Petition against petitions

By Ravleen Kaur
Published: Thursday 15 May 2008

in a petition filed on April 14, the international bench of the supreme court and bar association asked for judicial guidelines for entertaining pleas against projects of national importance costing over Rs 100 crore. The association said execution of several projects was being delayed deliberately by vested interests on the pretext of "environmental concerns". The petition outlined that litigation resulted in escalation of the project cost and cited cases of the Narmada dam, Tehri dam and the Taj Corridor projects. Opposition to such projects is voiced when they are nearing completion, the petition added.

The April 14 petition was filed around the same time when a supreme court bench dismissed a petition submitted by Common Cause, a Delhi-based ngo. The ngo sought the court's intervention on road safety issues. Dismissing the petition, the bench comprising Justice H K Sema and Justice Markandey Katju said what the petition had sought for was already dealt with under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.

"Most petitions are a blackmail. A public interest litigation, created as a useful judicial tool to help the weaker sections of society who could not afford to come to courts, has developed into a Frankenstein and a nuisance that is threatening to choke the dockets of the superior courts obstructing hearing of genuine and regular cases which have been waiting to be taken up for years together," said Justice Katju, while dismissing the petition. He insisted there should be a fine on frivolous petitions. "Unless we impose a penalty of Rs one lakh, people will not stop filing frivolous petitions," he said.

On April 8, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan had sought the assistance of the supreme court bar association to frame new guidelines with respect to petitions. However, many lawyers say that the move to make guidelines for petitions is meaningless. "Whether to entertain a petition depends solely on the bench. Judiciary cannot run on policy because the court does not make policies. So, even if guidelines are made, they will be meaningless," said A K Ganguly, a supreme court advocate.

"A court is the custodian of fundamental rights and a petition is a fundamental right. We can't restrict that," he added.

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