Consider plea to increase awareness on Constitution, laws, Bombay HC asks academicians
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court (HC) recently asked a social activist to approach academicians, central and state government authorities and place his plea before them to spread awareness about contents of Constitution of India, Right to Information (RTI) Act and Consumer Protection Act, among masses before them. The social activist through public interest litigation (PIL) had also sought directions to include such laws as compulsory subjects of education for undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. The bench, however, declined to state that by issuing such directions it would be indulging in judicial over-reach and stepping into the domain of the other organs of the state and disposed of the PIL.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Ravindra Ghuge, while hearing the PIL filed by agriculturist Sanjay Kale, was informed by advocate Pradnya Talekar, that her client had repeatedly written to the Governor of Maharashtra, state higher and technical education department and state universities in Maharashtra for initiating steps for awareness about laws related to public importance and also requesting to make these laws as compulsory subject of education at higher-level studies. However, as his suggestions had not been heeded, he had resorted to filing the PIL.
According to the PIL, the Constitution of India, RTI Act and Consumer Protection Act laid down fundamental rights, fundamental duties and other rights including the right to information, right to inspect, right to good services, which are very much essential in day-to-day activities or transactions. Every person living in a democratic India should know about these laws or rights to achieve the goals enumerated in the preamble of the Constitution.
The PIL further added that keeping citizens informed was an obligation of the government and was also the responsibility of society to adequately educate every component of it so that the social level is kept up.
In light of these submissions, the PIL sought directions to the central government to enforce as a condition of license to all cinema halls to exhibit free of cost at least two slides/messages/short film on important rights and duties in each show undertaken by them and also sought such telecasts on TV and Radio channels including those run by the governments.
The petitioner submitted that issuance of such directions would hold significance in the backdrop of the upcoming Republic Day as well.
After hearing the submissions, the bench declined to pass any directions and asked academicians and the educational authorities to consider and decide on the activist’s demand. Justifying the stand, the chief justice, while referring to the foreword written by former Chief Justice of India Yashwant V Chandrachud in a book authored by justice KK Mathew, which read, “in our present dispensation, a judge cannot, except for honourable exceptions, lay plausible claim of legal scholarship” said, “We certainly are not exceptions and, therefore, would never dream of claiming legal or any other scholarship. Why we say so is because of the nature of concern expressed in this PIL petition.”
The chief justice added, “As judges, we primarily don the hat of an adjudicator. Having regard to the manifold activities concerning administrative work that we perforce are bound to discharge, we also don other hats. An attempt is made by the petitioner by presenting this PIL to make us don the hat of an academician too and interfere in academic matters, a field of activity where we have little or no expertise.”
While disposing of the PIL the bench noted, “There could be a judicial overreach and stepping into the domain of the other organs of the state, if we were to entertain the prayers in this PIL petition. We are, therefore, of the considered opinion that the matter must be left to the discretion of the experts in the educational field. The petitioner is granted leave to pursue his remedy before such authorities.”