Few days back a judge of the Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court imposed a blanket penalty of Rs 25,000/- on a particular Information Activist for filing any Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the court. This is not only discriminatory but against all logic of the constitutional jurisprudence. Nobody cannot make any personal comment or attribute motives to the judge. However, I am within my rights to criticize the judgment because it falls within the public domain.

Public Interest Litigations (PILs) are filed under article 226 of the Constitution of India before the High Courts and under article 32 before the Supreme Court for enforcement of the fundamental rights. Fundamental Rights are the very core of the constitution. Speaking about the article 32 in the constituent assembly Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had said that Article 32 is the soul of the constitution. Article 226 is a corresponding article for Article 32 to be exercised by the High Courts. Therefore, both Articles stand on the same footing and if they are removed from the constitution then the entire constitution will be nothing but a dead body.

All PILs are Writs. The only difference between the PIL and the ordinary Writ is that ordinary writs can be filed only by a person who has locus standi but in PILs locus standi is dispensed with. In PILs, every citizen is supposed to be impacted with the law. Public Interest Litigation as the name suggests is in the interest of the public at large. Nevertheless to control the misuse of the Public Interest Litigations judges certainly have the discretion to impose any penalty/cost but the imposition of cost has to be reasonable, which will depend from case to case. This cost cannot be imposed in advance on any particular person. Those who file the Public Interest Litigation should also have the understanding that this is not to be converted into Private Interest Litigation or Publicity Interest Litigation.

Needless to say, that Public Interest Litigations have proved to the turning points in the constitutional history of India. The two legal luminaries and the former judges of the Supreme Court namely; V. R. Krishna Iyer and P. N. Bhagwati gave a new meaning and shape to fundamental rights through the Public Interest Litigations. Think of the situation of those under- trials who have been rotting for years in the jails of the country if the case of Hussainara Khatoon had not been decided through Public Interest Litigation. Similarly, think of the scourge of Child Labour if Bandhua Mukti Morcha case had not been decided by the Supreme Court. In the same way what would have happened to the pollution in the cities and indiscriminate mining of the natural resources by the greedy contractors, corrupt officials and politicians if number of cases on the environmental issue had not been decided upholding interests of the public. Therefore, the indiscriminate imposition of Rs. 25,000/- even before filing the Public Interest Litigation by a RTI activist Nutan Thakur is  patently erroneous and needs to be done away with. This can be rectified suo moto by the High Court as this order is per incurium.
Another very disturbing news which has come from Lucknow is about the arrest of an RTI activist, that too, from the chamber of the State Information Commissioner of U.P. Shri Arvind Singh Bist. Here again I would not like to comment on any individual person although Shri Arvind Singh Bist is personally known to me. He has been a veteran journalist and before joining, the post of the State Information Commissioner Shri Bist was working with leading newspaper the Times of India of Lucknow. Although, the arrest has no bearing on personally of Shri Arvind Singh Bist because he is more known to many people of Lucknow as a Senior Journalists and also as a Trade Unionist. He is also related to Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav whose son Prateek Yadav and the half brother of the UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is married to Shri Bist’s daughter. The arrest of the RTI activists Shri Ashok Kumar Goyal from the chamber of State Information Commissioner Shri Arvind Singh Bist is shocking and puts a senior and respected journalist into bad light. The RTI activist Shri Goyal has been doing a commendable job. His arrest needs to be condemned by every citizen of the country for the healthy growth of democracy. It would be better if the initiative is taken by Shri Bist himself to get the false cases quashed which have been leveled against the RTI activist.


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