The Delhi High Court today rejected BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s plea seeking a court-monitored SIT probe into the death of Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s wife Sunanda Pushkar, terming his PIL as a “textbook example of a political interest litigation”. A bench of Justices S Muralidhar and I S Mehta chastised the BJP leader and his lawyer for making “sweeping allegations” in the petition against Tharoor and the Delhi Police, without giving any basis for these accusations.
While dismissing the plea, the court said in future it expected Swamy to act with “circumspection” required from PIL petitioners. Pushkar was found dead under mysterious circumstances in a suite of a five-star hotel in Delhi on the night of January 17, 2014.
Swamy, in his plea, had alleged that the police had “botched up” the probe and accused the Congress leader of “interfering” in the investigation now and even earlier when he was a minister in the UPA regime. When questioned about the source based on which he had made the allegations, the BJP leader and his lawyer, who is a co-petitioner, said they would file affidavits to reply to the court’s query.
However, the bench rejected their offer, saying it appeared that they had concealed information pertinent to the case, which they ought to have disclosed when they had filed the petition. The court also said that Swamy ought to have mentioned his political affiliation as well as that of Tharoor in his petition as these facts were important to the adjudication of the case.
It also said the persons against whom the allegations were made ought to have been made a party in the petition, but Swamy and co-petitioner Ishkaran Singh Bhandari “have not thought fit to do so” and “no valid explanation” was given. While Bhandari admitted to the lapse on his part for not paying attention to what was required to be filed under the law, Swamy vociferously defended his actions to the extent that heated words were exchanged with the bench.
“This is not my first PIL. It is not the first stage of hearing of the matter. The matter is at a final stage. This is the first time I am being subjected to these questions. This tantamounts to making an accusation against me of concealing facts,” he said, adding that he takes “100 per cent responsibility” for not substantiating the allegations. To this, the bench said, “how do you say you have not concealed when you are now asking for time to file an affidavit?”
It went on to add in its order that “although Swamy claims he has not concealed any data or information, when asked specifically about basis of allegations in the petition, his response was to seek time to file an affidavit, thereby clearly showing that what was to be disclosed at the first instance was not done”. The bench further said “This court is left with a distinct impression that this is perhaps a textbook example of a political interest litigation dressed up as a PIL (public interest litigation).”
It said the courts need to be careful that “judicial process is not used by political persons for their own purposes” and added that the courts have to be “extra cautious” when dealing with matters in which allegations have been made by political persons against one another. The court said the instant case cannot be entertained as a PIL.
It said that based on the material placed on record, it has not been persuaded that the probe being carried out by the SIT was botched up or under influence of any party. The Centre and Delhi Police, represented by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, told the bench that they “do not subscribe to Swamy’s view” that the probe was being influenced by Tharoor.
The SIT of Delhi Police also assured the court that no effort will be spared to take the probe to its logical conclusion. The bench during the hearing also alluded to a “disturbing feature” of the instant case, the online availability of Swamy’s petition as well as some status reports, even before they were considered by the court.
“Where serious allegations are made, petitioners need to be circumspect about placing it on the net or social media before consideration by the court as it could have irreversible consequences,” it said. The bench said this caution has to be exercised in all matters where reputation and privacy of an individual was involved.
As Swamy, in his petition, had not given the basis for the allegations made by him, the high court directed that from hereafter “every petition, including PILs, are to be supported by an affidavit stating which averments are true to the petitioner’s knowledge and which are true to his belief”. It said it expected litigants and lawyers to act responsibly while making averments as “truth should not become a casualty. … Credibility of our entire system is based on these affidavits.”