Judicial time not meant for adjudicating unsubstantiated flaws in policy matters of govt: SC

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New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) Judicial time is not meant for undertaking a roving enquiry or to adjudicate upon unsubstantiated flaws in policy matters of the government and “politicise it” to appease the dissenting group of citizens, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

The apex court said that tool of public interest litigation (PIL) was devised to open the doors of Constitutional courts for remedying the glaring injustices against humans and it was never meant to transform them as “superlative authority” over day-to-day governance.

It said these comments are not because the courts feel burdened by “untenable and frivolous claims”, but to highlight that time saved would be best spent on more deserving claims of have-nots due to long incarceration affecting liberty, denial of pension and salary, motor accident claims, land acquisition compensation and others.

The top court said this in its 2:1 majority verdict by which it paved way for the ambitious Central Vista Project, covering a 3-km stretch from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate in Lutyens' Delhi.

“As long as there is fair play in government action, it is no one’s concern to assail a commercial transaction by levelling vague and unsubstantiated allegations. The genesis of a public interest litigation lies in public interest; and public interest lies in vindicating the rights of those who lack the wherewithal to reach the court to remedy injustice against them,” said Justice A M Khanwilkar, writing the 432-page majority verdict for himself and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari.

“Judicial time is not meant for undertaking a roving enquiry or to adjudicate upon unsubstantiated flaws or shortcoming in policy matters of government of the day and politicise the same to appease the dissenting group of citizens – be it in the guise of civil society or a political outfit,” he said.

The apex court said that tool of PIL or “‘social interest litigation’, as it is more appropriately called“, was devised to open the doors of constitutional courts for remedying glaring injustices and for securing constitutional rights.

“We need to say so because we had to spend considerable time and energy on this matter (lest the petitioners entertain a feeling of having been denied a fair opportunity), despite the pandemic situation, which at the end, we find to be devoid of substance,” it said.

The verdict was delivered on a batch of petitions, which have questioned several aspects including the environmental clearance (EC) granted regarding the Central Vista project. The top court held that grant of EC and the notification for change in land use for construction of new parliament building under the project was valid.

The Central Vista revamp, announced in September, 2019 envisages a new triangular Parliament building, with a seating capacity for 900 to 1,200 MPs, that is to be constructed by August, 2022 when the country will be celebrating its 75th Independence Day. The common Central Secretariat is likely to be built by 2024 under the project.

Justice Sanjiv Khanna, the third judge on the bench, wrote a dissenting judgement on aspects relating to public participation in the decision-making process and on alleged failure on the part of the authorities in taking prior approval of the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) for the project.

He, however, concurred with the majority verdict on the aspects of “notice inviting bid, award of consultancy and the order of the Urban Arts Commission, as a standalone and independent order”. PTI ABA SJK MNL SA