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The Kerala High Court yesterday dismissed a petition filed by state BJP leader Sobha Surendran, and imposed costs of Rs. 25,000 on her for abusing the court process.
Surendran had filed a petition alleging that the police were harassing devotees of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. The petition had sought an interim direction to the state government to furnish the list of cases registered against Ayyappa devotees since September 29, the day after the Supreme Court’s judgment allowing entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple.
At the outset, the High Court notes in its judgment that the petition is “structured as a Public Interest Litigation but in our perception, the litigation is not a bona fide one but is filled with an oblique motive and is intended to generate publicity for the petitioner.”
The Bench of Chief Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar highlighted that the petition was structured around the Supreme Court decision in State of Gujarat v. Kishanbhai, which deals with undeserved acquittal and failure of prosecution in cases. The Apex Court had directed the constitution of a Standing Committee in each state to ensure that there is no acquittal based on faulty prosecution.
However, the Bench notes, the interim prayer sought for in the petition is unrelated to the aforementioned Supreme Court case. Moreover, the interim prayer has no connection with the RTI information sought by Surendran on whether the State of Kerala has taken steps to constitute such a Standing Committee.
The Bench goes on to cite the case of Tehseen Poonawalla v. Union of India (the Judge Loya case), in which the test for entertaining public interest litigation was laid down. The judgment states,
“Even on a cursory examination of the pleadings, it can be seen that the personal interest of the petitioner is sought to be espoused through the Writ Petition, where the averments are in such a way as to mask the real intention…The interim prayers sought in the Writ Petition, would also suggest that the petitioner is trying to abuse the Court’s process. Therefore, it is obvious that it is not a bonafide litigation but one with ulterior motive.”
Thus, the Court dismissed the petition with costs of Rs. 25,000 on Sobha Surendran. This, despite the unconditional apology and belated prayer for permission to withdraw the petition made by Surendran’s counsel, VR Manoranjan.
Read the judgment: