Bombay High Court Imposes Rs 3 Lakh Cost on Petitioner Filing PIL Against Slum Rehabilitation Project

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The High Court imposed cost of Rs. 3 lakh while stating, “We intend to send a strong message to those who seek to abuse and misuse our system and believe they can do so without costs.”

A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justice GS Patel and Justice SG Dige recently imposed a cost of Rs. 3 lakh in a plea filed challenging a project of a slum that was taken up by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority.

The division bench said that false PILs are increasing the bane of the judicial system. The order read,

“We do not permit this Petition 'to be converted' into a public interest litigation nor do we permit it to be withdrawn with the liberty to file a public interest litigation. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly said, false, mischievous, and frivolous public interest litigations are increasingly the bane of our judicial system.”

The previous bench of the High Court which was hearing the case had asked the petitioner to deposit Rs. 3 lakh with the court to test the bonafide of the petitioner.

The court said that the petitioner did not have any track record of public interest litigation or of espousing public causes in the larger public interest. The court further said that the petitioner had singled out one particular slum rehabilitation project, one developer, one slum society, and the SRA.

The division bench pointed out that allegations were made against entities and individuals who were not even joined in the matter. The order stated,

“There are allegations of irregularities, illegalities, fraud, and wrongdoing without any explanation as to how the Petitioner has come upon the information that is set out in the Petition from paragraphs 3.01 to 3.38.”

The petitioner had made the allegation with regard to surveys, conversion of structures, and civil proceedings before the civil court but did not mention the source of the information. The court stated,

“Importantly, the slum society — the beneficiaries of the slum rehabilitation project — have no complaint. It is unclear on whose behalf or for whose protection this Petition is filed.”

The court in its order also stated that the petitioner in an affidavit had stated that he is an RTI Activist but had not mentioned the criminal cases were pending against him. The order further read,

“If he is indeed an RTI activist, then the Petition ought to have at least mentioned that the information that is presented in the Petition is based on disclosures obtained under the RTI Act. Even that is missing.”

The court, while rejecting the plea, said,

“While we are rejecting the Petition but we intend to send a strong message to those who seek to abuse and misuse our system and believe they can do so without costs.”

The court then directed the registry to transfer the entire amount and all accrued interest if any to the St Jude India Child Care Centres, which supports cancer-affected children and their families.

Case Title: Abhilash Umesh Reddy vs Slum Rehabilitation Authority & Ors