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Not the time for Bitter PILs: SG Tushar Mehta

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In challenging times of pandemic COVID-19, few people in search of publicity are misusing the forum of law by filing frivolous petitions in the courts across country. Today, many PILs pertaining to COVID-19 were listed before the Supreme Court.  Two of them were filed by Harsh Mander through Advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan and by Swami Agnivesh through Advocate Mr. Colin Gonsalves seeking directions with regard to migrant workers.

During the course of hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, assisting the Court in all PILs and pointed out that the Government has done an exemplary work and as a result of which the spread of COVID-19 has been contained to a very minimum number possible.  He pointed out that the Government has taken several pro-active and timely steps at various levels to mitigate the problems faced by the citizens in this unprecedented trying times faced by the world and India.

Mr. Mehta sternly opposed the petitions filed by Harsh Mander through Advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan and Swami Agnivesh through Advocate Mr. Colin Gonsalves.  He pointed out that country is going through unprecedented crisis of fighting an unknown deadly virus and all officers are working day and night through several control rooms. Solicitor General stated that none of the above named people have even bothered to serve the poor and needy or the persons suffering from COVID-19 disease and, therefore, can never be treated as ‘public spirited citizens’.

The court was apprised of the fact that genuine NGOs and bonafide public spirited citizens are tirelessly working at a grass-root level rubbing shoulders with government officials and helping the needy and poor and assisting the patients and doctors in whichever way they can.  Preparing PILs without any ground level information or knowledge while sitting in air-conditioned offices is not ‘public service’ entitling any of them to argue public interest litigations particularly in the present global crisis said Mr. Mehta before the Supreme Court.

The Solicitor General categorically emphasised that till the country and the world comes out of this unprecedented tragedy such “professional PIL shops” must be locked down as none of them have any concern about the poor and needy or thousands of patients fighting this deadly disease. He categorically asserted that the forum of the Supreme Court can never be a forum for gaining cheap publicity or achieving any ulterior objectives.  He reiterated that everyone should join hands with the Government’s efforts which have been successful so far and like those honest, genuine and bonafide NGOs, the petitioner should also serve the poor and needy rather than preparing PILs in the comforts of their offices.

However, when the bench expressed its desire to see the response of the Central Government, the Solicitor general immediately agreed and said that if the Court wishes to see such a report, the Government can have no objection.

It was pointed out that filing of PILs in the midst of the Government’s successful fight with this deadly disease is proving to be detrimental in the entire country.  It was further pointed out by the Solicitor General that he was approached by many Advocate Generals of the States sharing their anxiety that the Government officers who are working day and night are losing their precious working hours in this trying times by sitting in lawyers chambers and preparing replies to frivolous PILs.  He emphasised that officers should better be left to discharge their duties.

The Solicitor General expressed hope that all constitutional courts in the country would be circumspect in entertaining such petitions under these unprecedented circumstances so that not to create any hindrance in the efforts of the Central Government and all State Governments which are working on a war footing and are not required to spare crucial working hours of the officers in preparing replies rather than managing this never seen before crisis.

-India Legal Bureau

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