“We are not monsters,” says SC; permits withdrawal of PIL challenging fundamental rights

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New Delhi:  “We are not monsters,” the Supreme Court said on Thursday as it allowed a petitioner to withdraw a controversial PIL which sought the court’s ruling to declare the fundamental rights provided to citizens under Articles 20 and 22 as ‘ultra vires’, or beyond the powers, of Part III of the Constitution.

The PIL was filed by Tamil Nadu resident PK Subramanian through lawyer Naresh Kumar, and the apex court had voiced displeasure over Advocates on Record (AoRs) unmindfully appending their signature to such petitions.

While Article 20 deals with protection in respect of conviction for offences, Article 22 pertains to protection against arrest and detention in certain cases. Both are included in Part III of the Constitution that deals with fundamental rights.

Only an advocate on record is entitled to act and plead for a party in the Supreme Court.

Advocates-on-Record cannot be reduced to mere signing authorities, the Supreme Court had observed on October 31, 2023 while slamming the practice of them signing petitions without examining their content.

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, since retired, had also appointed an amicus curiae to assist the court and sought suggestions to improve the AoR system.

A galaxy of bar leaders including Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Adish Aggarwala and its former chief Vikas Singh had appeared in the case.

“We are not monsters. We will permit you to withdraw the case,” a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices JB Pardiwala and Satish Chandra Sharma said.

The CJI, however, said the AoRs must realise the responsibility which they have to shoulder.

“You (AoRs) have a very important responsibility. It is not that you file whatever comes to you (yeh nahi kuch haath mein aaya file kar do),” the bench said while closing the case.

The bench had earlier said an AoR cannot merely be a “signing authority” and will have to take the responsibility for what they file in the apex court.

On October 31, the apex court had noted in its order, “We are in a way troubled by the fact that a recognised advocate-on-record of this court could have signed such a petition.”

The bench had said it wanted the amicus and the AoR association to sit together and address the concerns flagged by the court.

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