According to news reports (TOI July 1, 2010), Law Minister Veerappa Moily is proposing to enact a law that Public Interest Litigations aimed at stopping "developmental projects" on environmental grounds would have to pay the cost of delay of projects, when their PIL's get rejected. This proposal is a key aspect of the new National Litigation Policy.
The move is aimed at allegedly curbing "frivolous litigations" which are allegedly filed over controversial questions for "reasons, including publicity, and at the instance of third parties".
No body is questioning that in our rotten legal system, all kinds of forces, particularly of the ruling class, use litigation to advance their interests. In fact, one of the major features of the judiciary is to adjudicate on property disputes, big as well as small.
However, a few questions must be answered by Moily before he pushes his proposal through.
(1) A PIL was filed questioning the environmental and otherwise feasiblility of the Mangalore Airport, before it was commissioned for operation, both in the Karnataka High Court, and in the Supreme Court. They were dismissed as "frivolous". Now life has taken an about turn and everyone is questioning the airport as well as courts and the government. If the PIL petitioners had to pay for the stoppage of earlier work, who will pay for the disaster that has cost 154 lives as well as wrecked an aircraft?
(2) One of the biggest disasters has been the Bhopal gas tragedy. Numerous Public Interest Litigations have been filed on behalf of the victims related to different aspects of this tragedy. The courts have rejected all of them, and we have a situation wherein the death of nearly 20,000 people, and the sufferings of lakhs of survivors, have been reduced by the Supreme Court of India into something akin to a road accident. Who should be considered "frivolous" — those who questioned the approach of the government of India and the Supreme Court, or the government of India and the Supreme Court?
(3) In all the massive projects currently underway in Orissa and other states, PIL's have been filed by activists raising questions about environmental feasibility. The same is the case with the power projects in Himachal and Uttarkhand, including the ongoing struggle against the Renuka dam power project in Himachal which will submerge dozens of villages. Should the people be made to pay twice — once in terms of loss of livelihood and destruction of environment, and second for going to the courts for justice, getting no justice, and then paying the companies, both state and private for "delay". What kind of justice is this?
(4) Hundreds of youth have been picked up and tortured as Kashmiris, Muslims etc alleged to be terrorists. Their lives have been ruined. After several years they are released for lack of evidence. Will government, the Home Ministry, pay for their false incarceration?
(5) Thousands of political workers and trade unionsists are routinely charged by management and police with criminal charges, cases dragging on for dozens of years, before they are dismissed. Who will pay for their time and costs?
(6) What if environmental damage is confirmed after a PIL is dismissed, and project comes up. Who will pay?
Point to note is Moily is not concerned about justice, as one would expect a law minister to be. He is concerned about "development projects" that are the interests of the biggest capitalists to loot and plunder the natural resources of our people. He is not concerned about delay in justice, which is an essential part of the Indian judicial system, and against which people have been fighting for so long. Otherwise, he would make proposals to punish those in power, who have prevented justice for the victims of Bhopal, of Narmada valley project, of other past and present "development projects" as well as the organisers of sectarian massacres.