Janata Dal v. H.S. Chowdhary
Writ Petition (Crl.) No 114 of 1991
Dr. P. Nalla Thampy Thera, Petitioner
Union of India and Others, Respondents
Criminal Appeal Nos. 304-311 of 1991 and Writ Petition (Crl) No. 114 of 1991, decided on August 28, 1992
I. LOCUS STANDI IN PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION
Constitution of India -– Arts. 32 and 5l·A – Public Interest Litigation – Meaning and relevance – Words and phrases – ‘litigation’, ‘PIL’
The expression ‘litigation’ means a legal action including all proceedings therein, initiated in a court of law with the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy. Therefore, lexically the expression ‘PIL’ means a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or a class of the community have pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. The definition of PIL emerged from historical context in which the commonality of the various forms of legal representation involving the basic and fundamental rights of a significant segment of the public demanding vindication of its rights has been recognised in various parts of the world. The concept of PIL which has been and is being fostered by judicial activism has become an increasingly important one setting up valuable and respectable records, especially in the arena of constitutional and legal treatment for ‘the unrepresented and underrepresented (Paras 53, 55 and 54)
Constitution of India _ Arts. 32, 51-A & 136 – PIL – Locus standi – No a rigid rule can be laid down – Scope wider than that relating to private litigation – But a mere busybody or a meddlesome interloper or wayfarer or officious intervener without any interest or concern except for personal gain or private profit or other oblique consideration cannot be allowed to abuse the process of the Court by initiating vexatious or frivolous litigation.
In defining the rule of locus standi in PIL no ‘rigid litmus test’ can be applied since the broad contours of PIL are still developing apace seemingly with divergent views on several aspects of the concept of this newly developed law and discovered jurisdiction leading to a rapid transformation of judicial activism with a far-reaching change both in the nature and form of the judicial process. The dominant object of PIL is to ensure observance of the provisions of the Constitution or the law which can be best achieved to advance the cause of community or disadvantaged groups and individuals or public interest by permitting any person, acting bona fide and having sufficient interest in maintaining an action for judicial redress for public injury to put the judicial machinery in motion like actio popularis of Roman Law whereby any citizen could bring such an action in respect of a public delict. The Supreme Court has widely enlarged the scope of PIL by relaxing and liberalising the rule of standing by treating letters or petitions sent by any person or association complaining violation of any fundamental rights and also entertaining writ petitions filed under Article 32 by public-spirited and policy-oriented activist persons or journalists or of any organisation rejecting serious challenges made with regard to the maintainability of such petitions and rendered many virtuosic pronouncements and issued manifold directions to the Central and the State Governments, all local and other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India for the betterment of the public at large in many fields in conformity with constitutional prescriptions of what constitutes! the good life in a socially just democracy. (Paras 68, 64 and 89).
However, only a person acting bona fide and having sufficient interest in the proceeding of PIL will alone have a locus standi and can approach the court for the poor and needy, suffering from violation of their fundamental rights. But a person for personal gain or private profit or political motive or any oblique consideration has no locus standi. Similarly, a vexatious petition under the colour of PIL brought before the court for vindicating any personal grievance, deserves rejection at the threshold. The Court should not allow its process to be abused by mere busybodies, meddlesome interlopers, wayfarers or officious interveners having absolutely no public interest except for personal gain or private profit either for themselves or as proxy of others or for any other extraneous motivation or for glare of publicity. But this does not mean there is any retreating or recoiling from the earlier views expressed by the Supreme Court about the philosophy of public interest litigation. (Paras 109 to 112)