The recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Mathai @ Joby v. George and Anr. ( highlights how (probably) well-meaning activism can in the larger scheme of things, cause greater harm to the system if not backed by well thought out systemic changes. The judgement concerned the frivolous filing of Special Leave Petitions in the Supreme Court (It is a form of appeal which the Supreme Court can allow on a discretionary basis under Article 136 of the Constitution). Presently, most of the work in the Supreme Court involves SLPs and therefore, this judgement becomes even more important.
The judges in this decision pointed out that though appeal under this provision is discretionary, the Constitution does not mention what sort of discretion should be exercised. The Court then referred to a speech made by Mr KK Venugopal (Senior advocate and noted constitutional expert) on the state of the Supreme Court in India (For his speech, click here). The judgment quotes him saying:
“an alarming state of affairshas developed in this Court because this Court has graduallyconverted itself into a mere Court of Appeal which has sought tocorrect every error which it finds in the judgments of the HighCourts of the country as well as the vast number of tribunals…He further observed that if the Apex Courtseeks to deal with all kinds of cases, it necessarily has toaccumulate vast arrears over a period of time which it will be impossible to clear in any foreseeable future. According to him,this is a self-inflicted injury, which is the cause of the malaisewhich has gradually eroded the confidence of the litigants in the Apex Court of the country…”
The most telling portion of the judgment is perhaps this: