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Delhi HC Comes Down on 'Publicity Interest Litigations', Imposes Costs on Some

File photo of Delhi High Court.

File photo of Delhi High Court.

The high court said the litigations were filed without any homework and appeared to have come to the petitioners' minds while having tea or walking on the road.

The Delhi High Court on Monday came down on several petitioners for filing "publicity interest litigations" on various issues, like regulating news reporting of COVID issues and investigating the alleged misuse of the Lt Governor-Chief Minister Relief Fund, saying these were filed without any homework and imposed costs on some of them. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh said some of these pleas appeared to be filed on ideas which came to the petitioners' minds while having tea or walking on the road.

"Chai peete peete idea aaya toh socha file karo PIL (while having tea you had an idea and decided to file a PIL). That is not how it is done. You may have an idea while walking on the road. "You have to do some homework and then file the petition," the bench said while dismissing with cost of Rs 50,000 a PIL seeking a court-monitored investigation into the alleged siphoning off of amounts donated by the public in the Lieutenant Governor-Chief Minister Relief Fund for COVID-19 relief.

The court said the plea was filed based on someone's tweet without trying to find out under RTI whether there has been any misuse of the funds. It said the petitioner made allegations that monies from it were used in advertisements by the Delhi government.

Delhi government standing counsel Santosh K Tripathi told the court that not a penny can be spent from that fund on advertisements. The court said it appeared to be a motivated plea and directed that the costs imposed be deposited in favour of the legal services authority within four weeks.

Another plea, by an organisation founded by Delhi University students in 2014, had sought directions to the Delhi government to take an undertaking from patients, who want plasma, that they will donate plasma once they recover from COVID-19 and that too within 14 to 28 days after testing negative. The court dismissed the plea by Think Act Rise Foundation with costs of Rs 10,000 saying it cannot direct the Delhi government to draft a policy making it compulsory for patients to donate plasma once they recover from COVID-19.

The bench said the plea appeared to be a publicity interest litigation. Similar observation was made by the court while dismissing another PIL which wanted framing of guidelines with regard to airing of news of sensitive nature, like reporting of mass scale deaths, people suffering, etc during the prevailing pandemic due to non-availability of resources.

The petitioner, advocate Lalit Valecha, had contended that such news reports lead to "spreading negativity, sense of insecurity towards life, alarm, injury, harm, suffering, damage, etc." Rubbishing the contention, the bench said news is both negative and positive and the petitioner was not aware of the correct facts. The court said it was a "wrong notion" in the petitioner's mind that reporting of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemicwas negative news.

"It is a negative idea in the petitioner's mind," the bench said and added that as long as the media was reporting correct facts, there cannot be any restrictions on them.

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first published:May 03, 2021, 16:28 IST