Bombay HC Makes Deposit of 1 Crore a Precondition for Hearing a PIL on Account of “No Prima Facie Public Interest”

On 26th May 2020, the Bombay High Court, while assessing a PIL, directed the petitioners, “Abhinav Bharat Congress” and its founder, Mr. Pankaj Phadnis to pay Rs. 1 Crore with the registry. The court will consider this as a prerequisite deposit for hearing the Public Interest Litigation filed by them.

Explicitly, the petitioners pleaded against the State of Maharashtra, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Medical Council of India, the Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and the Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital to occupy the premises of two hospitals under the Wadia hospital trust in Mumbai amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Observations by the Bench

The division bench comprising of Chief Just. Dipankar Dutta and Just. KK Tated observed that:

There is a prima facie resemblance of bogus intentions in the PIL. Moreover, it does not seem to be raised for public interest.

Additionally, the court observed that since Abhinav Bharat is an unregistered Body raising a PIL, it will not have a locus standi to institute the proceedings. Bombay High Court Public Interest Litigation Rules, 2010 clearly prescribes the same. The Court, however, stated that the petitioner has the capacity to bring legal action as a separate, public-concerned individual.

Contentions of the Respondents

In reply, the two respondent hospitals submitted an affidavit claiming that Mr. Pankaj (Petitioner No.2) was previously employed under Mr. Wadia; Head of Board Management of the two hospitals. The Court noted down that the petitioners did not mention this fact in the PIL. It also stated that the petitioners tried to abuse the process of court by initiating unnecessary proceedings. As a result, Justice KK Tated raised concerns on whether they filed the PIL in good faith.

Considering all the observations, the court has concluded that the PIL was filed with ulterior and oblique motives. Furthermore, the Court will list the matter for the next date i.e. May 29, 2020, only when the petitioners submit the security deposit of Rs. 1 Crore. This will be in consideration to ensure that the PIL is “pro bono publico”; In essence, for the public good.