In Vyapam season, MP House passes Bill to prevent ‘vexatious litigation bill’

Activists say legislation ‘unconstitutional’; govt says bid to check ‘avoidable PILs’.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Updated: July 23, 2015 9:06 am
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vyapam scam, mp Vyapam scam, Vexatious Litigation Prevention Bill,  Shivraj Singh Chouhan government,  Vyapam case, Vexatious Litigation Prevention Bill 2015, MP Vexatious Litigation Prevention Bill,  Madhya Pradesh news,  Madhya Pradesh, india news, nation news Congress MLAs protest outside the Assembly in Bhopal on Wednesday. (Source: PTI photo)

While the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government is under attack in the Vyapam case, the state assembly passed the Madhya Pradesh Tang Karnewali Mukadmebaji (Nivaran) Vidheyak, 2015 — Madhya Pradesh Vexatious Litigation (Prevention) Bill, 2015 — by a voice vote on Wednesday. The main purpose of the Bill is to prevent people from initiating litigation “without reasonable ground”.

The legislation allows the high court to declare a person “a vexatious litigant” on an application filed by the advocate general.

The opposition MLAs were shouting slogans and protesting against the government in the well of the house on Wednesday when the Bill was passed without any debate.

According to the legislation, the advocate general can file an application in the high court to declare a person “a vexatious litigant”, arguing that he has initiated civil or criminal proceedings “without reasonable ground”. The high court will first hear the litigant, before passing an order to prevent him from filing civil or criminal proceedings in the high court or subordinate courts. The order will also apply to cases already filed in courts.

While the BJP government said the legislation was needed to prevent frivolous cases, activists said it was “unconstitutional, undemocratic” and meant to stifle dissenting voices, especially in the wake of the Vyapam scam.

Denying that the legislation was prompted by the Vyapam case, Law Minister Kusum Mehdele told The Indian Express that such a law already exists in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Stating that the law was meant to prevent unnecessary litigation that burden courts, Mehdele said: “When they know such a law exists, people will think twice before filing avoidable petitions.’’

Senior lawyer and former state advocate general, Vivek Tankha, described the legislation as “terrible’’ and said he would move the Supreme Court after examining its provisions. “I am appalled at the thought process behind moving such legislation and implementing it,’’ he said.

Questioning the need for such a law, he said the courts can dismiss any petition they find malicious or frivolous. He said the move was “undemocratic and unconstitutional’’.

Right to Food campaigner Sachin Jain said PILs are an important tool because governments either don’t involve activists in the decision making process or don’t include their suggestions. “It’s an attempt to keep people away from governance,’’ he said, pointing out that the law could be misused against genuine petitioners.

Anand Rai, Indore-based whistleblower in the Vyapam scam, also said the law was unconstitutional. He said PILs helped to expose irregularities in the pre-medical test and other recruitment tests. “Several path-breaking decisions came in response to PILs,’’ he said.

RTI activist and member of Transparency International Ajay Dubey alleged that the law would allow the government to prevent people from moving courts to expose its corrupt practices.

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