Singh Vs. State of Punjab & Ors  Insc 326 (10 May 2005)
Pasayat & S.H. Kapadia Arijit Pasayat, J.
impugned judgment a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court held that the appointment of the appellant as
Auction Recorder of the Market Committee, Patran was invalid and illegal. The
said order came to be passed on the basis of a Writ Petition filed by
respondent No. 4. It is to be noted that the said petition was styled as a
Public Interest Litigation (in short 'PIL').
brief reference to the factual aspect would be necessary.
was appointed as Auction Recorder on 19.11.1986. Appointment of the appellant
was challenged by one Ashok Kumar, clerk of the Market Committee by filing a
complaint before the competent authority alleging that the appellant having
been convicted under Section 61(1)(a) of Punjab Excise Act in 1974 for alleged
commission of offence on 21.5.1973 and was therefore ineligible for being
considered for appointment. The complaint was looked into by the Market
Committee and by order dated 22nd May, 1989 it was held that the appointment
was not contrary to law.
Standing Counsel of the Committee categorically opined that since no moral
turpitude of any kind was involved, there was no ineligibility attached to the
appellant and his appointment was in accordance with law. For the aforesaid
purpose reliance was placed on a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court
in the case of Narain Singh v. N.S. Chima (1997 SLWR 448). On 5.9.1989 appellant's
services were regularized under the Punjab Market Committees (Class III) Rules,
1989 which came to be operative after appellant was appointed. Prior to that no
specific Rules were there. A Civil Writ Petition No. 3451 of 1989 was filed by
one Chandra Bhan before Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging
the direct appointment of the appellant. During pendency of the said Writ
Petition Sukhjinder Singh filed a complaint before the Administrator, Market
Committee questioning appellant's appointment. Notice was issued by the
Administrator to the appellant, who filed his reply. A revision in terms of
Section 42 of the Punjab and Haryana Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961 (in
short the 'Markets Act') was filed before the Special Secretary to the
Government of Punjab, Department of Agriculture who passed orders to the effect
that Administrator should look into the matter and take a decision as to
whether action against the appellant was called for. While Writ Petition No.
3451 of 1989 was pending, Civil Writ Petition No. 6180 of 2000 was filed by the
respondent No. 4 challenging appointment of the appellant and as noted above
the petition was stated to be one in public interest. Counter Affidavit was
filed by the Punjab Mandi Board and the Market Committee taking the stand that
since conviction of the appellant did not involve any moral turpitude the
appointment was in accordance with law.
also filed counter affidavit before the Market Committee questioning locus standi
of the Writ Petitioner to challenge his appointment. It was pointed out that no
public interest involved and because of political and personal rivalry the
petition had been filed. The High Court by the impugned order held that since
the appellant had been convicted by a Court of competent jurisdiction under
Section 61 of the Punjab Excise Act, his appointment was not according to
rules. Therefore his appointment was set aside and the Punjab Mandi Board and
the Market Committee were directed to start fresh process of selection for filling
up of the post.
support of the appeal, learned counsel for the appellant submitted that Writ
Petition filed by the writ petitioner (respondent No. 4) was nothing but a
sheer abuse of process of court. It was by no stretch of imagination Public
Interest Litigation and it was filed because of personal and political rivalry
and ought to have been dismissed by the High Court. The assertion that
appellant and respondent No.4 were pitted against each other in several
elections has not been denied. Even the Punjab Government has as back as on
22.6.1981 issued a Circular that only records of conviction for preceding five
years were to be taken note of.
counsel appearing for the Market Committee supported the stand of the appellant
and submitted that there was nothing irregular in the appointment of the
appellant and the same was in terms of the rules of appointment. Learned
counsel for the respondent No. 4, writ petitioner however, submitted that
merely because the writ petition was filed after fourteen years and because
there was some personal differences that cannot dilute the public interest
element involved in the writ petition. It was further submitted that
notwithstanding the clear direction of the High Court to start the process of
selection afresh within four months, nothing has been done and this amounts to
contempt of Court.
scope of entertaining a petition styled as a public interest litigation, locus standi
of the petitioner particularly in matters involving service of an employee has been
examined by this court in various cases. The Court has to be satisfied about
credentials of the applicant;
prima facie correctness or nature of information given by him;
information being not vague and indefinite. The information should show gravity
and seriousness involved. Court has to strike balance between two conflicting
should be allowed to indulge in wild and reckless allegations besmirching the
character of others; and
of public mischief and to avoid mischievous petitions seeking to assail, for
oblique motives, justifiable executive actions. In such case, however, the
Court cannot afford to be liberal. It has to be extremely careful to see that
under the guise of redressing a public grievance, it does not encroach upon the
sphere reserved by the Constitution to the Executive and the Legislature. The
Court has to act ruthlessly while dealing with imposters and busy bodies or
meddlesome interlopers impersonating as public-spirited holy men. They
masquerade as crusaders of justice. They pretend to act in the name of Pro Bono
Publico, though they have no interest of the public or even of their own to
must do justice by promotion of good faith, and prevent law from crafty
invasions. Courts must maintain the social balance by interfering where
necessary for the sake of justice and refuse to interfere where it is against
the social interest and public good. (See State of Maharashtra vs. Prabhu, (1994 (2) SCC 481), and
Andhra Pradesh State Financial Corporation vs. M/s GAR
Re-Rolling Mills and Anr., (AIR 1994 SC 2151). No litigant has a right to
unlimited draught on the Court time and public money in order to get his
affairs settled in the manner as he wishes. Easy access to justice should not
be misused as a licence to file misconceived and frivolous petitions. (See Dr.
B.K. Subbarao vs. Mr. K. Parasaran, (1996 (7) JT 265). Today people rush to
Courts to file cases in profusion under this attractive name of public
interest. They must inspire confidence in Courts and among the public.
noted supra, a time has come to weed out the petitions, which though titled as
public interest litigations are in essence something else. It is shocking to
note that Courts are flooded with large number of so called public interest
litigations where even a minuscule percentage can legitimately be called as
public interest litigations. Though the parameters of public interest
litigation have been indicated by this Court in large number of cases, yet
unmindful of the real intentions and objectives, High Courts are entertaining
such petitions and wasting valuable judicial time which, as noted above, could
be otherwise utilized for disposal of genuine cases.
in Dr. Duryodhan Sahu and Ors. v. Jitendra Kumar Mishra and Ors. (AIR 1999 SC
114), this Court held that in service matters PILs should not be entertained,
the inflow of so- called PILs involving service matters continues unabated in
the Courts and strangely are entertained. The least the High Courts could do is
to throw them out on the basis of the said decision. The other interesting
aspect is that in the PILs, official documents are being annexed without even
indicating as to how the petitioner came to possess them.
case, it was noticed that an interesting answer was given as to its possession.
It was stated that a packet was lying on the road and when out of curiosity the
petitioner opened it, he found copies of the official documents.
such frivolous pleas are taken to explain possession, the Court should do well
not only to dismiss the petitions but also to impose exemplary costs. It would
be desirable for the Courts to filter out the frivolous petitions and dismiss
them with costs as afore-stated so that the message goes in the right direction
that petitions filed with oblique motive do not have the approval of the
aforesaid position was highlighted in Ashok Kumar Pandey v. State of W.B. (2004 (3) SCC 349).
depressing to note that on account of such trumpery proceedings initiated
before the Courts, innumerable days are wasted, which time otherwise could have
been spent for the disposal of cases of the genuine litigants. Though we spare
no efforts in fostering and developing the laudable concept of PIL and
extending our long arm of sympathy to the poor, the ignorant, the oppressed and
the needy whose fundamental rights are infringed and violated and whose
grievance go unnoticed, un- represented and unheard; yet we cannot avoid but
express our opinion that while genuine litigants with legitimate grievances
relating to civil matters involving properties worth hundreds of millions of
rupees and substantial rights and criminal cases in which persons sentenced to
death facing gallows under untold agony and persons sentenced to life
imprisonment and kept in incarceration for long years, persons suffering from
undue delay in service matters - government or private, persons awaiting the
disposal of tax cases wherein huge amounts of public revenue or unauthorized
collection of tax amounts are locked up, detenu expecting their release from
the detention orders etc. etc. are all standing in a long serpentine queue for
years with the fond hope of getting into the Courts and having their grievances
redressed, the busy bodies, meddlesome interlopers, wayfarers or officious
interveners having absolutely no real public interest except for personal gain
or private profit either of themselves or as a proxy of others or for any other
extraneous motivation or for glare of publicity break the queue muffing their
faces by wearing the mask of public interest litigation and get into the Courts
by filing vexatious and frivolous petitions of luxury litigants who have
nothing to loose but trying to gain for nothing and thus criminally waste the
valuable time of the Courts and as a result of which the queue standing outside
the doors of the court never moves, which piquant situation creates frustration
in the minds of the genuine litigants.
interest litigation is a weapon which has to be used with great care and
circumspection and the judiciary has to be extremely careful to see that behind
the beautiful veil of public interest an ugly private malice, vested interest
and/or publicity seeking is not lurking. It is to be used as an effective
weapon in the armory of law for delivering social justice to the citizens. The
attractive brand name of public interest litigation should not be allowed to be
used for suspicious products of mischief. It should be aimed at redressal of
genuine public wrong or public injury and not publicity oriented or founded on
personal vendetta. As indicated above, Court must be careful to see that a body
of persons or member of public, who approaches the court is acting bona fide
and not for personal gain or private motive or political motivation or other
oblique consideration. The Court must not allow its process to be abused for
oblique considerations by masked phantoms who monitor at times from behind.
Some persons with vested interest indulge in the pastime of meddling with
judicial process either by force of habit or from improper motives and try to
bargain for a good deal as well to enrich themselves. Often they are actuated
by a desire to win notoriety or cheap popularity. The petitions of such busy
bodies deserve to be thrown out by rejection at the threshold, and in
appropriate cases with exemplary costs.
Council for Public Interest Law set up by the Ford Foundation in USA defined the "public interest litigation"
in its report of Public Interest Law,
USA, 1976 as follows:
Interest Law is the name that has recently been given to efforts provide legal
representation to previously unrepresented groups and interests. Such efforts
have been undertaken in the recognition that ordinary market place for legal
services fails to provide such services to significant segments of the
population and to significant interests. Such groups and interests include the
proper environmentalists, consumers, racial and ethnic minorities and
others." (See : Dr. B. Singh v. Union of India and Others (2004(3) SCC
363) When a particular person is the object and target of a petition styled as
PIL, the court has to be careful to see whether the attack in the guise of
public interest is really intended to unleash a private vendetta, personal
grouse or some other mala fide object. Since in service matters public interest
litigation cannot be filed there is no scope for taking action for contempt,
particularly, when the petition is itself not maintainable. In any event, by order
dated 15.4.2002 this Court had stayed operation of the High Court's order.
in the above said background the High Court was not justified in entertaining
the Writ Petition. The judgment of the High Court is indefensible and is
therefore set aside.
appeals are allowed with no orders as to costs.