The provision of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has ceased to serve the purpose for which it was created, said former Supreme Court judge justice BN Srikrishna.
Speaking on ‘judicial activism’ at the 18th Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture at the YB Chavan Centre on Friday, Srikrishna said the PIL was intended to benefit the section of society that had little or no access to the law. However, of late, it was being used, say, “by one industrialist for fighting against the standing of the other.”
Giving a word of caution, Srikrishna said, “The judicial system, which is currently unable to handle ordinary litigations, now has to contend with non-traditional litigations in the form of PILs, that are attempts to use judges as social engineers.”
He added, “Abrogating the principle of locus standi in the name of ushering in social justice and upliftment of the downtrodden section of society, the courts opened their doors so wide that they find it difficult to control their influx today.”
Srikrishna said in recent times India had witnessed a disturbing trend of using the judiciary to “second guess” unambiguously legislative or executive powers. “Judicial assays into the realm of executive policies seem to have become the norm of the day,” he said.
Citing an example of the consequence of judicial activism in the complex socio-economic field, which the legislative and executive wings possess the specialisation to deal with, Srikrishna said the most embarrassing instance was in the case of a directive for Uniform Civil Code legislation where the SC had to downplay its initial activist observation.
“While activist judgments may bring immediate and transitory succor, if they don’t strike at the root of the problem, what follows is the loss of credibility and respect for the institution,” he cautioned.
Srikrishna said the antidote to this judicial disease, lies in rigorous application of impartiality and responsibility in the use of established precedent.