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The eternal romance: Prashant Bhushan and PILs

The conduct of Prashant Bhushan also led the Supreme Court to express grave concern over the rising misuse of PILs in its Judge Loya verdict. 

In earlier reports, we have discussed the manner in which PILs have become the latest weapon in the arm of activists who seek to impose their ideology on Indian citizens with assistance from a Judiciary that is sympathetic to their worldview.

One name that inevitably comes to mind whenever PILs are being discussed is a lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan. In this article, we shall explore the numerous PILs that the activist has either filed or represented in the Court as an advocate in pursuit of ideological victory.

In recent times, Bhushan has been associated with a host of PILs which have wide-ranging consequences on a variety of issues. Most recently, he was the advocate for a petitioner who sought a collegium-like system in the appointment of members of the Election Commission. The Supreme Court bench which heard it decided to refer the petition to a 5-judge Constitution Bench.

It might surprise Indians but it turns out even Rohingyas in the country, people who the government maintains are illegally here in the country, can file PILs in courts to prevent legal action against them. Mohammed Salimullah, a Rohingya, filed a petition in the Supreme seeking a stay on the government’s decision to deport 7 Rohingyas through advocate Prashant Bhushan. The Supreme Court, however, refused to stay the government’s decision.

Prashant Bhushan involved himself in the CBI feud that has ensued as well. The petition, filed by NGO Common Cause where Bhushan is a member of the Governing Council, sought a court-monitored SIT investigation into the alleged malpractices within the CBI. It is also pertinent to mention that a petition was filed by the same NGO against the appointment of R.K. Asthana as the Special Director of the CBI.

The NGO Common Cause, through Bhushan, had also filed an interim application in the Courts accusing Prime Minister Modi of taking bribes. The Court had dismissed the application stating that the documents which were presented in the court as evidence were inadmissible as they were neither credible nor reliable. Bhushan later insinuated that the Court was scared of big corporates.

On another occasion, Prashant Bhushan had appeared for Admiral Ramdas who had reportedly filed a PIL against the appointment of IPS officer Sharad Kumar as the Vigilance Commissioner in the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The Court while dismissing the petition chose to remind the litigants that PILs are for the poor.

In 2016, Adv. Prashant Bhushan had appeared in the Supreme Court on behalf of Common Cause and S.P. Udaykumar, an anti-nuclear activist who was charged with sedition for his involvement with the protests against the Koodankulam Nuclear Project. The petitioners had alleged that the sedition laws were being misused to routinely persecute students, journalists and intellectuals.

The advocate also steers an organization called the Center for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL). The Supreme Court in 2016 was quite flummoxed with the fact that filing PILs was the sole activity of an NGO. The bench headed by then Chief Justice T.S. Thakur said, “Prashant Bhushan, you have an image of a crusader. But can you become the centre for public interest litigation? Can the system be taken for a ride in such a manner? We cannot allow this.”

While dismissing a host of PILs seeking a probe into the death of Judge Loya, the Supreme Court slammed Prashant Bhushan and his NGO CPIL saying “attempts were made to misrepresent and mislead the court by manufacturing evidence to cast a doubt on the circumstances leading to the death of judge Loya”.

The conduct of Prashant Bhushan also led the Supreme Court to express grave concern over the rising misuse of PILs in its Judge Loya verdict. “The misuse of public interest litigation is a serious matter of concern for the judicial process. It is a travesty of justice for the resources of the legal system to be consumed by an avalanche of misdirected petitions purportedly filed in the public interest which, upon due scrutiny, are found to promote a personal, business or political agenda.”

It is reported that Bhushan has argued over 300 PILs in the Courts. While he has seen a significant amount of success with his judicial activism in matters such as the 2G scam and Radia Tapes, it appears that he has tasted only bitter defeat of late.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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