Self-Serving Statements Claiming To Be ‘Social Workers’ Not Sufficient To Invoke PIL Jurisdiction: Madhya Pradesh HC [Read Order]
‘A practice in the cases before this Court is to make a statement that the petitioners are social workers and they are spending the money including the lawyer’s fee from their own pocket. That by itself does not satisfy the test of a locus standi to file public interest litigation.’
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that, to invoke public interest writ jurisdiction, simple self-serving statement that the PIL-petitioners are social workers will not suffice, but they should produce on record to the satisfaction of the court such social work in the last couple of years is in the area in respect of which the public interest writ petition is filed.
The first bench of the high court headed by Chief Justice Hemant Gupta made this observation in a review petition filed against its order holding a writ petition filed by self-claimed social workers.
The writ petition was filed challenging the government notification declaring some villages as panpatha sanctuary. While dismissing the PIL in a brief order holding it not maintainable, the bench had observed that the aggrieved persons are the landowners and that the ‘social workers’ cannot be permitted to espouse the cause vested with the landowners.
In the review petition, the ‘social workers’ contended that writ petition in public interest is maintainable as the affected persons are a large number of people belonging to marginalized section of the society.
The bench, noticing that except the averment in the petition that the petitioners are social workers, there is no assertion of their activity undertaken by them in the villages in question, observed: “Simple self-serving statement that the petitioners are social workers is not sufficient to invoke the public interest writ jurisdiction of this Court unless the petitioners are able to produce on record to the satisfaction of the Court such social work in last couple of years is in the area in respect of which the public interest writ petition is invoked. A practice in the cases before this Court is to make a statement that the petitioners are social workers and they are spending the money including the lawyer’s fee from their own pocket. That by itself does not satisfy the test of a locus standi to file public interest litigation. The public interest writ jurisdiction was intended to vindicate public interest where fundamental and other rights of the people who were poor, ignorant or in socially or economically disadvantageous position and were unable to seek legal redress were required to be espoused.”
The bench, also comprising Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla, further reiterated that strangers to the land could not maintain the writ petition. It said: “The landowners who have been dislocated on account of declaration of a Sanctuary have not felt aggrieved by their dislocation. As per the averment in the return filed in the year 2016, the landowners of four villages have been disbursed compensation as well. In respect of the fifth village, the compensation is said to be underdetermination of disbursement. Therefore, the public interest litigation in respect of declaration of land for sanctuary would not be maintainable as the legal right in respect of land is that of the landowner. Such landowner has a right to assert violation of such right conferred under Article 300A of the Constitution of India before the competent Court of Law soon after the alleged infringement. Even if the owners are of Baiga community, the petitioners could motivate some of the owners to invoke the jurisdiction of this Court but the strangers to the land cannot be permitted to dispute the settled position.”
Dismissing the review petition, the court further held that public interest litigation in respect of acquisition of land at the instance of the third person would not be maintainable as the legal right in respect of land is that of the land owner and the landowner has a right to assert violation of such right conferred under Article 300A of the Constitution of India before the competent court of law soon after the alleged infringement.
Read the Order Here