Locus Standi: A Road to the Court

  • August 24, 2017
  • 10:25 am
  • Shivesh Raghuvanshi

The word locus is Latin for “place”. “Locus standi” is Latin for ‘place to stand’- In law, the right to bring an action.

It is the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party’s participation in the case. In United States law, the Supreme Court of the United States has stated -In essence the question of locus standi is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues.

Subsequent writ petition to the Supreme Court when earlier writ petition still pending before the High Court.—When the earlier writ petition seeking declaration of the provisions of Sections 13, 14 of SARFAESI Act filed before the High Court was admitted and interim order was granted which worked itself and petition was still pending before the High Court, filing of another writ petition before the Supreme Court under Article 32 on identical set of facts for identical reliefs was held to be nothing but an abuse of process of the Court, if not misuse.

The Supreme Court, therefore, dismissed the writ petition with costs of Rs. one lakh to be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks.

There are three constitutional standing requirements:

  1. Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury – an invasion of a legally protected interest which is concrete and particularized. The injury must be actual or imminent, distinct and palpable, not abstract. This injury could be economic as well as non-economic.
  2. Causation: There must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, so that the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant and not the result of the independent action of some third party who is not before the court.

Redress ability: It must be likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that a favorable court decision will redress the injury. Concept and development of the rule of Locus Standi is clearly stated by a DB of the Hon. High Court of Kerala in Dr. George Mampilly v. State of Kerala, where it was held that,“Law, it is said, is dynamic. Naturally, our perception of locus standi also has been undergoing transformation. The traditional conception in regard to locus standi is that judicial redress is available to a person who has suffered a legal injury by reason of violation of his legal right or legally protected interest by the impugned action of the State or a public authority or who is likely to suffer a legal injury by such reason. Courts have, during recent years, evolved a number of exceptions to this rule. Courts have now acknowledged that where there has been violation of constitutional or legal rights of persons who, by reason of their socially or economically disadvantaged position, are unable to approach the court for judicial redress, a member of the public could move the court for enforcement of such rights of such persons. Members of the public are enabled, in appropriate cases to come forward to protect the rights of person or persons belonging to a determinate class who, by reason of poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position, are unable to approach the court for relief.

This principle has been extended to cases where no specific regal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate class or group of persons by the act or omission of State or public authority and injury is caused only to public interest. Where there is a public wrong of public injury by an act or omission by the State or a public authority which is contrary to the Constitution or to any law, any member of the public having sufficient interest can maintain an action to or redress such public wrong or public, injury. Courts have begun to recognize that they exist not merely to vindicate individual rights but also to vindicate public rights and therefore permit members of the public to agitate such rights.

Any member of the public having sufficient interest can maintain an action for judicial redress of public injury arising from breach of public duty or violation of some provision of the Constitution or the law and seek enforcement of such public duty and observance of such constitutional or legal provision. Of course, it must be ensured that the person who comes forward is acting bona fide and not for personal gain or private profit or out of political motivation or other oblique consideration.

Locus Standi: Who may apply?

Locus standi asks the question whether the petitioner is entitled to involve the jurisdiction of the court. This question is different from the question whether the petitioner is entitled to the relief as prayed by him. In other words, there is a distinction between locus standi and justiciability. If a person has no locus standi, he cannot maintain a petition at all. But even if has a locus standi, he is entitled ipso facto to the relief claimed by him. The court will consider that question on merits and decide it.

Modern form of Locus Standi is Public Interest Litigation:

The traditional rule is that the right to move the Supreme Court is only available to those whose fundamental rights are infringed. The power vested in the Supreme Court can only be exercised for the enforcement of fundamental rights. The writ under which the remedy is asked under Article 32 must be correlated to one of the fundamental rights sought to be enforced. The remedy must be sought through appropriate proceedings.

Public Interest LitigationA Dynamic Approach.—The above traditional rule of locus standi that a petition under Article 32 can only be filed by a person whose fundamental right is infringed has now been considerably relaxed by the Supreme Court in its recent rulings. The Court now permits public interest litigations or social interest litigations at the instance of ‘public spirited citizens’ for the enforcement of Constitutional and other legal rights of any person or group of persons who because of their poverty or socially or economically disadvantaged position are unable to approach the Court for relief.

In A. B. S. K. Sangh (Rly) v. Union of India, it was held that the AkhilBhartiyaSoshitKarmachariSangh (Railway), though ah unregistered association could maintain a writ petition under Art. 32 for the redressal of a common grievance. Access to justice through ‘class actions’, ‘public interest litigation’ and ‘representative proceedings’ is the present constitutional jurisprudence, Krishna Iyer, J., declared.

In Judges Transfer case, the seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court held that any member of the public having “sufficient interest” can approach the Court for enforcing constitutional or legal rights of those who cannot go to Court because of their poverty or other disabilities. A person need not come to the Court personally or through a lawyer. He can simply write a letter directly to the Court complaining his sufferings. Speaking for the majority Bhagwati, J. said that any member of the public can approach the Court for redressal where a specific legal injury has been caused to a determinate class or group of persons when such class or persons are unable to come to the Court because of poverty, disability or a socially or economically disadvantageous position. The Court will have to decide from case to case as to whether the person approaching the Court for relief has “sufficient interest”. In the instant case, the Court upheld the right of lawyers to be heard on matters affecting the judiciary.

 

In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, an organisation dedicated to the cause of release of bonded labours informed the Supreme Court through a letter that they conducted a survey of the stone-quarries situated in Faridabad District of the State of Haryana and found that there were a large number of labours working in these stone- quarries under “inhuman and intolerable conditions” and many of them were bonded labours. The petitioners prayed that a writ be issued for proper implementation of the various provisions of the Constitution and statutes with a view to ending the misery, suffering and helplessness of these labours, and release of bounded labourers. The court treated the letter as a writ-petition, and appointed a Commission consisting of two advocates to visit these stone-quarries and make an inquiry and report to the court about the existence of bonded labourers.

Judicial Provisions:

Article 32:

It is true that a declaration of fundamental rights is meaningless unless there is an effective machinery for the enforcement of the rights. It is remedy which makes the right real.

Article 32 (1) guarantees the right to move the Supreme Court by “appropriate proceedings” for the enforcement of the fundamental rights conferred by Part III of the Constitution. Clause (2) of Art. 32 confers power on the Supreme Court to issue appropriate directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus,prohibition, quo-warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of any of the is conferred by Part III of the Constitution.

It is to be noted here that the power has been given to issue appropriate directions, orders or writs. The writs which the Supreme Court can issue include the writs in the nature of the five writs mentioned in Article 32—Habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo-warranto and certiorari. It means the writs besides these five writs can also be issued, further, the Court can issue the writ “in the nature of’ habeas corpus, mandamus, inhibition, quo-warranto and certiorari. The court is not bound to issue these writs exactly as these writs were issued in English law. The word in the nature of “give more liberty to the court to issue writs for doing justice. A similar power is wielded by the High Courts but the High Courts have power to issue writs not only for the enforcement fundamental rights but for any other purpose” also.

Under clause (3) of Art. 32 Parliament may by law empower any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or of the powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause (2). Clause (4) says that the right guaranteed by Article 32 hall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for the Constitution. Article 32 thus provides for an expeditious and inexpensive remedy for the protection of fundamental 2nis from legislative and executive interference.

Writ Jurisdiction of the High Court (Article 226):

Article 226 provides that notwithstanding anything in Article 32, every High Court shall have power, throughout the territorial limits in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction to issue to any person or authority including the appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories, directions, orders of writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari or any of them—(a) for the enforcement of fundamental rights conferred by Part in, and (b) for ‘any other purpose’. Thus the jurisdiction of a High Court is not limited to the protection of the fundamental rights but also other legal rights as is clear from the words “any other purpose”. Those words make the jurisdiction of the High Court more extensive than that of the Supreme Court which is confined to only for the enforcement of fundamental rights. The words “for any other purpose,” refer to enforcement of a legal right or legal duty. They do not mean that a High Court can issue writs for any purpose it pleases.Clause (4) of Art. 226 provides that the powers conferred on a High Court shall not be in derogation of the powers conferred on a Supreme Court by clause (2) Art. 32.

In State of W.B. v. Ashutosh Lahiri, it has been held that the petitioners representing a section of Hindu community has locus standi to file a writ petition under Article 226 for protecting religious sentiments of the community.

Conclusion:

Locus standi provide a right to seek to Supreme Court under Art. 32 and 226 of Constitution of India for infringement of right or fundamental rights. Locus standi is a limited boundary concept as the one whose right is infringed can only be entitled to seek court under Article 32 and 226 of Constitution of India. But it has many drawbacks; the poor, illiterate, uneducated person is not able to fight for his right and able to seek court. The locus standi’sextention form PIL provides a broader area to seek court as the first PIL was by newspaper only. The effective implementation of Locus Standi in India will be there by appropriate PIL. Hence, PIL must be considered without any personal interest but with distinctive interest of the society.