Supreme Court to decide if organisations having people with political backgrounds can file PIL


The Supreme Court today said it would decide whether an organisation, whose some members are also part of a political outfit, can file a public interest litigation or not.

The apex court’s observation came when Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi objected to a PIL filed by ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’, of which Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan are members, saying the same set of people had got registered a political party with the Election Commission of India.

Swaraj Abhiyan is seeking an SIT probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of an Agusta Westland helicopter by the Chhattisgarh government for VVIP use.

Seeking dismissal of the PIL, Rohatgi told the bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar that politicians cannot be allowed to approach the court with PILs to settle political scores.

Taking note of the submission, the bench said it would first decide the “maintainability” of the plea and the issue whether such an organisation can file PILs.

“The people behind this unregistered organization had sought registration as a political party called ‘Swaraj India’ before the Election Commission. Functionaries are the same in both the organisations,” the Attorney General said.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan opposed the plea of Rohatgi, saying ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’ is not a political outfit but an unregistered organisation fighting against corruption and for public welfare.

Some members are common in both the organisation and the political party, he said, adding this does not render ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’ ineligible for filing a PIL.

Earlier, on December 2 last year, the government had questioned the maintainability of PIL filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, saying a “political protagonist” cannot approach the court in the “guise of a public interest litigation to settle political scores”.

Swaraj Abhiyan is led by former Aam Aadmi Party members –psephologist Yogendra Yadav, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan and others.

Rohatgi had contended they could approach the court under different provisions or raise their concern at appropriate forums, but cannot file a PIL.

Senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, appearing for Swaraj Abhiyan, had alleged irregularities were committed in the purchase of a VVIP helicopter by the state government in 2007 -08.

Rohatgi had contended that the Government of India had cancelled all contracts with Agusta Westland after the allegations of irregularities surfaced.

The apex court had on September 23 asked the Centre to clarify its stand on the plea, which also sought an SIT probe into foreign bank accounts purportedly linked to the son of Chief Minister Raman Singh.

“The action of the Chhattisgarh government in issuing a pre-decided tender inviting bids for the purchase of specific model of a specific brand of helicopter for VIP movement shows a complete malafide intention on the part of the respondents to subvert the tendering process and to make sure that a pre-decided seller would be given the contract,” the plea said.

“The petitioner is also seeking an inquiry into the alleged offshore accounts of Abhishek Singh (son of Raman Singh, the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh) a few months after the alleged scam in the purchase of Agusta helicopter for VIP use,” the plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said.

It alleged that so far no genuine attempt has been made to investigate this deal.

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