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Is there an inconsistency in the way the Supreme Court is addressing PILs?

Updated : May 26, 2020 08:08 PM IST

63 days into the lockdown, and 56 days after it refused to intervene on the issue of migrant workers walking home, the Supreme Court has had a change of heart. The apex court has now taken suo moto cognizance of the matter and has asked the central government and state governments to respond.

From decriminalizing homosexuality to protecting women against sexual harassment at the workplace, public interest litigations (PILs) in India have ensured some landmark verdicts.

In the last 4 decades since its introduction, PILs have been a tool providing justice to the disadvantaged. Over the years, the scope of the PIL has been expanded to include issues pertaining to the public at large but not related to the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged. This led to a glut in cases with the Supreme Court recently observing that PIL has become "Publicity Interest Litigation."

So, who is to be blamed for this? Should the Supreme Court entertain petitions about leaving middle seats vacant in flights, while choosing not to intervene in the issue of stranded migrant workers who were forced to walk back home after the lockdown? Should the court entertain PILs questioning the moratorium order of the RBI, while refusing to entertain a PIL that questioned the need to spend taxpayer money on redeveloping the central vista of parliament when the country is grappling with fiscal constraints? What should be the guiding principle to intervene in public interest? Is there an inconsistency in the manner in which the court is addressing PILs?

To discuss this, Shereen Bhan spoke to Gopal Jain Senior Advocate at Supreme Court, AK Sikri Former Judge of Supreme Court and Aman Hingorani Advocate & Mediator at Supreme Court.
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