"We will not allow the politicisation of the Court. We are not the Executive, we are not the Administration": Madras High Court
The Madras High Court on 21st January, 2021while disposing three Public Interest Litigation expressed strong disapproval and observed, "There is a proliferation of Public Interest Litigations that calls upon the Judiciary to undertake fundamental works only capable of being performed by the Executive".
The first PIL- P.Harishkumar v. The Secretary to Government and 12 others were filed which involved tasks that could only be performed by the State authorities.
The division bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy disposed off the PILs concerning a bridge for a village, and involving grievances over how vehicles and machinery are being allowed to be used in an area.
The Court specifically remarked the petitioner- P. Harishkumar and others that before approaching the Court one must wait for his representation to be considered by the concerned authority. The bench stated, "The first stop is the High Court of the State. Such conduct cannot be appreciated. If the petitioner is a villager, there is a personal element of interest involved and such matters cannot be converted to PIL and the Division Bench of the Constitutional Court disturbed".
The Chief Justice questioned, "What kind of PIL is this?', while hearing the matter. Subsequently, the Court passed an order, directing the petitioner to first approach the concerned authority to express his grievances.
As the petitioner's counsel vehemently asserted in his arguments, highlighting that the PILs involved the interest at large of a village, the Bench sternly made it clear that the Court would not be entertaining the PIL. The Chief Justice remarked, "We will not allow the politicisation of the court. We are not the executive, we are not the administration."
In the course of its order, the Court also noted that if the petitioner is a villager, personal interest in the matter could not be ruled out. The Bench further added that if the petitioner is not content with the response of the relevant authorities to his representation, he may file a writ petition, but not by way of public interest.
In the second PIL that followed - J Devendran v. The Commissioner and 3 others, the disposal of this plea also went through the similar views observed by the Court, with the Bench finding that "adversarial proceedings have been converted into a Public Interest Litigation".
Primarily the matter involved a dispute over an alleged encroachment, the Court asked the petitioner to state his complaints before the local authorities and to follow up the matter in accordance with law and workout their remedies, but not in the form of a PIL.
The Court added, "If there is any private dispute, the appropriate forum would be a civil court."
The next case- Nilgiris District Floriculture v. Union of India and 8 others concerned the effect of natural calamities on farmers in the Nilgiris. The Chief Justice again expressed his disapproval over how the Court's PIL jurisdiction was being invoked.
The Chief Justice criticized, "Why is this a PIL? You are an association; you are directly involved. It is a personal interest. Why is it in public interest? You are an association, directly affected by a particular calamity".
The Nilgiris District Floriculture Association (petitioner), however, urged the Court that notice had already been issued in the matter earlier and that what was only being sought were the implementation of certain directions.
The petitioner's counsel contended that they were not only representing the interests of the Association's members but also other affected farmers. After making further submissions in the matter, the Court proceeded to eventually list the matter next in March.