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The Kerala High Court dismisses Writ as Petitioner fails to show any locus standi seeking to maintain the writ as PIL

CASE TITLE – Vinod Mathew versus the Union of India & Ors.

CASE NUMBER – WP(C) NO. 17179 OF 2024

DATED ON – 20.05.2024

QUORUM – JUSTICE GOPINATH P. & JUSTICE SYAM KUMAR V.M.

FACTS OF THE CASE

“The prayers sought in this Writ Petition, filed as a public interest litigation, are as follows:

  1. To issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ, order, or direction directing respondents Nos. 2 to 4 to consider and take action on Ext.P3 representation as per law within a time limit fixed by the Hon’ble Court, in the interest of justice.
  2. To issue a writ of mandamus or any other writ, order, or direction directing respondents Nos. 1, 6, and 7 to consider and take action on Ext.P5 representation as per law within a time limit fixed by this Hon’ble Court, in the interest of justice.
  3. Such other writ, orders, or directions deemed fit on facts and in the interest of justice.”

The petitioner claims that a money heist occurred within the jurisdiction of Kodakara Police Station, and that Crime No.146 of 2021, dated 07.04.2021, has been registered in that station. According to the petitioner, because the heist involves hawala and money laundering with political overtones, he has filed Ext.P3 representation dated 24.04.2024 and Ext.P5 representation dated 28.04.2024 with the relevant respondents, seeking the registration of a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The petitioner expresses disappointment that the concerned respondents have taken no action on his representations. Given the nature of the crime, which he believes has ramifications for the nation’s economic security, he has filed this Writ Petitions, seeking the aforementioned prayers.

 

 

 

 

ISSUES

Whether the petitioner has sufficient standing to maintain the Writ Petition and whether the petition serves a genuine public interest or is politically motivated.

 

CONTENTIONS BY THE PETITIONER

The petitioner alleges that the heist has significant ramifications for national economic security. Representations seeking action under the 2002 Act were made but were not acted upon, leading to the Writ Petition. The petitioner is citing, Dr. P. Nalla Thampy Thera v. Union of India, for a flexible approach to locus standi in public interest litigations.

CONTENTIONS BY THE RESPONDENT

Respondents 2 and 3 have in their statement, challenged the locus standi of the petitioner to prefer the Writ Petition in a matter which essentially has criminal law implications. The statement also reveals that based on FIR No.146 of 2021 dated 07.04.2021 of Kodakara Police Station and the Final Report filed therein by the Police, an ECIR/KCZO/11/2023 dated 30.01.2023 has been registered by the Enforcement Directorate under the Act, 2002 and that the matter is under active investigation. It has been stated therein that several persons have been questioned and their statements recorded. That effective steps are being presently undertaken by the Enforcement Directorate to ascertain the proceeds of crime including the money trail and that meticulous investigation is required in cases of such nature to find out the money trail, the proceeds of the crime and the persons involved in the money laundering case, are also pointed out by respondents 2 and 3 in their statement. The Enforcement Directorate has through the said statement sought dismissal of the Writ Petition at the very threshold on the ground of maintainability and lack of locus standi in the petitioner. Respondents 1 and 5 have in their statement contended that the Writ Petition is not maintainable and that no public interest is involved in the matter. It is alleged by them therein that the Writ Petition has been filed with political interest and ulterior motives by the petitioner who is admittedly the State President of a political party. It is also averred therein that Ext.P2 Final Report clearly reveals that the State Police has completed the investigation and has filed the Final Report before the jurisdictional Magistrate who has taken cognizance of the matter. Respondents 1 and 5 thus seek dismissal of the Writ Petition on the ground that a public interest litigation is not maintainable in a criminal matter and that the petitioner is only a stranger who is in no way connected with the alleged crime.

 

COURT ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Hon’able High Court of Kerala finds that the petitioner has failed to reveal any locus standi to prefer or maintain the above Writ Petition as a public interest litigation. The objections raised by the respondents in their statements regarding lack of locus standi in the petitioner has legal merit and are accordingly accepted and upheld. The court is convinced that even if we were to hold that the Writ Petition is maintainable at the instance of the petitioner, the reliefs sought for cannot be granted.  Ext.P3 representation is addressed to officials of the Enforcement Directorate seeking registration of a case under the Act, 2002, against a named individual. There is also a prayer in Ext.P3 that the named individual and his associates should be arrested. The prayer for consideration of Ext.P3 by the competent authority under the 2002 Act is based on a misconception of the scope of the 2002 Act. After analysing the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, the court made it clear that the Enforcement Directorate is not an investigating agency stricto sensu. The command and mandate of the Enforcement Directorate under the 2002 Act is to ensure that no person benefits from the proceeds of crime derived out of the commission of a scheduled offence and to see that such property is confiscated to the State. Therefore, in the facts of this case there cannot be any direction issued to consider Ext.P3 which has been filed with a prayer to register a case and arrest certain individuals for that is not the mandate of the Enforcement Directorate. Moreover, the statement filed on behalf of respondents 2 and 3 filed in this case indicates that the Enforcement Directorate has registered an ECIR/KCZO/11/23 in the above matter and the same is being enquired into as well. Thus the court sees no reason to direct the consideration of Ext.P3. The second relief sought in the Writ Petition is for Ext.P5 representation, which requests action under Section 6 of the National Investigation Agency Act of 2008 (NIA Act). Section 6 of the NIA Act, 2008, states that the process begins with the filing of a FIR under Section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) for an offence listed in the Schedule to the NIA Act, 2008. A review of the Ext.P2 Final Report reveals that no offences listed in the Schedule to the NIA Act, 2008, were committed. The petitioner has incorrectly invoked Section 6, as the preliminary requirements for its application—namely, the commission of a scheduled offence and the filing of a FIR—have not been met. Hence for the above mentioned reasons the writ is dismissed.

 

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Judgement Reviewed by – Gnaneswarran Beemarao

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Patna High Court Upholds Lower Court’s Dismissal of Public Interest Litigation filed against nominations made by district judge

Case title:  The Sikh Collective Vs The State of Bihar

Case no.:  800 of 2024

Dated on: 16th February 2024

Quorum:  HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE and HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE RAJIV ROY CAV JUDGMENT (Per: HONOURABLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE)

FACTS OF THE CASE

The writ petition is filed against the nomination made by the District Judge, Patna to the Prabandhak Committee, which is managing the affairs of Sri Takhat Harimandir Ji, Patna Saheb, Patna City. The writ petition is filed as a public interest petition. The petitioner is a Sikh Collective (Sikh) which is not stated to be registered as a society or association and in that circumstance it cannot be deemed to be a legal entity. Further, the respondents impleaded are the three nominees and none from the community even in a representative capacity.

ISSUES

  • Whether the applicant has locus standi to file the petition before this court?
  • Whether the court can invoke the extraordinary discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India?

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Article 226 of The Indian Constitution

Power of High Courts to issue certain writs: Notwithstanding anything in article 32 every High Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warrantor and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The petitioner contends that the District Judge, Patna ought not to have made the three nominations before the election is over, since it is de hors and ultra vires the provisions of the Constitution and by-laws governing the formation of the Committee and would lead to frustrating the democratic process of election of the committee members. The petitioners are concerned with the management of the religious place and it cannot be said that the community which has interest in the affairs of the institution and also the management of the same is either marginalized or downtrodden, requiring this Court to invoke the extraordinary discretionary remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, bypassing the other remedies available.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENTS

The counsel contended that the Constitution and Bye-laws are produced at Annexure-1. The nomination made by the District Judge is in his ex officio capacity. Nomination is made under Clause 9 of Chapter IV and there are 15 members in the Managing Committee of which 14 are nominated by the various bodies; three being nominated by the District Judge. Three members are elected by the local Sikhs of Patna district and the remaining member is co-opted by the 14 members constituting the committee. Prima facie, we are of the opinion that there is nothing mandating the nomination to be done after the election. Further, none of the other existing committee members have been impleaded in the present writ petition.

 COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The court did not find any reason to interfere with the orders of the District Judge, in a Public Interest Litigation and to invoke and exercise the extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, in public interest, in the above case; the grievance projected in which has to be agitated in an appropriate civil forum. Declining discretionary exercise of the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the court dismissed the writ petition. The court also made it clear that it has merely declined discretion and it does not validate the nomination which, if any individual or body is prejudiced with, will have to be agitated before the appropriate civil forum. When such proceedings are instituted, it would be for the forum approached to decide on the locus standi of the applicant and maintainability of such a proceeding; and if found inclined on these aspects, to decide on the merits.

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Judgement Reviewed by – Fathima Sara Sulaiman

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