Following the Supreme Court’s rejection of petitions that sought a probe into the “suspicious” death of judge B H Loya who was hearing a case of fake encounter allegedly involving BJP president Amit Shah, a few things have become clear. The first is that the petitioners had no credible material to demand an inquiry into what was clearly a case of natural death. The second is that they were clearly motivated by political reasons to push for a probe. The third is that the Congress, which had politically invested in the issue, even approaching the President when the matter was sub judice, has a lot of answering to do. And the fourth is that drama enacted by four apex court judges a few weeks earlier, who went to the media and said that the Loya case was among the issues that had made them speak out against the administrative functioning of the court under the directives of the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, was hollow.
But the most relevant takeaway from the recent verdict is the three-judge Bench’s scathing observations on the misuse of public interest litigations (PILs). The learned Justices said that PILs had become a means for vested interests to settle petty scores. This was not the aim of such limitations when it came into practice. The PIL, when it was devised in the 1980s, was supposed to be a tool for the oppressed and the marginalised who had no access to regular legal help for various reasons including lack of resources, to get justice.
A letter stating genuine and pressing grievances, dispatched through a postcard could become a PIL, for instance. Also, an ordinary citizen could take the PIL route to represent the grievances of another person or group who may not have the wherewithal to do so by themselves. Sadly, as the Bench has noted, in recent times PILs had been “brazenly mis-utilised for personal agenda”.
Coming down hard on the motivated PIL industry, the Justices noted that this legal route had also become a recourse to seek publicity by movers of the PIL. These are serious observations, and it must be noted that the proliferation of motivated litigations has the potential to undermine the efficacy of the judicial process and even raise suspicions that the judiciary was being used for private ends. The fear is legitimate because the initiators of these dubious litigations are not ordinary lawyers but respected names in the legal profession. Better is expected of them. It is to be hoped that the rejection of PILs in the Loya case will reverse the trend of an increasing number of motivated litigations.