Case BriefsHigh Courts

Gujarat High Court: A Bench of Anant S. Dave, Acting CJ and Biren Vaishnav, J. disposed of a public interest litigation that challenged the ban on the viral online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (“PUBG”), without passing any further orders as the notification extending the said ban was cancelled by the Police Commissioner, Rajkot City.

Pruthvirajsinh Zala — a first-year Law student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University — had filed a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of the notification which imposed a ban on PUBG in Rajkot City. The Rajkot Police commissioner had laid a 2 months ban on PUBG sinceMarch using powers under Section 144 CrPC and Section 37(3) of Gujarat Police Act. Later, the Police even arrested several people playing PUBG and booked them under Section 188 IPC (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).

The petitioner who appeared in person before the Court, challenged that notification on the grounds that it was arbitrary and unreasonable at the very face of it, and violative of Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g), and 21. The Government Pleader submitted that the ban was merely for the school examination purposes and even the parents were happy about it. Per contra, the petitioner argued that such justification did not fall under the ambit of reasonable restrictions and it was based on mere anecdotal views lacking scientific nexus.

On 29-04-2019, the High Court had directed the State to file an affidavit in reply with regard to the contentions raised by the petitioner. On 08-05-2019, the State sought more time to file the affidavit. the petitioner informed the Court that the band had been extended for another 2 months vide notification dated 01-05-2019, even though the school examinations were over and summer vacations had begun. The Court granted one day’s time to State to file the affidavit. On 09-05-2019, the Court was informed that the Police Commissioner, Rajkot City had denotified the ban extended on PUBG.

In such view of the matter, the Court disposed of the petition observing that no further orders were required to be made.[Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. State of Gujarat, R/WP (PIL) No. 78 of 2019, decided on 09-05-2019]

In the communiqué received from Mr Pruthvirajsinh Zala, he quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. saying — “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” He says he strongly believes in constitutional values and human rights; and that he acted to protect the fundamental rights and prevent arrests of the citizens of Rajkot for merely playing a game.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Rajasthan High Court: The Bench of Mohammad Rafiq and Goverdhan Bardhar, JJ. disposed of a petition with the direction to the petitioner to approach the District Collector for alleviating the grievances of the petitioner.

The facts of the case are that a public interest litigation petition was filed by the petitioner contending that the Khasra in question was recorded in the revenue records as ‘gair mumkin pokhar’ (pond) and ‘gair mumkin rasta’ respectively. The said ‘pokhar’ was used by the villagers to feed water to the cattle and ‘rasta’ was being used by the villagers for going to said ‘pokhar’ and rainy water also came through that ‘rasta’ to the ‘pokhar’. It was contended that the Respondents 6 and 7 had encroached upon the aforesaid land of ‘gair mumkin pokhar’ and ‘gair mumkin rasta’ and closed the ‘rasta’ as also filled up the ‘pokhar’ with the mud. The petitioner several times requested the Tehsildar and the SDO to remove the encroachment over the aforesaid land but no action was taken by the concerned authorities. It was also contended that due to the aforesaid encroachment, the residents were suffering very hardship and they had no alternative ‘pokhar’ to feed their cattle. It was thus prayed that the respondents be directed to remove the encroachment.

The Court instead of directly entertaining this public interest litigation petition directed the petitioner to approach the District Collector for an appropriate action that should be taken within 3 months. [Bhagwan Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 2019 SCC OnLine Raj 78, Order dated 04-02-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Dinesh Maheshwari, CJ and S. Sujatha, JJ. dismissed a PIL and condemned the act of petitioner wife who had filed the said petition for her personal interests in the garb of public interest.

The instant petition was filed praying for a writ of mandamus to the Central and State government suggesting certain guidelines to be implemented by law enforcement authorities to ensure protection of women and strict implementation of dowry and domestic violence laws. The averment of petitioner was that out of court settlements made with intrusion of politicians, rowdy elements or police by shelling out money has defeated the justice delivery system.

The Court noted that multiple proceedings involving the petitioner relating to disputes raised under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Sections 498-A, 506, 504, 420 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 were pending. It further observed that though the petition was styled as public interest litigation, it was essentially filed to foster personal disputes and vendetta. As such, the action of petitioner pretending to act pro bono publico only to get personal gain ought to be discouraged.

The Bench observed that the petitioner-wife was seeking relief in a sinister manner through a frivolous litigation masked to resolve family disputes circumventing the regular judicial process. In case there is an infraction of a law by authorities, the appropriate remedy for the same was available under law.

In view of the aforesaid observations, PIL jurisdiction in the present petition was declined. [Anusha N. v. Union of India, WP No. 44038 of 2018, decided on 20-11-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: A Division bench comprising of Dinesh Maheswari and S.G. Pandit, JJ. while hearing a civil writ petition declined to exercise its jurisdiction under public interest litigation since the petition involved the determination of questions of fact.

The instant writ petition was filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India praying to call for records pertaining to the case on hand and seeking a direction against the respondent State to clear the road by removing encroachments made on public roads.

The court, on the day of preliminary hearing, stated that it was not persuaded to entertain the present petition as a public interest litigation (PIL) because though the petition alleged several encroachments on public pathway and roads but none of the alleged encroachers had been impleaded as a party to the said petition, not even in a representative capacity. Further, it was noted that the matter involved questions of fact which could not be determined in the PIL jurisdiction of the Court.

With the aforesaid observations and noting, the court dismissed the present petition with a liberty to the petitioner to take recourse to appropriate remedies in accordance with law. [Chaitanya Mandal v. State of Karnataka,2018 SCC OnLine Kar 1755, decided on 23-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: The petition was filed before Krishna Murari, CJ. and Arun Palli, J., praying that the State Government should be commanded to declare an area in question as a protected monument and to preserve it accordingly. An affidavit was filed by Deputy Secretary, Department of Archaeology, Museums, and Archives, Punjab stating that a notification under Section 4(3) of the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964, had been issued and published.

As per the amicus curiae in this case, according to the affidavit, cause of this petition had already been served thus this petition should be quashed. Whereas the Punjab Urban Development Authority submitted that notification had been issued without considering the objections by the authorities.

The High Court was of the view that issue raised by Punjab Urban Development Authority and submission of respondent both were beyond the scope of this Public Interest Litigation. Amicus curiae brought to light the fact that consideration for auction was not fully paid and no allotment order in their favour has been issued. The Court stated that if any legal right was violated they can take recourse accordingly and for this Public Interest Litigation the proceedings were closed and the matter was disposed. [Subhash Kapoor v. State of Punjab, 2018 SCC OnLine P&H 1517, decided on 01-10-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: In an highly structured and ornate decision concerning the deficiencies of the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975 placed in the form of a PIL, the Division Bench comprising of A.S. Oka and Riyaz.I.Chagla, JJ., have remarkably given the explanation on the objects of enacting the Trees Act, which clearly is a leading path towards the growth of trees rather than the destruction in urban areas.

The focal point of addressing the present PIL was the challenge placed by the petitioners on the validity of the amendment to the Trees Act. The talked about PIL in this case constitutes two petitions and the authorities involved in them are “Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai” and “Municipal Corporation of City of Thane”. The challenge in both the petitions is to the sub-section (6) added in Section 8 of the Trees Act and there is a challenge to the constitutional validity of the said provision on the ground of violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India.

The first and foremost submission posed by the petitioners was that in regard to the constitution of the Tree Authority and the kind of mindless decision making process they have adopted towards granting the felling of trees. Her contention is that the entire process is vitiated by illegality due to which they cannot be allowed to function. The next submission was made in regard to the primary challenge of the PIL which concerns sub-section (6) of Section 8, in which she states that, the said provision is arbitrary in nature and has no nexus with the purpose or object sought to be achieved and it certainly violates Article 14 of the Constitution of India. Along with the mentioned contentions, the other concern was that of the violation of a Fundamental Right of citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution of India due to the manner of exercise of power by the Municipal Commissioner under the above mentioned sub-section.

Further, even in the other writ, petitioner posed a similar issue by challenging his submission to sub-section (6) of Section 8 by stating that intelligible differentia is not present for the classification under the said sub-section which clearly carves the vagueness and ambiguity due to complete absence of guidelines.

Noting all the contentions posed by the petitioners and prioritising the issue by issuing various directions towards the alarming issue of decisions being taken for felling of trees by the authorities acting in an arbitrary manner, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay has taken care of the issues by limiting the powers of the Municipal Commissioner by making the authorities a little more diligent towards the issue of felling of trees and therefore, allowing the citizens to appeal against such decisions. [Rohit Manohar Joshi v. Tree Authority, Thane; PIL No. 119 of 2017, dated 23.04.2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed for a direction to the authorities to take appropriate measures for combating the disease of dengue spreading like fire in the State of West Bengal and for taking appropriate measures in that regard. Justice Arijit Banerjee and Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, ACJ, issued interim measures to combat the hazardous situation.

Learned Advocate General on behalf of the State, challenged the maintainability of the writ petitions on two grounds: Firstly, the petitions were filed on the basis of newspaper reports and secondly, these writ petitions are not supported by any evidence, whereas, Hon’ble Apex Court has laid that a party should approach the High Court only after doing adequate research for the grievance made. The writ petitions filed in this regard are seeking publicity and they have no public interest involved, by quoting this, the learned Advocate General relied on a few decisions like, Ravinder Kumar Sharma v. State of Assam, (1999) 7 SCC 435; Holicow Pictures (P) Ltd. v. Prem Chandra Mishra, (2007) 14 SCC 281 and many more on the same issue of seeking publicity and not for any public interest.

Mr. Sanyal by relying on the decision of Division Bench of this Court in Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury v. State Of West Bengal, 2003 SCC OnLine Cal 611: (2004) 2 CHN 40, submitted that a PIL is definitely maintainable if it carries the issue of public health and concern at large. Learned counsel also submitted that WP 26784 (W) of 2017, is not based merely on newspaper reports instead it is based on a State Government report to the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

Hon’ble Court further held that, newspaper reports are per se inadmissible in accordance to Section 81 of the Evidence Act, unless the  reporter concerned is examined and cross-examined in the Court. The information should show the gravity and seriousness involved. Therefore, by considering the above-stated contentions, 2 out of 9 Writ petitions stand on a different footing and along with that the report filed by State admits that Dengue has become a serious social problem, for which the Court cannot just remain silent.

State has taken appropriate measures to the best possible extent, but a number of deaths still continue to occur, for which adequate steps shall be taken and also the the Court did not hold that the writ petitions filed on the grave issue of dengue causing several deaths are not maintainable as PILs and the contention of the State of the writ petitions not maintainable was also rejected.

Further, interim directions were issued to tackle the problem:

· Mobile medical facilities for blood testing, in areas where no hospitals at close proximity are available.

· All Government Hospitals in the State to be provided with adequate medical kits.

· A report shall be submitted by every clinical establishment to the licensing authority as soon as a person is found to be suffering from Dengue, for which a notification had already been issued by the State Government in 2012.

[Anindya Sundar Das v. State of W.B.;  2017 SCC OnLine Cal 16057; decided on 01-12-2017]

 

Hot Off The PressNews

In an unfortunate incident that took place last night, six NUJS students were groped and brutally assaulted by a mob of goons hired by the government contractor in charge of demolition of the Subhas Sarovar slums. After the students of NUJS Kolkata obtained a stay order of Calcutta High Court on the demotion of slum housing.

Narrating the sequence of events, the Student Juridical Association, NUJS, in it’s official Press Release, said that despite the stay order, the contractors demolished the slums at which point NUJS students went to the contractors with the copy of the Court order. On being confronted, the order was torn up, following which the female students were groped by multiple goons and the male students were grievously assaulted till they were unconscious. Their phones were smashed and destroyed and when they tried to escape, the gates of the area, which is a fenced enclosure, were shut.

Terming the incident as manhandling of collective conscience, the student association wrote:

“we, as the law school fraternity, must stand together against this complete obliteration of the rule of law that we seek to defend and practice. We sincerely hope that in this hour of need, our collective conscience will inspire us to participate in defending and echoing the common ideals of liberty and rule of law that bind us together.”

As per the latest update, the Calcutta High Court has immediately ordered the state for rehabilitation of the evicted slum dwellers within 24 hours and has issued a contempt of court notice against perpetrators.

Last month, the public interest team at Increasing Diversity By Increasing Access (IDIA) comprising of NUJS students had obtained a stay on slum demolitions in Kolkata’s Subhas Sarovar area.

As part of its beautification project, the West Bengal state government planned to demolish the slums in the area, which would render around twenty-two families living there for more than a decade, homeless. Three of the slum dwellers, including octogenarian Shiv Shankar Ray, sought to file a petition before the Calcutta High Court challenging the government’s decision. The petition was drafted by the IDIA team comprising of NUJS students– which received help from pro bono lawyers practising at the High Court.

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Refusing to entertain the PIL seeking issuance of a writ of mandamus and appropriate directions commanding the Union of India and all the States and Union Territories to incorporate detailed life history and teachings of all the ten Sikh Gurus along with Guru Granth Saheb in syllabus of all the classes in history books for teaching, the Court said the broad canvass that is sought to be painted in this petition does not come within the domain and sphere of the public interest litigation.

The Bench of Dipak Misra and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ said that what shall be taught in the schools or what shall be included in the syllabus of all classes cannot be directed by this Court in exercise of power of judicial review and also in exercise of power relating to entertaining public interest litigation where rule of locus is not insisted upon and the scope and ambit have been exercised. It was said any litigant should not feel, when he files a public interest litigation that his hope and aspirations for anything and everything deserves to crystalise. He should not harbour the feelings that for any idea to be fructified, he can knock at the doors of this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India. [Subhash Chander Katyal v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 465, order dated 24.04.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where the petitioner, who had filed a PIL pertaining to the challenge to the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules of 2001, framed under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, had alleged sexual harassment by one of the opponents, the Court said that the petitioner had crossed all sense of propriety, restraint, decorum and, in fact, demonstrated brazen sense of insensibility and insensitivity to the process of adjudication and dignity for women. The Court added that when a public spirited person advocates for a cause which he feels is a public cause and this Court entertains the public interest litigation, more additional responsibility has to be cultivated by the petitioner.

The bench of Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy, JJ said that when the petitioner’s public interest litigation was entertained and he was permitted to argue in person, he should have understood that this Court had appreciated his concern for the lis, but by filing the present interlocutory application, it seems that he has thrown the initial decorum that allowed him to address the Court to the winds. The bench noticed that even though the allegations made are scandalous, unwarranted, indecent and absolutely uncalled for, the petitioner should have been well advised that such kind of allegations are not made in an application which has nothing to do with the subject matter of the lis, but may have something to do with a particular individual.

The Court directed that neither the electronic media nor the print media shall publish anything that will relate to identity of the lady or any remark in the interlocutory application as that stands expunged by this Court. Restraining the petitioner from circulating the interlocutory application in any manner whatsoever or speaking about it or publishing them either directly or indirectly, the Court added that any activity of this nature would amount to contempt of this Court and if such an event takes place, the person concerned will invite the wrath of law and the consequences of the same may be quite disastrous for him. [Sabu Steephen v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1297, order dated 22.11.2016]