This is how unknown people change your life for the better Ketan Tanna and Sharmila Ganesan look at some important PILs that are pending and a few ridiculous ones
It is not clear which was Indiaâ€™s first ever Pub lic Interest Litigation (PIL). Some say it was the Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar case of 1979. It dealt with the miserable conditions of pris ons and undertrials. Others say that PILs were born in 1982 after the Supreme Court, while hear ing the S P Gupta vs Union of India case, announced that anyone acting in the interest of the public may petition the court on behalf of the disadvantaged The history of PILs might be ambiguous but it is irrelevant to the hundreds of social crusaders who throng the courts every now and then seeking so lutions to the various problems that affect the com mon man. It is natural that some people will waste the time of the courts with frivolous cases, like charging actresses and models with obscenity.
Here we present some of the most thought pro voking and useful PILs that are pending in our courts. And, some of the most useless ones too.
A pre-marital ritual
It makes sense for grooms and brides, especially in the arranged marriage system, to undergo an HIV test. Thousands of people, women particularly have become victims of AIDS because their spous es chose not to confess that they had the disease But it is not practical in India for an HIV test to be part of the premarital ceremonies. There is a so cial embarrassment involved in asking the â€˜other sideâ€™ to produce a certificate. So, Maharashtra Law Graduate Association, an NGO, had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeking to make the pre marital HIV test mandatory. A committee set up in December 2007 by the state health ministry has unanimously decided to accept the proposal.
Are motorcycles safe?
Following the deaths of four motorcycle riders in separate accidents in Navi Mumbai, a PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court in 2007. It sought strict implementation of safety norms by two-wheel er manufacturers. The petitioner, Gyan Prakash from Jabalpur, has pointed out that two-wheeler accidents accounted for 15.1 per cent of all acci dents across India. As many as 2,439 riders died in accidents in 2005. The PIL has alleged that motor cycle manufacturers were cutting corners on safe ty norms. The matter is pending in court.
Cruel online lotteries
An undated PIL before the Supreme Court has claimed that online lotteries were addictive and as a result they were severely affecting the lives of the poor and the youth. The litigation states that the young especially are not aware of the ill effects of lottery, and that the online version makes lottery an easily accessible habit. While considering the petition, the Supreme Court on January 11, 2008 sought a response from the union government and three state governmentsâ€”West Bengal, Sikkim and Tripura on their online lot tery schemes.
Health of the nation
There have been numerous PILs in this regard In Delhi, at a shelter home, 11 children died last year. The Delhi High Court is hearing a PIL on the way shelter homes for abandoned children are run Also, with 24 municipal conservancy workers, on an average, dying every month due to abysmal working conditions, activist Keval Semlani wrote a letter to the Bombay High Court to make life bet ter for such workers. The letter was converted into a PIL by the court. The hearing continues. Mean while, children and men of small frame continue to get into manholes with no protective gear.
A PIL seeking the ban on the manufacture of Nimesulide (one of the most commonly used anti inflammatory drugs) was filed in the Madras High Court. Tamil Nadu Health Development Forum filed the PIL citing a number of side effects of the drug like liver and renal failure among children The PIL states that the drug has been banned in several countries. But the court has refused to di rect the central government to impose a ban. The matter might be taken up in the apex court.
Converts and Reservation
Can Dalits who converted to Christianity get the benefit of reservations? Last month, the Cen tre assured the Supreme Court that it will study the report of a commission which examined the issue of granting Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians and extending the benefits of reser vation to them. An advocate appearing for Cen tre for Public Interest Litigation, an NGO, says the matter has been pending in the court for more than three years and should be heard urgently.
Are homosexuals criminals?
India is one of the most repressive nations for homosexuals. Since the law has clear views about homosexual conduct, gays in India face easy ex ploitation by police if caught in the act. In De cember 2002, the Naz Foundation filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court challenging the discretionary statutes on the grounds that it violated the con stitutional rights of sexual minorities in India and also interfered with the provision of HIV/AIDS prevention services. In 2005, the High Court dismissed the petition. Following a special leave petition, the Supreme Court in February 2006 set aside the order, and remanded the case back to the Delhi High Court for a decision on the merits of the case.
Why immerse Ganesha?
Activist Bhagvanji Raiyani has filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court asking for the ban on the annual immersion of Ganpati and Durga idols. The immersion of the idols in the sea by thousands of revellers causes large scale pollution. The litigation says that the sacred texts do not mention immersion at all. TNN
(With Dhananjay Mahapatra and Bhanu Pratap Singh)
â€¦And the most useless PILs
There are many who file PILs to attract publicity. Lawyers in small towns are known to slap frivolous cases against film stars in the hope that the actors would be forced to visit their modest courts. Here is a quick list.
The apex court recently dismissed a PIL filed by a man in Lucknow called Prince Lenin to recall the Indian cricket team from Australia to save the players from racial insults.
In February last year, lawyer Shruti Singh filed a PIL in the Patna High Court against Aishwarya Rai marrying a tree. â€œIf Aishwarya was declared a maanglik, she was insulted by her mother in-law, an MP who vowed to safeguard the Constitution,â€ Singh said. The case was thrown out. Shruti Singh had also filed a PIL against former union minister Sanjay Paswan for encouraging witchcraft.
Last year, the Patna High Court slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on an advocate for wasting its time. He filed a PIL against Manmohan Singh challenging his continuance as Prime Minister despite not being a member of the Lok Sabha.
The Delhi High Court recently imposed a fine of Rs 5000 on a petitioner who filed a PIL seeking direction to the organisers of a village Ramleela to desist from staging item songs.
STOP? A PIL pending with the Bombay High Court seeks an end to immersion of idols