MP High Court Disallows PIL On Grounds That Strangers Purporting To Be Social Workers Are Disputing A Settled Position On Land Displacement

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“Simple self-serving statement that the petitioners are social workers is not sufficient…unless the petitioners are able to produce on record …such social work in last couple of years…in respect of which the public interest writ petition is invoked…public interest litigation is now tending to become publicity interest litigation or private interest litigation and has a tendency to be counter-productive.”  observed the Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh High Court.

A Division Bench of the Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vijay Kumar Shukla ruled that the practice of stating in the petition that one is a social worker and money is being spent by him/ her for the petition including the lawyer’s fee does not per se satisfy the test of locus standi to file a Public Interest Litigation.

The court held that strangers cannot be permitted to dispute a settled position where adequate compensation has been provided upon the declaration of a sanctuary on the land of some people.

Some strangers, purporting to be social workers, filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the dislocation when the affected landowners have not felt aggrieved by their dislocation.

It was argued from the petitioner’s side that the fact that affected landowners are from a marginalized Baiga community makes the petition maintainable.

The Court opined that even if the landowners are from a marginalized community, the petitioners should have motivated some of the landowners to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court as the legal right in respect of land is that of the landowners.

The Supreme Court Of India in “Balco Employees’ Union (Regd.) vs. Union of India and others” (2002) 2 SCC 333 observed:

“Public Interest Litigation, or PIL…was intended to vindicate public interest…and was to be a cooperative and collaborative effort of the parties and the court so as to secure justice for the poor and the weaker sections of the community who were not in a position to protect their own interests.”

The Apex Court in “Ashok Kumar Pandey vs. State of W.B.” (2004) 3 SCC 349 observed:

“Public interest litigation which has now come to occupy an important field in the administration of law should not be “publicity interest litigation” or “private interest litigation” or “politics interest litigation” or the latest trend “paise income litigation”…A writ petitioner who comes to the Court for relief in public interest must come not only with clean hands like any other writ petitioner but also with a clean heart, clean mind and clean objective”

The High Court, therefore, dismissed the review petition.

Read the full judgement here.