In terms of maintainability of PILs, how the HC and SC differed

While allowing the appeal of CM Hemant Soren on the maintainability of two PILs filed against him, the Supreme Court of India (SC) struck down heavily on the Jharkhand High Court for entertaining PILs based on ‘half-baked truths’ and taking cognizance based on ‘general submissions’.

Jharkhand HC and SC differed on various points, resulting in the PILs-seeking investigation into the ownership of mining leases and shell companies being deemed “non-maintainable”, preventing the HC from hearing the PILs.

Both courts differed on the following points regarding the maintainability of the two PILs:

According to a writ petition filed in 2013, on similar lines to a PIL on shell companies:

According to the HC, since the current petition involves the syphoning of vast amounts of public money, it is necessary not to throw the writ petition on that ground (similar petition). However, the SC said that the petitioner Shiv Shankar Sharma did not come before the Court with ‘clean hands as he did not disclose the dismissal of a similar PIL by Jharkhand HC in 2013, even though the lawyer was the same person, and the apex court upheld the dismissal. The SC stated that a petition of this nature could be dismissed at the threshold itself.

Despite surrendering the mining lease, we are facing a PIL:

According to the HC, although the lease had been surrendered, Sharma’s malafide argument or biased approach would not be acceptable. The HC’s ruling stated that the allegation was not a farce. As far as the outcome of the writ petition is concerned, that will rest in the womb of tomorrow, but how could a petition be dismissed at the threshold?’. However, the SC emphasized that the matter was already with the EC, and if any anomaly was committed, the CM had to suffer disqualification from his office. The SC then said: “(this PIL is) an abuse of the process of this Court.”

The Court seeks ED and CBI probes into shell companies without exhausting statutory remedies:

It noted that since the CBI is not empowered to take over an investigation, approaching this Court without exhausting the remedies under the CrPC was not applicable and “is not worth considering”. Therefore, the idea was rejected. Despite this, the SC stated that the petition contained ‘wild and sweeping allegations’ and that nothing was presented to the Court, which could be called prima facie evidence. For further action, contact the investigative agencies directly. In the SC’s view, although there has been some concern that entrenched interests may hinder the petitioner’s efforts to uncover alleged corruption, the petitioner must first exhaust the statutory remedies available to him (which was not the case)…This principle cannot be ignored simply because this Court deals with a Public Interest Litigation.”

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