New Delhi, July 9 | The Supreme Court on Friday directed one of the petitioners, who had challenged the elevation of Justice Dipak Misra as the Chief Justice in 2017, to deposit costs of Rs 5 lakh despite the death of co-petitioner, self-styled godman Swami Om.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said that some people have become professional public interest litigants, and this business must stop.
The top court made this observation while hearing a plea by Mukesh Jain, who was the co-petitioner with Swami Om. The bench told the petitioner’s counsel to tell his client to pay up, otherwise the court will not entertain any PILs from him.
Jain’s counsel, advocate A.P. Singh, informed the bench that his client was in Balasore jail for nearly a year and recently, he got out on bail. “A lot of time he has appeared before the apex court in person. Swami Om has died. I would request for an adjournment for 2 weeks,” he submitted. Swami Om had passed away in February 2021.
The bench emphasised that the petitioners are “professional public interest litigants” and warned the petitioner that if costs are not paid, the court will pass an order barring him from filing any public interest litigation petition in the top court. “See he will have to pay otherwise, we will punish him,” the bench told counsel.
As the bench asked Singh for what offence was his client in jail, he said it was for circulating a WhatsApp message for conducting Jagannath Yatra. He requested the court for adjournment in the matter, so that his client can appear in person before bench. “His application we have rejected, and we have issued a contempt notice.. These are professional public interest litigants now, this business must stop now,” the bench reiterated.
After hearing the arguments, the bench said since the petitioner has been released from jail, the court will schedule the matter for further hearing after two weeks.
In August 2017, the top court had imposed costs of Rs 10 lakh on Jain and self-proclaimed godman Swami Om for challenging the elevation of Justice Misra. The top court then had termed the plea popularity stunt and imposed costs on the petitioners.
Swami Om had later moved the apex court seeking waiver of costs citing Covid-19 pandemic. The court then reduced it from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.