Allahabad HC slams practice of publishing petitions in media before filing in Court; terms it abuse of process

The Allahabad High Court has observed that publishing of any material- proposed to be brought before the courts- before it is actually filed in the Court is not a healthy practice rather an abuse of the process.

This, the Court said, unnecessarily at times may prejudice the minds of the Judges. It added that the media is supposed to play a responsible role in undertaking any such pre-litigation publication and ought to avoid it.

A division bench of Pankaj Mithal and Rajeev Singh was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by lawyer Krishan Kanhaya Pal against the airing of the web series Virgin Bhaskar, Season 2, streaming on OTT platforms Alt Balaji and Zee 5.

The Petitioner contended that a certain scene in the Series was defamatory because the name of a deity Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar is used as the name of the hostel “Ahilyabai Girls Hostel”.

Taking the preliminary objection to the petition, senior advocate J.N. Mathur, for Zee 5, pointed out to the Court that the petition was disseminated online prior to being filed. It was, thus, contended by the respondent that the petition was not in the public interest, and rather one seeking publicity.

On the other side, the petitioner submitted that he had filed the petition in the normal course after serving notice upon the counsel for Union of India and he was not aware how the petition had come in the public domain even before it was presented in the Court.

Advocate, for the Union of India (UOI), submitted that the notice of the petition was sent to S.B. Pandey, Assistant Solicitor General via e-mail. He is hospitalized due to Covid-19. He had not opened his e-mail account. Thus, there is no possibility of the petition escaping from his office or the system, said Counsel for the UOI.

The Court, after considering the facts and circumstances, observed that it was apparent that the petitioner invoked the jurisdiction of the Court for gaining unwarranted publicity in the garb of public interest.

“The proposed filing of the petition was publicised in social media even before it was filed or any order was passed on it only with the oblique motive of publicity, the Court said.

The Court went on to state that it is settled by various pronouncements of the apex court that public interest litigation is for making basic human rights meaningful to the deprived and vulnerable sections of the community and to assure them social, economic and political justice.

The petitioner, the Court said, does not belong to the deprived class and is not seeking any basic human rights through this petition.

Eventually dismissing the plea, the Court said it was satisfied that the petitioner had not approached the Court with clean intentions in the public interest. Rather the oblique purpose was to seek cheap popularity and publicity.

Read the Order