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Judge Loya Case: PILs a Veiled Attempt to Attack Judiciary's Independence, Says SC

Frivolous petitions instituted at the behest of business or political rivals to settle scores behind the "facade" of a public interest litigation pose a grave danger to the credibility of judicial process, the apex court said.


Updated:April 19, 2018, 10:13 PM IST
Judge Loya Case: PILs a Veiled Attempt to Attack Judiciary's Independence, Says SC
A view of the Supreme Court building.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday said that a "veiled attempt" was made to launch a "frontal attack" on the independence of judiciary through the pleas seeking probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya.

Frivolous petitions instituted at the behest of business or political rivals to settle scores behind the "facade" of a public interest litigation pose a grave danger to the credibility of judicial process, the court said while dismissing the PILs seeking probe into Loya's death.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that while business rivalries have to be resolved in a competitive market for goods and services, political rivalries have to be resolved in the great hall of democracy when the electorate votes its representatives in and out of office".

It noted that PIL has developed as a powerful tool to espouse the cause of marginalised and oppressed and its hallmark was that a citizen may approach the court to ventilate the grievance of those who are unable to pursue their rights.

"Yet over time, it has been realised that this jurisdiction is capable of being and has been brazenly mis-utilised by persons with a personal agenda," the bench noted, adding, "the true face of the litigant behind the facade is seldom unravelled".

The bench said that senior advocates Dushyant Dave, Indira Jaising and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan along with others, who were representing the petitioners and intervenor in the Loya case, have attempted to inform the court that they have no personal agenda and they have instituted these proceedings to protect judicial independence.

"An aura of good faith has been sought to be created by submitting that the true purpose of seeking an inquiry into the circumstances relating to the death of judge Loya is to protect the district judiciary," it said.

"But as the submissions have evolved, it has become clear that the petition is a veiled attempt to launch a frontal attack on the independence of the judiciary and to dilute the credibility of judicial institutions," the court said.

It said that the apex court and high courts were flooded with litigation and burdened by arrears and motivated pleas, ostensibly invoking public interest, detract from the time and attention which courts must devote to genuine causes.

"It is a travesty of justice for the resources of the legal system to be consumed by an avalanche of misdirected petitions purportedly filed in the public interest which, upon due scrutiny, are found to promote a personal, business or political agenda. This has spawned an industry of vested interests in litigation," it said.

"There is a grave danger that if this state of affairs is allowed to continue, it would seriously denude the efficacy of the judicial system by detracting from the ability of the court to devote its time and resources to cases which legitimately require attention," the bench said.

It said that such frivolous petitions has the "propensity of endangering" the credibility of other institutions and undermining public faith in democracy and the rule of law and it would happen when courts were utilised to settle "extra-judicial scores".

"Courts resolve disputes about legal rights and entitlements. Courts protect the rule of law. There is a danger that the judicial process will be reduced to a charade, if disputes beyond the ken of legal parameters occupy the judicial space," the bench said.

The bench also dealt with the submissions of petitioners who had questioned the veracity of statements given by four judges - Shrikant Kulkarni, S M Modak, Vijay C Barde and R R Rathi - who were with Loya on December 1, 2014 when he died at Nagpur where he had gone to attend the wedding of his colleague's daughter.

"Judicial review is a potent weapon to preserve the rule of law. However, here we have been confronted with a spate of scurrilous allegations. Absent any tittle of proof that they are conspirators in a murder the court must stand by the statements of the judicial officers.

"The judges of the district judiciary are vulnerable to wanton attacks on their independence. This court would be failing in its duty if it were not to stand by them," it said.

Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014 when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter.

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