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NGO headed by former judge fined Rs 1 lakh for ‘frivolous’ PIL

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/ngo-headed-by-former-judge-fined-rs-1-lakh-for-frivolous-pil/649046/0

Three months after the Chief Justice of India warned public interest litigants of heavy costs for frivolous petitions, a former Delhi High Court judge and an NGO of which he is “patron-in-chief” are the first casualties. 

The Delhi Citizen Forum For Civil Rights was today directed to pay Rs 1 lakh as fine for espousing, as public interest litigation (PIL), the “private cause” of two “disgruntled” serving district judges of Delhi. 

As for Justice J K Mehra, retired Delhi High Court judge and patron-in-chief of the NGO, the Supreme Court wondered aloud why a “retired judge, one who was part of the judiciary, should be party to this campaign”. 

“If he wants publicity, he should do something else. This is vexatious litigation in the name of PIL to espouse the private cause of judicial officers who were not appointed as judges in the Delhi High Court,” a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly observed.

The NGO has not had a successful run, to say the least. The Delhi High Court dismissed the same case on March 8, 2010 and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000. Today, the Supreme Court said the High Court fine was “too conservative”. It clarified that the Rs 1 Lakh is in “addition” to the High Court’s.

This is the first such instance after the CJI, on May 12, announced the apex court’s zero-tolerance for “frivolous and vexatious public interest litigation”.

“We are convinced that this is a frivolous litigation. A sum of Rs 1 lakh is imposed as additional costs to that of Rs 10,000 ordered by the Delhi High Court. The petitioner (NGO) shall deposit this amount with the Delhi High Court Legal Services Authority within one month,” the court ordered.

Advocate Joginder Tuli, who is the NGO’s chairman, struggled to convince the Bench of the good intentions involved as regards the two senior judges.

But the court countered Tuli: “They are law graduates, they are literate. So why can’t they come on their own instead of through you? What is your locus standi and why do you intervene here?”

The two judges are PS Teji, District Judge, Karkardooma courts and IS Mehta, District Judge, Dwarka courts. Tuli argued that both were denied appointment to the Delhi High Court on the basis of an “arbitrary and unconstitutional procedure”.

“The names of two senior District Judges belonging to SC/ST Shri PS Teji, District Judge, Karkardooma courts and Shri IS Mehta, District Judge, Dwarka courts have not been considered for elevation to the Delhi High Court. This arbitrary and unconstitutional procedure adopted by the Delhi High Court has created great disgruntlement among SC/ST officers from the Delhi Judicial Services as well from other services in the country,” Tuli argued.

To Tuli’s comment that there was already complaints against the appointment of another district district judge to the Delhi High Court, the bench asked him how he got “that information” and went on to suspect that his source was his “patron-in-chief”.

“How did he (Justice Mehra) get hold of the records? He has abused his past position as judge of the high court. This is the grossest abuse of the process of court,” the bench said.

But advocate Tuli is still optimistic: “The court just wanted to know why we were in support of the two judges. Now, this means that court wants the two judges to themselves approach the court. This turns out good for them.”

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