New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that PIL litigation has had a beneficial effect on the Indian jurisprudence and alleviated the conditions of the citizens in general, but thousands of frivolous petitions are filed, burdening the docket of courts.
A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli said: “Public Interest Litigation is not a new concept in this court. Although the jurisprudence in this regard has matured, many claims filed in the courts are sometimes immature. Thousands of frivolous petitions are filed, burdening the docket of both this Court and the High Courts.”
Chief Justice Ramana, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench, said: “Noble intentions behind expanding the court’s jurisdiction to accommodate socially relevant issues, in recent decades, have been critically analysed. In our view, PIL litigation has had a beneficial effect on the Indian jurisprudence and has alleviated the conditions of the citizens in general. For those at the receiving end of the Court’s directions, we can only advise C’est la vie.”
In the present matter, a petitioner had moved against the government order in favour of Gonsalves family, in connection with a land admeasuring 5 acres and 20 gunthas. The Bombay High Court allowed the petition and dismissed the objections raised by the Gonsalves family regarding locus of the petitioner etc.
The top court said: “It is this Court’s opinion that the PIL petitioners had no reason to file a public interest litigation when the subject matter was evidently a title claim between a private party and the state.”
It noted that the state government has clearly indicated it does not have any interest in pursuing the ownership of the land in question and have admitted to the title of the appellants. “In this light, we hold that institution of the public interest litigation was nothing more than an abuse of the process which cannot be allowed in the facts and circumstance so narrated,” the bench added.
The bench said one of the measures this court can adopt to ensure that frivolous or private interests are not masqueraded as genuine claims, is to be cautious when examining locus standi.
“Generally, PIL, being a summary jurisdiction, has limited powers to examine the bonafides of parties. It is usually on the pleadings that the court should take a prima facie view on the bonafides of the party. If the court concludes that the litigation was initiated under the shadow of reasonable suspicion, then the court may decline to entertain the claims on merits,” it noted, allowing the civil appeals by the Gonsalves family.