The court says it cannot become a forum to investigate high constitutional authorities on the basis of half-baked truth.
IN a big relief to the Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, the Supreme Court on Monday declared that the two Public Interest Litigations(PILs) filed before the Jharkhand High Court seeking an investigation against Soren by the Directorate of Enforcement (EDs) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), were not maintainable. The Court, accordingly, set aside the high court order holding that the allegations made by petitioner-Shiv Shankar Sharma, before the high court were vague, very much generalised, and not at all substantiated by anything worthy to be called evidence.
It also found that credentials of Sharma had been discredited for non-disclosure of the past efforts made for similar reliefs when the petition had been dismissed. A three-judge bench comprising the Chief Justice of India(CJI) Uday Umesh Lalit and Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia passed the order to this effect.
Writing a judgment for the bench, Justice Dhulia held that the court could not become a forum to investigate the alleged acts of misdeeds against high constitutional authorities on the basis of half-baked truth.
“It was not proper for the High Court to entertain a PIL which is based on mere allegations and half-baked truth that too at the hands of a person who has not been able to fully satisfy his credentials and has come to the Court with unclean hands”, Justice Dhulia said.
The bench, however, added that if Sharma had a genuine reason to pursue the matter, he had his remedies available under the Companies Act or under other provisions of the law where he can apprise the relevant authorities of the misdeeds of the Directors or Promotors of the Companies.
“We are not for a moment saying that people who occupy high offices should not be investigated, but for a High Court to take cognizance of the matter on these generalized submissions which do not even make prima facie satisfaction of the Court, is nothing but an abuse of the process of the Court”, the bench held.
Sharma’s case before the high court was that Hemant Soren has amassed huge wealth by corrupt means by abusing his position as a Chief Minister and invested this money in about 32 companies. He alleged that the chief minister had been siphoning off this money and investing it in shell companies through one Ravi Kejriwal who is allegedly a close associate of the Chief Minister. He thus sought the probe against CM by the ED by filing two PILs.
The bench observed that the allegations of the respondent of money laundering through shell companies have not been supplemented by any kind of evidence, whatsoever. The names of persons who are allegedly responsible for the operation of these companies have been mentioned, but without producing any concrete evidence, it has been stated that these persons are connected/close aides or related to the Chief Minister, the bench held.
It also noted that none of the companies have been made a party to the PILs, before the Jharkhand High Court.
“It is also an admitted fact that in relation to present two PILs, no FIR or complaint has been filed with the police or any authority agitating the grievances and these petitions have been filed before the High Court, without availing the statutory remedies”, the bench held.
Bonafide of the petitioner in PIL is crucial
Rendering findings of the bonafide of the petitioner, the bench observed “the bona fide of the petitioner who files the PIL an extremely relevant consideration and must be examined by the Court at the very threshold itself and this has to be done irrespective of the seemingly high public cause being espoused by the petitioner in a PIL.”.
On facts, the bench noted that in 2013 a similar petition was filed by some other person which was dismissed by the Division Bench of the Jharkhand High Court and thereafter the Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal against the high court order. The bench said though the said petition was filed by a different person, i.e., Sri Diwan Indranil Sinha, this was in the knowledge of Sharma as the counsel for the petitioner in the earlier petition, and the counsel for Sharma, was the same.
The bench also noted that Shamra did not even mention the earlier writ petition or the fact that it was dismissed by the High Court with costs on November 22, 2013.
The bench accordingly held that Sharma did not approach the high court with clean hands as he did not disclose the dismissal of the earlier petition filed by one Sinha. This, the Supreme Court found, a violation of Rule 4B of the Jharkhand High Court (Public Interest Litigation) Rules, 2010 which states “4-B. Every Public Interest Litigation will chronologically mention in detail all such other and earlier efforts with their result, which are within the petitioner’s knowledge, and which have been made by the petitioner or others for obtaining the relief sought by the Public Interest Litigation.”
“The locus of the petitioner who initiates a PIL is therefore of extreme importance as this important form of litigation should not be abused by motivated individuals to abuse the process of the Court for their political purposes or for any other reason, but for a Public Cause”, the bench held.