Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday faced intense grilling by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur, which voiced concern that rival commercial litigants could be using the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, as an instrument to settle scores.
While hearing a PIL filed by CPIL challenging the grant of 4G licences to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd the apex court observed that 50 PILs had been filed by the NGO over the years, but it did not have any credible mechanism to verify the information which formed the basis for filing the PILs.
“We understand that our impression today is that you have no mechanism to scrutinise or verify the informations as to prima facie these informations disclose any fraud,” the bench was quoted by PTI.
“Your organisation should not become an instrument in the hands of commercial rivals of others and it should not appear that both of you work hand-in-gloves,” the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi,observed.
It added, “When we entertain your petition, you must establish a credible mechanism of scrutiny. People of eminence should apply mind and certify that such a mechanism inspires confidence. We want to make sure that a petition filed by CPIL has gone through a particular process and is genuine.”
Bhushan denied that the NGO filed PILs in return for a consideration adding that there was an executive committee of senior advocates like Anil Divan, Shanti Bhushan, Colin Gonsalves and others who decided on the merits of PILs.
The bench said it was of the view that if there was a genuine mechanism to scrutinise information, there would be no problem if the NGO gets financial support for its functioning.
Bhushan said that CPIL had a research team to gather the required information and materials. To this, the bench said that there should be an investigating wing to give a report so that credible attempt can be made.
“Petitions should not be on the basis of the raw information,” the bench added.
Bhushan made an attempt to make it clear that it was aware of all the questions that was arising in the minds of the bench and said, “we do not have any personal interest.”
He also said the PIL against the company was filed on the basis of the draft CAG report which had spoken about certain irregularities in the grant of 4G licence.
Supreme Court on Tuesday had reserved its order on the grant of 4G to Mukesh Amabni owned Reliance Jio.