The Bombay High Court has imposed Rs. 50,000 as cost on a petitioner who owns a paan beedi shop in Chinchpokali, Mumbai.
The court expressed apprehension regarding the petitioner’s bona fides after he offered to deposit Rs. 50,000 to prove the same despite having a total annual income of Rs. 2,20,000.
The bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak dismissed the petition seeking an enquiry by a Special Task Force into the alleged fraud by a developer in redeveloping a plot in Mazgaon, Mumbai, and imposed costs payable to the Legal Services Authority.
Upon enquiry, the court was informed by the petitioner’s advocate that his client resides 500 metres from the plot in question. This led to the court questioning the delay in filing the PIL as 20 storeys have already been constructed.
The court then noted how the Supreme Court applied the doctrine of latches to the PILs in R and M Trust vs Koramangla Residents Vigilance Group and ors and held that delay in institution of a PIL was fatal.
“The petitioner has stated that his annual income from Paan Beedi Shop is Rs.1,20,000. The petitioner has stated that his wife's annual income is of Rs.1 lakh. The petitioner has stated that he has the family to maintain. In these circumstances, offer to deposit Rs.50,000 does not appear to be bonafide,” the court said.
It further noted: “In a matter of this nature, it cannot be ruled out that the petitioner has been put up as a proxy by private builder or this petition has been filed to practice extortion. It is not possible for us to make any firm observations in this regard. But from all such circumstances, we are not at all satisfied that this is a bonafide public interest litigation.”
Thus, the petition was dismissed and the petitioner was directed to pay Rs.50,000 to the Legal Services Authority within 4 weeks.