The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed the 'Abhinav Bharat Congress' and its founder Pankaj Phadnis to deposit Rs. 1 crore with the registry as a precondition for hearing the public interest litigation filed by them seeking directions to State and Municipal Corporation to take control of the management of two hospitals under the Wadia hospital trust in Mumbai during the current pandemic of Covid -19.
Division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice KK Tated observed that petitioners bona fide may be suspect. The PIL was filed by Abhinav Bharat, an unregistered body seeking for directions to the state government and the MCGM to take over Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital for accommodating Covid-19 and other patients.
At the outset, the respondents raised the issue of maintainability of the PIL and submitted that an unregistered body has no locus standi to initiate a proceeding in the nature of a PIL in terms of the Bombay High Court Public Interest Litigation Rules, 2010.
Court noted that the objection is, no doubt, sound. However, it is not a sufficient ground to dismiss the PIL at this stage since the petitioner no.2 (Phadnis), who claims himself to be a public spirited person, may have the locus standi in his individual capacity to carry on with this proceeding, the bench said.
Senior Advocate Mohan Parasaran appeared on behalf of the petitioners, Senior Advocate AY Sakhare for MCGM, Government Pleader PP Kakade for the State and Senior Advocate Rafique Dada for both the child care and maternity hospitals under Wadia.
Affidavit in reply was submitted on behalf of the two hospitals stating that petitioner Pankaj Phadnis was in the employment of one Mr. Wadia, who heads the Boards of Management of both the hospitals and that this PIL has been filed for furthering the petitioner's personal venomous agenda. Moreover, the affidavit contends that Phadnis unsuccessfully initiated proceedings against the said Mr. Wadia in a court in the United States and that this proceeding is nothing but an abuse of the process of the court.
Thereafter, the bench noted that the fact that the petitioner was in the employment of Mr. Wadia at some point of time, has not been disclosed in the PIL petition-
"Such an allegation has also not been rebutted in the rejoinder affidavit. This, coupled with omission of the Petitioner no.2 to specifically deal with the contents of paragraphs 4 to 10 of the affidavit in reply of the Respondent nos.5 and 6, prima facie, gives us reason to believe that this PIL Petition may not have been filed in public interest but for ulterior and oblique motives, and that the bona fide of the petitioner no.2 is suspect.
In that view of the matter, we consider it fit and proper to exercise the power conferred by Rule 7A of the PIL Rules and require the Petitioner no.2 to make a deposit of Rs.1 crore towards security by Thursday next if he wishes to have this PIL Petition to be further considered by us. In the event of failure of the petitioner no.2 to make the deposit as aforesaid, this PIL petition shall stand dismissed without reference to the Bench."
In case the deposit is made, Court directed the PIL to be listed as the first matter on May 29, 2020.
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