Kerala High Court: In the instant PIL the Notification G.O.(P) No. 29/2020/Tran. S.R.O. No. 366/2020 dated 02-06-2020 issued by the State Transport department via which Government decided to relax the lockdown restrictions and permitted to carry passengers in all the seats available in the stage carriages was challenged. The Division Bench of S. Manikumar, C.J., and Shaji P. Chaly, J., however questioned the maintainability of a PIL filed by an unregistered body such as the petitioner. Perusing a vast number of Supreme Court decisions laying down major aspects of a Public Interest Litigation, the Bench decided to dismiss the instant PIL while observing that, Guruvayoor Devaswom Managing Committee v. C.K.Rajan (2003) 7 SCC 546, did not lay down a law on the issue of maintainability of a PIL or even a writ petition by an unregistered body/ organisation.
As per the facts of the case, the petitioner stated that the above mentioned impugned Notification is arbitrary and harmful to the life and health of the people of Kerala, thereby violating Article 21 of Constitution. The petitioner pointed out that State Government’s decision to allow stage carriages to carry passengers in all the seats, defeats the norm of social distancing which is essential to thwart the spread of Covid-19. On being confronted with the question of maintainability of the writ petition, the counsel for the petitioner Saju Jakob referred to case of Swaraj Abhiyan (I) v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 485 wherein the Supreme Court allowed the petition after the Court was given assurance that Swaraj Abhiyan was not a political party. Thus going by the Swaraj Abhiyan case, the petitioner argued that a PIL or writ petition filed by an unregistered body is maintainable.
Referring and examining various decisions laid down by the Supreme Court vis-à-vis PIL, like Guruvayur Devaswom case; Akhil Bharatiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh (Railway) v. Union of India, (1981) 1 SCC 246; S.P. Gupta v. Union of India, (1981) Supp SCC 87 and State of Punjab v. Devans Modern Breweries Ltd. (2004) 11 SCC 26 etc., the Court observed that there is no declaration of law under Article 141 of the Constitution of India, that any unregistered body can file a writ petition. It was further noted that in the Swaraj Abhiyan case relied on by the petitioner, there was no specific issue as to whether an unregistered body can maintain a writ petition or not. The Court observed that, “’Person’ refers to human being. ’Jurstic person’ refers to a body recognized by the law as being entitled to rights and duties in the same way as a natural or human person. In the case on hand, Prathyasa Mental Health Counselling Forum being an unregistered body therefore does not fall within the definition of juristic person”. [Prathyasa Mental Health Counselling Forum v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2314 , decided on 19-06-2020]