1598 PILs pending before SC, the oldest one being filed in 1992
There are 1,598 public interest litigations pending before Supreme Court. The oldest dates back to 23 years ago, the apex court has revealed this in its response to an RTI query. The oldest pending PIL with WP(C) 537/1992 was filed by Sureshwar D Sinha and relates to water pollution linked to industries, domestic sources, sewage, river and sea.
In response to Lucknow-based RTI applicant Sanjay Sharma's query, Supreme Court answered, "Total number of pending public interest litigation cases as on July 20, 2015, is 1,598 out of which 553 writ petitions pertaining to public interest litigations are pending. "As per records, the oldest public interest litigation whose status is pending for disposal is WP(C) 537/1992 and its date of filing is July 15, 1992," it said.
Interestingly, not much time has passed since the Bombay High Court made an amendment to The Bombay High Court Public Interest Litigation Rules, 2010 which empowers the court, at its discretion; direct the petitioner to deposit a sum, by way of security deposit, in the court, which shall be subject to final or interim order of the court. The effect of the amendment is such that a Public Interest Litigation may commence as a suo motu petition in pursuance of the orders of the Chief Justice or of his nominee Judge.
Moreover, the Supreme Court in State of Uttranchal Vs Balwant Singh Chaufal issued the following Guidelines
(1) The courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PIL and effectively discourage and curb the PIL filed for extraneous considerations.
(2) Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with the public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each High Court to properly formulate rules for encouraging the genuine PIL and discouraging the PIL filed with oblique motives. Consequently, we request that the High Courts who have not yet framed the rules, should frame the rules within three months. The Registrar General of each High Court is directed to ensure that a copy of the Rules prepared by the High Court is sent to the Secretary General of this court immediately thereafter.
(3) The courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining a P.I.L.
(4) The court should be prima facie satisfied regarding the correctness of the contents of the petition before entertaining a PIL.
(5) The court should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition.
(6) The court should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest, gravity and urgency must be given priority over other petitions.
(7) The courts before entertaining the PIL should ensure that the PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury. The court should also ensure that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind filing the public interest litigation.
(8) The court should also ensure that the petitions filed by busybodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs or by adopting similar novel methods to curb frivolous petitions and the petitions filed for extraneous considerations.
On the other hand, earlier this March, the Delhi High Court refused to entertain a public interest litigation filed by Mr. Manohar Lal Sharma, who had moved Court against Order IV Rule 1(c) and Order XXXVIII Rule 12(2)(i)(a) of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013. Not only this, he is seen to be an avid PIL activist in almost all frivolous cases as far as filing PILs are concerned. The data set when aggregated shows that, a total of 33 PILs have been filed out of which 30 were dismissed at the preliminary stage. The other 3 pending PILs are tagged along with other petitions for which other petitioners have also approached court. These trivial and frivolous PILs can be regarded as travesty of justice in view of the ever increasing burden on the judiciary.