Can there be a body only for filing PILs, Centre asks SC | India News

Can there be a body only for filing PILs, Centre asks SC | India News

NEW DELHI: The Centre on Friday wondered loudly before the Supreme Court whether there could be an organisation whose sole work is to file PILs in violation of norms laid down by the SC, which had devised the instrument to allow representational litigation for judicial redressal of rights violation of poor and destitute.
The target was advocate Prashant Bhushan spearheaded Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which has filed many PILs including on Covid-19. The Centre’s affidavit detailed the massive governmental response to the pandemic situation and why PM Cares Fund money cannot be transferred to National Disaster Response Fund and then took potshots at CPIL.
“SC must visit the question as to whether there can be a permanent body set up only to file PILs on issues which the said body subjectively considers to be ‘public interest’,” the Centre said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah that the government has not argued CPIL locus standi in the court prior to the bench reserving verdict, and hence he did not want this issue to be decided. However, the Centre said when genuine non-professional PIL petitioners were already before the SC on the same issues, why should CPIL’s PIL be entertained.
This is not the first time questions have been raised about CPIL being a professional PIL litigant. On January 12, 2016, a bench headed by then CJI T S Thakur had asked Bhushan how filing of PILs could be the sole activity of an NGO or professional body like CPIL, which then had challenged allocation of 4G spectrum to Reliance Industries Ltd’s Jio.
The bench had said, “Prashant Bhushan, you have an image of a crusader. But can you become the centre for public interest litigation? Can the system be taken for a ride in such a manner? We cannot allow this. We must be satisfied that you have a committee which scrutinizes the complaints and allows only genuine ones to be converted into public interest litigations. Has this matter been examined by the committee?”
“We must have the confidence that when CPIL files a petition, it is not prompted by someone who has a vested interest even though the cause may appear genuine. If a corporate rival gives documents for filing a PIL, will you do it? Why would that corporate source not come out in the open and pursue the litigation in its own name? Why should CPIL be a front for settling corporate rivalry or personal vendetta? CPIL should not become a proxy litigant. It should not become an instrument in the hands of commercial players,” it had said. But, when it dismissed the PIl on April 8, 2016, the judgment did not delve into this issue.
The Centre in its affidavit said on Friday that “mere criticism by a few may not be enough to undermine a humongous and unprecedented response to the pandemic given by our country, which included the Union and state governments, all local bodies, healthcare and sanitation workers and each individual citizen, in his own way, and who all are real corona warriors.”

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