SC against misuse of frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) without any supportive technical data- slaps exemplary cost

Public interest litigation(PIL) is a highly effective weapon in the armory of law for imparting  justice to the common man. It is a unique and unparalleled phenomenon in the Indian Constitutional Jurisprudence. It is a litigation on behalf of a large group of persons who are victims of governmental lawlessness, or social oppression or denied their constitutional or legal rights and who are not individually in a position to approach the court for the redressal of their grievances due to lack of resources or ignorance or their disadvantaged social and economic position.

However, a practice developed wherein petitions in the apex courts & high courts were filed for corporate gain, political advantage or personal interest thereby defeating the very purpose of a PIL. The Apex Court has cautioned over the abuse of  PIL and imposed heavy penalties on petitioners for ” killing the important time & energy” of the highest court already overburdened by normal litigation. It is necessary requisite of a PIL  that a petitioner has to come to the Court for relief in public interest with clean hands  clean heart, clean mind and clean objective and above all supportive evidence/data.

A 3 judge bench of the Apex Court on June 11,2020 dismissed the PIL as ‘dubious’ and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 5 lakh on a social worker who filed a PIL seeking ban on sale and use of Coca Cola and Thums Up. In the PIL he had  claimed that these soft beverages were hazardous to health.  It was  unclear to the court as to why only two specific brands were only targeted in the petition. The court found that the information in the petition and the affidavit was vague and indefinite and lacked gravity and technical soundness.

The petitioner had moved the top court pleading to prohibit the sale and use of Coca Cola & Thums Up beverages and also for apprising people at large not to drink  the same as they were detrimental to  health.

The top court observed that the petition has been filed without the petitioner having any technical knowledge on the subject. The court held thus :

“The source of his assertions has not been substantiated. No justification or explanation is forthcoming during the submissions of S.P. Singh, senior counsel (for the petitioner) on why two specific brands in particular are chosen to be the target of the proceedings. The petition has been filed for extraneous reasons. The invocation of the jurisdiction under Article 32 is an abuse of the process,” observed the bench while dismissing the PIL.

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March 2021