31 Dec 2010

Delhi High Court (Public Interest Litigation) Rules, 2010 notified

We had in an earlier post covered the decision of the Supreme Court exhaustively discussing the concept of 'public interest litigation' as a specific branch of jurisprudence developed under the constitutional canons by a pro-effective judiciary. The Supreme Court therein had laid down the guidelines to be followed in respect of the filing of public interest petitions and also directed the High Court to frame rules in this regard. Accordingly the Delhi High Court has framed and notified the Delhi High Court (Public Interest Litigation) Rules, 2010 to this end.

These Rules provide for constitution of a "Public Interest Litigation Cell" in the High Court whose duty shall be to process the public interest petitions before the "Public Interest Litigation Committee" of the High Court i.e. "the Committee consisting of at least two sitting Judges nominated by the Chief Justice" to hear public interest petitions.

The Rules category the various types of public interest petitions into five types i.e. (i) Landlord-Tenant disputes; (ii) Service matters and those pertaining to pension (not being family pension)
and gratuity; (iii) Personal disputes between individuals; (iv) Disputes relating to contractual or statutory liabilities; (v) Matrimonial disputes. But we are not impressed. Creation of Environmental law related category and a separate category for inaction of public functionaries, which have generally been the subject-matter and have set the trend of public interest litigation in India, should also have been provided for.

The Rules provide for preliminary screening of the petitions and stipulates that "neither any anonymous Letter Petition nor any such Petition from which the identity of the Letter Petitioner cannot be established or ascertained shall be entertained." Thus the alleged petitioners would be required to establish their identity before the grievances can be addressed. The Rules further provide other instructions in regard to the filing of these petitions. 

As a word of caution, the Rules themselves provide that they do not restrict the wide powers of the High Court under exercise of its constitutional and inherent jurisdiction "to make such orders
as may be necessary for the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the Court, including the power to impose exemplary costs and/or to debar a petitioner or an Advocate to file Public Interest Litigation if found to be indulging in frivolous or motivated litigation".

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