Retired Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Sikri, speaking on the need for courts to weigh in on the economic consideration of decisions, criticised the cancellation of 2G licenses and coal blocks by the top Court, noting that economic impact of these judgments should have been considered and reliefs should have been molded to cushion the blow.
Meanwhile, advocate Aman Hingorani, the son of Kapila Hingorani – also referred to as “Mother of Public Interest Litigation”, also lamented that PILs were no longer tools to help secure justice and rights of the marginalized and disenfranchised, but were rather usurped by middle-class interests.
Aman Hingorani and Justice AK Sikri, were speaking with CNBC-TV18’s Shereen Bhan, alongside Senior Advocate Gopal Jain, on the issue of use of PILs and judicial intervention in policy decisions by the executive.
Aman Hingorani also opined that the last few decades PIL as an instrument of justice for the underprivileged had been blunted. He argued that the PILs should, ideally, be confined for the purpose that it was conceived – to secure the rights of the marginalized. He also noted that in PILs, the checks on judges are relaxed to help them bring about systemic reform in pursuit of rights. This, he reasoned, lends itself to subjectivity and an inconsistent application of judicial review.
On the subject of subjectivity, Justice AK Sikri, spoke of a “Lakshman Rekha” for courts to intervene only as far as the decision-making process is concerned, and not the merits of the decision itself. He noted that the scope of judicial review is permitted only to check the legality of the policy decision. He warned that the decision of the executive can’t be replaced with the judgment by the courts.
Speaking on the role of the judiciary in furthering economic growth, he echoed words from his judgment (Shivashakti Sugars Limited v. Shree Renuka Sugar Limited), in May of 2017, that with the country aspiring for economic empowerment, the judiciary also needed to play its role. He cautioned that courts should take note of the economic impact of decisions and should mould reliefs accordingly, subject to legality.
Senior Advocate Gopal Jain also shared similar sentiments. He pitched for an economic impact assessment exercise by courts, before passing of decision. He argued that the courts were also a part of the governance structure and should look to minimize the economic side effects of judgments. He also encouraged courts to consult and seek advice from experts on technical matters.
Gopal Jain warned that the effects of judicial proceedings should not be allowed to reach “Himalayan” proportions that cause harm to the system. He noted that a sound investment climate requires predictable outcomes.