Non-interference of court to grant relief when litigant approaches with dirty pair of hands: Bombay High Court

No litigant however placed is permitted to take such liberties and seek discretionary and equitable reliefs invoking the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 by suppressing material facts. This Judgment was delivered by the single bench comprising Hon’ble Chief Justice G.S. Kulkarni in the matter of Rabindra Nath Kakar & 13 Others v. U.O.I & 4 Others [PIL 23 of 2019]. The petition is, therefore, clearly hit by the principles of suppressio veri and suggestio falsi and more particularly when the petitioners had approached this Court invoking the public interest jurisdiction.

The total number of petitioners in this present case numbered up to 14, all of whom are residents of Versova-Mumbai and claim to be active participants in the conservation and beautification of the environment. Petitioner no.14 is the Co-operative Housing Society of the other petitioners. The case of the petitioners is that in or around May 2013 the petitioner no.14 issued letters to various authorities including respondents no 1 to 5 informing them about the nuisance caused by the contractor who off-loaded Soil Testing Equipment, next to the premises of petitioner no. 6 near a mangrove tree, but the petitioners received no response to the above letter. The petitioners contend that execution of the project work would involve the uprooting of mangroves. They say that the project plan portrays an unwarranted development as according to them, it would not, in any manner resolve the prevailing traffic situation in the area. The petitioners have averred that ‘Bombay Environmental Action Group” (for short” the BEAG”) had approached this Court in a public 8 2- PIL(L)23-2019 (final) interest petition against the State of Maharashtra and others (PIL No. 86 of 2006). In the said PIL this Court had passed an interim order dated 6 October 2005 directing total freeze on the destruction and cutting of mangroves in the entire State of Maharashtra. 

The petitioners noticed dumping of raw materials and some activity appearing on the site of proposed road no.3. The petitioners hence issued a notice dated 31 January 2019 to the different authorities raising their concern as also informing about the said orders passed by this Court in the BEAG’s PIL, according to which any construction taking place within 50 mtrs from all sides of the mangroves could not be undertaken and was required to be stopped. As no action was taken present petition was filed. This present petition was filed before the Bombay HC, primarily questioning the validity of the infrastructure project undertaken by the Municipal Corporation along with other authorities namely the State Government and the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority to connect the areas of Versova and Lokhandwala.

After examining all the submissions, arguments and evidence forwarded by the councils, the Hon’ble High Court observed that “Before parting, we have grave doubt as to whether this is genuine public interest litigation. The reason is that the petitioners appear to be persons aggrieved by the public utility project, which is being undertaken in the vicinity of their premises, as clear from the averments as made in the petition. The petitioners appear to be those persons who have some private interest of whatsoever nature to prevent such public works. In these circumstances, it cannot be said that the petitioners are espousing a genuine public interest and/or have absolutely no private interest. This public interest litigation is hence, an abuse of the process of law.” In lieu of the above-made considerations and observations, the single judge bench in this present case dismissed the present petition stating that “For the above reasons, we are clear that the petition deserves to be dismissed. It is dismissed with cost of Rs.2, 00,000/- to be deposited with the Maharashtra State Legal Service Authority within four weeks from today.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari                              

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