Since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts have heard and passed orders in several public interest litigation petitions. These orders have benefited a large number of people, especially the marginalized sections of the society. Quite a few petitions, however, could not be so fortunate. These petitions, though claiming to be in the public interest, could not gather much interest of the judges. I try to list a few of them below.
1. Petition requesting permission to “keep open the wine shops in Karnataka at least for few hours in a day, if not for the whole day”
A PIL titled Late G.b. Kulkarmi Memorial Legal Trust v. State Of Karnataka & Ors. had filed a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution “praying to issue writ, order or direction in nature of mandamus or any other appropriate writ, order or direction to the respondents to keep open the wine shops in the State of Karnataka at least for few hours in a day, f not for the whole day.”
However, the bench comprising Abhay S Oka, Chief Justice Justice BVNagarathna, which was hearing the matter through video conference, found no public interest in the matter. When the bench expressed so, the petitioner trust, represented through its president Dr. Vinod G Kukarni, submitted that he will withdraw the petition and will donate Rs.10,000/- to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund COVID-19. This pacified the bench and it observed that for the aforesaid reason, it will not pass any order for costs.
However, the bench comprising Abhay S. Oka, Chief Justice Justice B.v. Nagarathna, which was hearing the matter through video conference, found no public interest in the matter. When the bench expressed so, the petitioner trust, represented through its president Dr. Vinod G Kukarni, submitted that he will withdraw the petition and will donate Rs.10,000/- to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund COVID-19. This pacified the bench and it observed that for the aforesaid reason, it will not pass any order for costs.
Court passed the following order:
However, we dismiss the writ petition as withdrawn. We make it clear that no public interest is involved in this petition. We direct the Dr. Vinod G Kulkarni to pay a donation of Rs.10,000/- to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund COVID-19 within a period of two weeks from today and to forward a copy of the receipt issued for the donation to the Registrar (Judicial) by e-mail within a period of two weeks from today.
Late G.b. Kulkarmi Memorial Legal Trust v. State Of Karnataka & Ors.
On 21 April 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking free treatment for all non-Covid-19 infected patients and observed it to be an attempt to gain publicity.
The petition titled Sourjya Das v. Union of India had sought a direction to relax or reduce charges of non-COVID-19 related treatment to safeguard ‘right to life’ of every citizen, during the period of lockdown imposed to contain Novel Coronavirus outbreak.
As per Deccan Herald, the petitioner submitted “that it was necessary to consider that at such times, numerous members of the public will require non-coronavirus related medical treatment services like chemotherapy, emergency transplants, colonoscopy, various prescribed medical treatments which are of an immediate necessity to sustain the life of a member of the public.”
However the bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai, observed:
Do not create publicity interest litigation, we think this case should close now, no need to raise any litigation like this.
3. ML Sharma’s PIL against ‘PM Cares’ fund
Advocate ML Sharma had filed a petition seeking quashing of the Centre’s decision to set up the PM CARES Fund to deal with the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, where citizens can donate money.
The petition titled Manohar Lal Sharma v. Narender Damordas Modi was heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bode and Justices L Nageswara Rao and MM Shantanagoudar observed “this is a completely misconceived petition.”
Impugned trust has not either been created by Parliament/state legislator within Article 267. It is neither passed by Parliament nor approved by the President of India. There is no ordinance/gazette notification in this regard.
4. Nationalise health care system and all related entities
Advocate Amit Dwiwedi had filed a petition before the Supreme Court of India seeking nationalisation of entire health care facilities in India till COVID-19 is contained. His petition sought:
That this hon’ble court may be pleased to issue a writ of mandamus or direction or order directing the Government of India, all the State Governments, all the Union Territory Governments and other concerned authorities to nationalize all health care facilities, all institutes, all companies and all entities related to health care sector situated in the territory of the Union of India and their respective territories till the pandemic CVID-19 is contained.
Supreme court on 13 April 2020, dismissed the petition with respect to this prayer, observing “The first prayer, according to us, is misconceived. No such court direction can be issued as prayed for. The writ petition stands dismissed for prayer 1.”
With respect to the second prayer concerning free testing, the petition came to be dismissed on 21 April 2020.