak was more and had highlighted that how certain projects had been cleared quickly for the most pampered district.
The petitioner had sought directions to the Haryana government to provide land free of cost for the Chandigarh-Yamunanagar rail line on a par with the Rohtak-Hansi rail project.
Expressing concern over filing of frivolous petition, the court remarked, "Merely because the petitioner is an RTI activist has not given him a licence to file all kinds of petitions, not even being a resident of the state of Haryana. It appears that this is a proxy political battle rather than anything else."
Separate powers of executive, judiciary
Dismissing the petition, the court said, "In our view, the petition is based on a complete misconception of very notion of separation of powers, which exist between the executive and the judicial domains." It is for the state government to allocate funds and decide how development has to take place in the state, the court said, adding that this is not a job for the court as its job is to interpret and enforce law.
The division bench said at the threshold it had put to the petitioner's counsel, Pritam Saini that the matter in question was purely within a policy domain. How development takes place in a state, which area has to be given priority, which project has to be handled in which manner and on priority and how funds allocation takes place were all matters within the executive domain. But the petitioner's counsel still persisted in arguing the case at length.