Asserting that the judiciary cannot be asked to take over the roles of the legislature and the executive, the Supreme Court on Friday refused to entertain a PIL seeking a direction to the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of making laws to confiscate ‘benami’ properties, disproportionate assets and black money.
A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul, however, permitted Delhi BJP leader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay to make a representation to the Law Commission to ascertain the possibility of making laws or amending existing ones to ensure confiscation of illegal properties and provision for awarding life term in cases pertaining to offences such as bribery and black money.
“Let me tell you two things. There is legislative and executive exercise and there is judiciary to do the scrutiny. You cannot ask the judicial wing to take over all the roles. It is not envisaged in the Constitution also”, the bench told senior advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan in a hearing conducted via video conference.
The bench, which acknowledged Upadhyay’s good work in the field of PILs, also observed that this was becoming a “publicity interest litigation”.
“Sorry, this is becoming a publicity interest litigation. Petitioner has done some good work also but this we can’t entertain”, said the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Hrishikesh Roy.
At the outset, Sankarnarayanan, representing Upadhyay, referred to the issues of black money and ‘benami’ properties and said the late Ram Jethmalani had also raised similar issues in the apex court few years ago.
“There is total lack of will and resistance (in law). In coal scam, it is over Rs 1 lakh crore scam but the sentence given is three years”, he said.
“It is for Parliament to create the law. We cannot issue mandamus to Parliament to enact a law”, the bench said, adding that the petitioner should persuade the peoples’ representatives to make a law on this.
“The tendency to come to court for all this is not right”, the court observed and added, “Look at your prayers. It is like please clean up the country. What is this relief. It is not the court’s job to do all this.”
The bench allowed Upadhyay to withdraw the PIL to make a representation to the law panel.
On the issue of corruption, the bench stressed the need for change in the thinking pattern of society and said, “For every person taking money, there is a person distributing money.”
The plea stated that the petitioner was filing it as a PIL under Article 32 seeking writ, order or direction to the Centre to ascertain the feasibility of “confiscating cent percent Benami Property Disproportionate Assets and Black Money and awarding Life Imprisonment in the offences relating to bribery, black money, benami property, disproportionate assets…”
It went on to list a host of other offences, including money laundering, tax evasion, profiteering, grain hoarding, food adulteration, human and drug trafficking, black marketing, cheating, fraud, forgery, dishonest misappropriation of property, criminal breach of trust, dishonestly inducing delivery of property, cheating by personation, concealment of property, benami transaction, corporate fraud and forensic fraud.
The plea, alternatively, urged the top court to direct the Law Commission of India and/or the Lokpal to examine and publish the best Anti-Corruption Laws of the world, particularly the most strict and effective provisions related to offences like bribery, black money, benami property, disproportionate assets and tax evasion.