Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Reforming Public Interest Litigation
Recent months have seen substantial debate on the Supreme Court's emerging attitude towards reforming public interest litigation (PIL), especially in light of Justice Katju's controversial remarks. In an article in today's Indian Express, I reflect upon this development in light of the Supreme Court's rejection of a PIL petition on Friday, requesting it to order political parties to file tax returns. In particular, I argue that while the stress upon monetary penalties for frivolous PILs is a good thing, true reformation can only come through doctrinal developments that make the distinction between concerns of frivolous petition and concerns of appropriate representation. Certainly further distinctions may need to be made, which I have been unable to deal with in my article. For instance, Justice Katju clearly treated Common Cause as a frivolous PIL petition and it was thrown out, as I mention, because the court said that the sought relief was beyond its authority. But Justice Sema's judgment makes for an interesting read, and perhaps it could be worth exploring distinctions in when PILs are to be rejected within the broad categories of those based on the subject-matter of the suit (broad umbrella - frivolous) and those based on the petitioner (broad umbrella - appropriate representation). Look forward to comments.