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CJI dispels impression on ‘overreach’
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 13
A Supreme Court Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, today dispelled the impression on judiciary’s “overreach” in the public interest litigation (PIL) cases, gained in the wake of a judgement of a Division Bench this week that had raised a controversy on the judicial “overactivism”.

“We are not bound by the two-judge Bench (order),” the CJI sitting in a three-judge Bench with Justices R.V. Raveendran and J.M. Panchal said and even refused to look at the judgement of Justices A.K. Mahtur and Markendey Katju when it was sought to be placed on record by a counsel arguing a PIL on the plight of widows in Brindaban.

Though the CJI’s Bench did not say anything further on the controversial judgement, the terse one-line observation made by Justice Balakrishnan on it apparently sent a message to the judiciary that it should not read much in the judgement with several “harsh” observations made by Justices Mathur and Katju in their verdict even questioning the orders of some of the larger Benches of the apex court.

The two judges had also questioned the validity of Delhi High Court’s orders in at least 15 PILs relating to various important issues, in which authorities had not even acted under the provisions of the law and the laid-down rules.

As a result of the judgement, a Division Bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and H.S. Bedi earlier refused to hear a pending PIL further on sex workers’ plight and the Delhi High Court a petition on rehabilitation of beggars and action against a begging racket in the city employing small children.

The CJI, while admitting the PIL on Brindaban widows’ plight today, filed by NGO Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation (ECPF), said any person moving PILs should make a thorough research before approaching the court and not file them merely based on media reports.

The petitioners should go to the spot of happening, collect material and information personally, the court said and questioned the foundation counsel about his information on these points about the widows.

The counsel said the NGO had written to the district authorities of the Uttar Pradesh government on the plight of the widows after reports appeared in media about their pathetic condition.

In the media reports the number of widows living in different temple complexes was put at 25,000 but the district authorities admitted it to be around 3,000. They are paid Rs 6 per day which is not sufficient for their survival and many of them were very old and suffering from various ailments.

After the counsel furnished details about their plight amid thorough grilling by the Bench, the apex court admitted the petition and issued notices to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh Government seeking their replies.

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