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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Judiciary entertains notorious ‘serial petitioner’ M.L. Sharma’s plea against Agnipath scheme

The Supreme Court on Tuesday transferred all the writ petitions challenging the Agnipath scheme for the armed forces before it to the Delhi High Court, where a similar challenge against the scheme is already pending.

A bench comprising justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and A.S. Bopanna transferred the three PILs before it against the Agnipath scheme to the Delhi High Court. Justice Chandrachud told the counsel, appearing for the petitioners, “Let us also have the benefit of perspective of the high court…we will allow you to go to the high court… it’s always good to have a perspective, a considered view of a high court.”

Advocate M.L. Sharma, one of the petitioners, in his plea said: “According to the impugned press note…dated 14.06.2022 after 4 years out of 100 per cent selected candidates for Permanent Commission in Indian Army 25 per cent will be continued in Indian Army force and the rest 75 per cent will be retired /denied jobs in the Indian Army. During 4 years they will be paid salary and perk but after 4 years denied candidates will get no pension, etc.”

ML Sharma is notorious for his serial petitions and abuse of the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) process, which have earned him the moniker ‘publicity interest litigator’. Actually, there is an entire cottage industry of such petitioners in Lutyens’ Delhi. While ML Sharma is at least called out and fined/rebuked from time to time, others in the same category like Prashant Bhushan, Colin Gonsalves etc are treated with kid gloves by the judiciary and routinely entertained. Many high-powered lawyers like Gonsalves have clear links with foreign entities yet are allowed to operate with impunity.

A writ petition was also filed by a group of persons shortlisted for airman selection in the Indian Air Force, who sought a direction that the recruitment process which commenced in the previous years should be completed regardless of the Agnipath scheme.

The SC bench noted that the multiplicity of writ petitions on the subject will not be desirable and pan-Bharat issue does not mean that the top court should hear it, rather one of the high courts can also hear it, and it has been done earlier.

The bench favoured petitions pending in other high courts may also go to the Delhi High Court to avoid ‘inconsistent decisions’. The top court said if any PIL is filed in future on the same issue, challenging the Agnipath scheme notified by the Centre on June 14, then it would also be given the same option by the concerned high courts.

Justice Chandrachud said: “We must have a considered view of a high court. The high court jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution should not lose significance.”

The top court said the other high courts, where similar petitions are pending, would give an option to the petitioners to either transfer the matter to the Delhi High Court or move the Delhi High Court as an intervener.

Parliament proposes, judiciary disposes?

Today, we are witnessing a blurring of roles and deadlock between key Constitutional institutions – legislature & executive versus judiciary. Almost every law passed by Parliament or action taken by the Government is challenged in courts, and almost all these pleas are entertained by the judiciary, especially if they are raised by the powerful Lutyens’ lawyer cabal.

Street protests by privileged ‘minority’ groups also have an outsize influence on the judicial process and executive’s decision making, as we clearly witnessed in the ‘farmers’ protests and anti-CAA protests. The farm reforms that were in the interest of the overwhelming majority of poor farmers in the country – something that even the SC-appointed expert panel attested – had to be abandoned because of intransigence of vested interests and weakness of our state.

We need a radical restructuring of our Republic, drawing upon lessons from other civilizational nation states. The top court of the land should mostly confine itself to important Constitutional matters – review of laws/schemes passed by Government should be the exception, not the rule. Judiciary has to stop imagining itself as the ‘last hope of the common man’ – this mentality smacks of elitism and colonialism, and we have seen how the judicial process has been repeatedly subverted in favor of terrorists and other anti-national forces. The collegium system which was suddenly introduced in 1993 makes a mockery of the Constitution and needs to be ended asap.

Foreign-funded agents shouldn’t be allowed to obstruct and delay the decisions of a democratically elected government. We are no longer living in a fractured coalition era where electoral mandates were weak. The Dharmic ethos of Bharat needs to find expression in the modern Indian state.

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