Public interest litigation vs Publicity interest litigation

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Nepali courts, once regarded as bastions of equity, face yet another threat from the prosecution of publicity interest exposure interests. Imagine a legal system where lawsuits are filed not to hold criminals accountable but rather to make headlines and get the media’s attention for a short period. Sadly, the harsh reality that is being displayed in the courts of Kathmandu is this.

Despite the possibility that they will precipitate a media storm, the lawsuits’ true purpose is self-promotion rather than genuine public interest. The pursuit of genuine justice is frequently abandoned on the courthouse steps as a result of these cases becoming merely publicity tools for lawyers. In Nepal, PILs can be heard by either the Supreme Court or the High Court. Articles 133 and 144 of the Constitution grant the authority to the Supreme Court and the High Courts to issue writs and orders to enforce fundamental rights and declare laws null and void when they conflict with the Constitution which is based on the principle of Supremacy of Constitution, Because of this shared jurisdiction, constitutional rights are better protected and judicial remedies are available at all levels of the judiciary.

With regards to a Public Interest Case (PIL), Nepal’s Constitution is deciphered as follows: The recording and settlement of PILs are represented by a strong structure in Nepal’s Constitution 2072. Articles 133 (for the High Court) and 144 (for the High Courts) are important PIL-related provisions. If a law is found to violate the Constitution, these articles grant the courts the authority to issue writs, orders, and directions to enforce fundamental rights and declare laws null and void.

The constitution establishes a connection to PIL through its protection and enforcement of fundamental rights provisions. PIL can be used by public interest groups, individuals, and organisations to present their case to the court when there is a violation of constitutional or legal rights that affects the public. The right to sue is restricted in standard official procedures by locus standi (Doctrine of Standing) to those directly affected by the issues being referred to. In the PIL setting, however, this principle is relaxed. To guarantee that equity is available to all, especially the most distraught and underestimated portions of society, Nepal’s Constitution and legal translations license PILs to be documented by people or gatherings that are not straightforwardly impacted by the matter. The concept of locus standi has been expanded by the Supreme Court, making it possible for public-spirited individuals and organisations to file PILs on behalf of people who are unable to do so for themselves.

In like manner on account of Namgyal Tamang et al. versus Government of Nepal: ” A question of public right or interest isn’t restricted to the individual right or interest of a specific individual or people,” as the court’s choice explains the idea of “public right or interest debate.” Instead, it ought to be connected to the collective rights or interests of Nepal’s population as a whole or a particular region. The court clarifies in this decision that the principle of standing/locus Standi applies to public interest litigation (PIL) in addition to individual grievances.

“When the Government of Nepal, or any public body or official, fails to perform a duty as per the Constitution or law or performs an act that should not be done, thereby adversely affecting the rights, interests, or welfare of the general public,” “an issue becomes a matter of public right or interest.”

It emphasises that Locus Standi extends beyond those who are directly affected by a specific issue in PIL cases. Instead, it includes anyone who acts in the public interest with bonafide interest, highlighting the significance of the rights and interests of the people as a whole. A PIL can be filed by individuals or groups if the government or another public entity’s action or inaction harms the collective rights or interests of the public. This relaxation of the traditional locus Standi principle is essential to ensuring that issues affecting the wider community can be addressed, even if those directly affected are unable to bring the case to court.

Nepal’s right to information as a tool for accountability

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is indeed a crucial tool for addressing legal issues that affect the public in Nepal. However, it is not the only avenue available to ensure laws are upheld and rights protected. The right to information (RTI) also plays a significant role in holding government bodies accountable. For example, I myself used the RTI Act to challenge the Department of Transport Management for including personal details in published exam results.

After initially receiving no response to his inquiry about the legal basis for including citizenship numbers, I filed an appeal with the National Information Commission, within 24 hours I was able to get a response to the RTI which I filed in the Department of Transport and which also This led to the department acknowledging the mistake and taking steps to rectify it, demonstrating how RTI can effectively address and correct governmental oversights without resorting to litigation. This case highlights that while PIL is an effective means of addressing public interest issues, other mechanisms like RTI can also be employed to enforce transparency and accountability in government actions, providing multiple pathways to uphold citizens’ rights. So Filing PIL is not always an option, believe in the Public interest framework, not just a publicity stunt.

The call to the media’s attention

A legal tool that gave citizens the power to fight for systemic change and hold powerful institutions accountable, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was once a beacon of hope. In any case, an upsetting example has arisen in Kathmandu’s courts: the utilisation of PIL as a weapon for individual addition. Unwittingly, the media assumes a significant part in this treachery bending.

Today, a growing number of people are filing PILs not to address genuine public concerns but rather to enjoy the brief attention of the media. These lawsuits, carefully crafted for shock value, are used as headlines in the media, bringing the filer into the public eye. Self-promotion takes the place of the noble goal of PIL, which is to serve the public good. Unintended consequences result from the media’s insatiable appetite for sensationalised cases.

The noise drowns out genuine PILs, which were thoroughly researched and aimed at genuine reform. Courts, already overburdened, are forced to sort through frivolous lawsuits, wasting time and money on cases that have merit. The very framework intended to engage general society is currently in danger of being disabled by a constant quest for notoriety. To change this, the media must play a crucial role. The key is being picky. Public interest is not always reflected in headlines. Investigative journalism needs to delve deeper, examine motives, and prioritise cases with genuine merit. The general public must also learn to be discerning information consumers. Beyond the sensational headlines, consider whether this lawsuit actually addresses a systemic problem or is merely a publicity stunt for personal gain.

The negative impact of the public interest

In the past, Nepali courtrooms had a powerful echo of public interest. Public Premium Suit/Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was a clarion call, engaging residents to battle for foundational change and consider strong elements responsible. Notwithstanding, a disturbing quietness currently hangs weighty in the air – the empty reverberation of an honourable idea took advantage of for individual increase. Nowadays, a growing number of PILs are filed without the substance or sincerity that they once were. These lawsuits, carefully crafted to attract the media, become nothing more than spectacles.

While titles shout of public shock, a nearer assessment uncovers an empty centre. The real goal is to secure a brief moment of fame, not genuine reform. These self-serving activities exploit an honourable ideal, leaving the public interest a vacant reverberation in the court lobbies. The consequences of this personal gain-seeking are devastating.

Authentic PILs, fastidiously investigated and focused on obvious fundamental change, are overwhelmed by the stunning thunder of void declarations. Courts struggle to allocate resources to cases with genuine merit because of the overwhelming number of frivolous lawsuits. Self-promotion disguised as public interest threatens to collapse the very system designed to empower the public. We must regain PIL’s true spirit. Activists and lawyers alike need to keep in mind the power and responsibilities that come with using this legal instrument. The driving force must be the pursuit of genuine reform, not fame. The media also play a crucial role. Their reporting needs to be based on discernment rather than sensationalism. Investigative journalism needs to delve deeper and expose frivolous lawsuits for what they are.

A course reversal

The legitimate scene of Kathmandu is at a junction. Once a beacon of hope for systemic change, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) now faces a crisis of identity. The quest for popularity has commandeered a respectable objective, leaving the genuine reason for PIL – serving the public great – panting for air. Not only does the current pattern of frivolous PILs filed to attract media attention undermine the very fabric of justice, but it also poses a significant threat to the system as a whole.

Courts, currently overburdened, are compelled to swim through an ocean of insignificant claims, redirecting valuable assets from certified cases with merit. The very framework intended to engage people, in general, is in danger of becoming deadened by a persevering quest for individual increase. To explore this emergency, a multi-pronged methodology is fundamental. It is necessary to uphold the legal profession’s ethical standards.

Legal counsellors might be urged to focus on cases that genuinely serve the public interest and deter them from bringing paltry claims by stricter sets of principles. Additionally, the media must be a responsible partner. The true objective of PIL should not be obscured by sensational headlines. The narrative can be steered in the right direction by investigative journalism that prioritises cases with substantial merit and exposes frivolous lawsuits. Finally, the general public needs to become more discerning information consumers.

Do not fall for sensational headlines. Search for top-to-bottom announcing that uncovered the genuine inspirations driving PILs. Give your support to organisations that promote convincing arguments that address systemic problems. In addition to restoring a legal principle, this course correction aims to ensure that justice remains accessible to all.

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Chaudhary is a law student at Nepal Law Campus.

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