Amidst raging controversy over the scope and ambit of judicial activism, the Supreme Court on Friday said that public interest litigations have largely become publicity interest litigations and a nuisance obstructing the hearing of genuine cases pending for years.
“Public interest litigation which was initially created as a useful judicial tool to help the poor and weaker section of society who could not afford to come to courts, has, in course of time, largely developed into an uncontrollable…and a nuisance which is threatening to choke the dockets of superior courts obstructing the hearing of genuine and regular cases which have been waiting to be taken up for years together, JusticeMarkandey Katju said. Justice HK Sema, who wrote a separate but concurring judgment, agreed with Justice Katju on this point.
The observation indicates a sharp division within the judiciary on judicial activism, as it comes barely few days after Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan defended the judiciary’s role in championing the cause of the poor and down-trodden, often ignored by the executive and not in a position to approach the court on their own. <b1>
Dismissing a PIL filed by Common Cause seeking direction to the Government to implement certain road safety measures, Justice Katju said: “Unfortunately, the truth is that PILs are being entertained by many courts as a routine and the result is that dockets of most of the superior courts are flooded with PILs, most of which are frivoulous or for which the judiciary has no remedy.”
Interestingly, Justice H K Sema, chose not to dissociate himself from Justice Katju’s opinion mentioned above, even though he specifically dissociated himself from certain other observations of his brother judge on the larger issue of PIL jurisdiction of the court.
Quoting from an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court, Justice Katju said: “Public interest litigation has nowadays largely become ‘publicity interest litigation’, ‘private interest litigation’ or ‘politics interest litigation’ or the latest trend ‘paise income litigation’. Much of P.I.L. is largely blackmail,” the bench said, adding PILs should be used with great care and circumspection.
“The view that the judiciary can run the government and can solve all the problems of the people is not only unconstitutional, but also it is fallacious and creates a false impression and false illusion that the judiciary is a panacea for all ills in society,” Justice Katju said.
Again, these two paragraphs of Justice Katju’s judgment do not figure in the list of paragraphs, justice Sema do not agree with.
Justice Sema, however, said "if there is a buffer zone unoccupied by the legislature or executive which is detrimental to the public interest, judiciary must occupy the field to subserve the public interest…In my opinion the blanket bar on the application in the form of PIL is obviated.”