LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah has observed that public interest litigation should not be allowed to become a way to conduct personal vendetta, wreak vengeance or to malign any party or individual.
“The court must distinguish between ‘public interest litigation’ and ‘publicity interest litigation’ or ‘private interest litigation’ or ‘political interest litigation’,” the chief justice ruled in a detailed verdict on a petition challenging change of police uniform in Punjab and transparency in awarding contract for stitching the uniform.
Through a short-order the chief justice had dismissed the petition on April 20 last.
The detailed verdict handed down by Chief Justice Shah says the public interest litigation (PIL) is an effort to provide legal representation to groups and interests that have been unrepresented or under-represented in the legal process.
It states PIL has been evolved over the years for providing easy access to justice to the weaker sections of the humanity and is a powerful tool in the hands of public-spirited individuals and social action groups for combating exploitation and injustice and securing for the underprivileged their social and economic entitlements.
The verdict holds that the PIL is a legal action or proceeding initiated for the protection or enforcement of the rights of public at large. The PIL is totally different from traditional litigation and it is brought before the court not to enforce the rights of an individual against another, but it is intended to promote and vindicate public interest.
PIL demands that any violation of constitutional or legal rights of a large number of people who are poor, ignorant or in a socially or economically disadvantaged position, should not go unnoticed and un-redressed.
However, the verdict rules that such litigation must be grounded in bona fide public interest as the courts do not allow that the corridors of justice are polluted by vested interests or unscrupulous litigants.
The verdict states there must be at all times, real and genuine public interest involved in the litigation and credible information for maintaining a cause before the court. “Public interest litigation should not be mere adventure or an attempt to carryout fishing expedition to settle personal scores,” it observes.
About merits of the petition in hand, the chief justice observed that perusal of the pleadings shows there has been no serious effort made by the petitioner to verify whether the contract obtained by the concerned company was or was not in accordance with procurement rules.
“Such petitions bring a bad name to public interest litigation and lower their credibility in the eyes of the court,” he said. The judge observed that in the present case four advocates failed to furnish any plausible explanation that can justify the seriousness and genuineness of the petition.
“The petitioner has not only abused the process of public interest litigation but has also burdened the court and drawn upon its time and resources, besides, eating into the time allocated for other cases,” the CJ observed in the decision.
While dismissing the petition, the chief justice had also put a cost of Rs10,000 on the petitioner, Advocate Mian Shabbir Ismail.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017