Justice Gogoi says PILs are for the poor, turns down argument by Prashant Bhushan

The Supreme Court of India has on Monday stated that Public Interest litigations are there for people who cannot afford to approach the courts and dismissed a PIL filed by former Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas. According to reports, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is slated to be the CJI soon, stated during the hearing that the SC is there to address everyone’s fears, but PILs are for the poor.

Justice Gogoi was a part of the three-member bench including Justice Navin Sinha and justice KM Joseph, which was hearing the PIL filed by former navy chief Admiral Ramdas. The bench reportedly dismissed the PIL stating that it was a case for the vigilance commissioner.

Admiral Ramdas had reportedly filed a PIL against the appointment of IPS officer Sharad Kumar as the Vigilance Commissioner in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). Prashant Bhushan, who represented Admiral Ramdas had reportedly argued that the government in its advertisement for the post had stated that no one above 62-years of age can apply but had gone ahead to appoint IPS Sharad Kumar. Bhushan, during his argument, had also stated that the CVC is an integrity institution and its integrity cannot be compromised.

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On Justice Gogoi’s query that if there was an age restriction on the CVC act, Bhushan had admitted that there is none but the advertisement was arbitrary and discriminatory as several people had missed the opportunity to apply.

On this, Justice Gogoi had reportedly countered Bhushan saying that if some people were affected due to it why they have not appealed to the court to challenge it. On Bhushan’s argument that there are a whole lot of judgements saying that anyone can file a PIL, Justice Gogoi reportedly dismissed the argument saying PILs are for the poor, who cannot afford to approach the court.

The bench reportedly stated on Admiral Ramdas’ petition that “We are not inclined to entertain this PIL petition filed at the instance of petitioners” and stated that anyone who has been deprived could have approached the court with a petition on violation of article 14(equality before law), instead of the current petitioners taking a stand on behalf of them.

Upon Bhushan’s argument that those affected are in government service and are afraid to come forward, Justice Gogoi stated that the SC is there to address people’s fears but PILs are for the poor. The bench formally stated to Bhushan, ” Let the aggrieved persons come. If nobody is aggrieved, why should we hear you?”

Sharad Kumar, the former head of NIA was appointed as the vigilance commissioner of the CVC in June this year. It is notable here that Justice Gogoi was hearing a number of PILs for the first time on Monday and his conservative approach on PILs is expected to create a check for the SC’s judicial activism which has been criticised in many cases in recent times.

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