3 Feb 2010

Exemplary costs against frivolous PIL: High Court

Holding that abuse of law would not be tolerated under the garb of petitions styled as public interest litigations, the Bombay High Court in a recent decision has imposed exemplary costs of Rs. 40 lakhs the petitioner. The High Court was miffed by the inadequacy of preparation and background material on the basis of which various allegations were made in the PIL against the Municipal Corporation and against a builder to the account that the construction made by them was unauthorized and liable to be demolished. 

The High Court inter alia observed;

8. This Court cannot ignore the fact that in Mumbai a flood gate has been opened by such organisations in initiating public interest litigations and persons like the petitioners are dragging people to Court without satisfying themselves whether the cause which they are espousing in public interest is genuine for the reason they lose nothing in the transaction. On the other hand, the party against whom PILs are filed are put to substantial loss not only monetary but their reputation is at stake. In this fact situation such petitioners may go scot free even if they loose leaving the respondents to suffer the pain and loss.
9. Specifically, after the affidavit in reply has been filed by the Municipal Corporation and on behalf of respondent nos. 2 and 4, the petitioners did not care to file a specific rejoinder as to how the sanction granted by Respondent No. 1 is invalid. On the other hand, they seek a roving inquiry to be conducted by this Court by appointing Court Commissioner to verify the actual calculation of the FSI by respondent nos. 2 to 4 in the light of Development Control Regulations, 1991. This tendency on the part of the litigants and particularly who are filing public interest litigations in this Court has to be contained and unless this Court discourages such litigation at the threshold, it will be impossible to regulate them and any person who finds that a particular building has not been constructed according to his whims and fancy, may approach this Court and seek its demolition by abusing the process of this Court in seeking direction that the Court should appoint Court Commissioner to assess the unauthorised construction. Such relief can be sought in case of any structure authorised or unauthorised. This is one such petition where the petitioners have taken liberty in the matter and have come with allegations which to their own knowledge were not correct as the petition is merely based on certain queries made under the Right to Information Act from the Corporation. There is mushroom growth of unauthorised construction all over Mumbai even on public land without seeking any sanction from Municipal Corporation, but the petitioners have thus targeted the building constructed by Respondent Nos. 2 to 4 without verifying the fact as to in what manner the sanction granted by Respondent No. 1 is contrary to Building Bye Laws, Rules and D.C. Regulations. We, therefore, dismiss this petition with exemplary cost for abusing the process of the Court.

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