Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SC lays down 10-point guideline to prevent frivolous PILs

NEW DELHI: Despite the undeniable social benefit of public interest litigation (PIL), the Supreme Court has expressed concern over gross abuse of this instrument in courts in the recent past.

To curb PILs from being hijacked by vested interests, a Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and M K Sharma has laid down a 10-point stringent guideline for all High Courts, including imposing exemplary cost on busybodies and frivolous PIL petitioners.

Terming PIL jurisdiction as extremely important, the Bench said guidelines were necessary to preserve the purity and sanctity of PILs.

Highlights of the guidelines are:

* Encourage genuine and bonafide PIL and discourage and curb those filed for extraneous considerations.

* Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each HC to properly formulate rules for encouraging genuine PILs and discouraging PILs filed with oblique motives. HCs should frame rules in this regard within three months.

* Verify credentials of petitioner before entertaining a PIL

* Ascertain correctness of facts mentioned in PIL

* Check whether substantial public interest is involved

* Give priority to PILs involving larger public interest

* Ensure that the PIL seeks redressal of a genuine public harm or injury and that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind it

* Impose exemplary cost on busybodies and frivolous PILs.

The Bench asked the Supreme Court registry to send this judgment to all HCs and listed the matter for hearing again on May 3. The judgment came in a case relating to appointment of a law officer in Uttarakhand government.

Narrating the importance of PILs, the apex court said, "Courts' directions have immensely benefited marginalised sections of society in a number of cases. It has also helped in protection and preservation of ecology, environment, forests, marine life and wildlife."

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