Uday Umesh Lalit – Chief Justice of India (CJI)-designate, has stated that the time has come to devise a mechanism to impose mandatory costs on litigants who submit frivolous cases before courts.
- He also stated that the Supreme Court gives equal justice to the affluent and poor, contradicting the belief that cases involving the rich and powerful take precedence.
- On the other hand, the current CJI (N.V. Ramana) stated in his Independence Day address those fundamental duties in the Constitution are meant to guide citizens in engineering a social transformation rather than fulfil a “pedantic or technical” purpose.
What is the issue?
- The Supreme Court’s primary job, as prescribed by the Constitution, is to resolve complex constitutional disputes.
- SC invented the idea of public interest litigation (PIL), which is unique to India.
- This was to allow a public-spirited individual to bring to the court’s attention towards the violations of fundamental rights of the destitute and deprived who lack the means to approach the judiciary for redress of their grievances.
- However, during the last decade, the SC has witnessed that habitual PIL petitioners come to the court with every topic contested in public.
- With the pandemic limiting the physical functioning of the 3-tier justice delivery system for over two years, the number of cases pending in the SC, High Courts (HC) and district courts has surpassed 4 crores.
- One-fourth of them pending for the past five to 20 years.
- Every roadblock in delivering speedy justice must be consciously removed.
- The CJI-designate has the following potent solutions to eradicate the chronic PIL-mania —
- Devise a system through which courts can impose costs on litigants who bring frivolous cases before the courts.
- The losing party in a frivolous case must bear the expense of wasting valuable judicial time and resources.
- Put up a permanent five-judge bench. This was possible even when the SC had seven or eight judges, when compared with a current strength of 34 justices.
- An Amicus Curiae route to reduce frivolous PILs —
- An Amicus Curiae is an individual or organisation who is not a party to a legal case, but who is permitted to assist a court by offering information, expertise or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case.
- The constitutional courts can develop a system in which genuine PILs heard by the court are handled only by court-appointed amicus curiae, regardless of the petitioner.
- Many PILs would not be filed if the SC and the HCs could implement this procedure, as this instrument is essentially intended to create publicity for the petitioner.
Views of current CJI –
- CJI remembered the freedom fighter and Gandhian – Keertiseshulu Sri Pingali Venkayya, who designed the National Flag – the pride and identity of Independent India.
- The Indian Constitution is the fundamental document which regulates the relationship between the citizens and the government.
- While the Constitution grants inalienable rights, it also imposes certain essential duties on Indian citizens.
- This means the fundamental duties are not merely pedantic or technical or academic. They were incorporated as the key to social transformation.
- The top court has inherited the case backlog of nearly a year on the account of pandemic and resultant lockdowns. In the last 16 months, the top could physically assemble for only 55 days.