2000 CLC 471

Per Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, J.

(a) Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 Article 199

The concept of public interest litigation has been given impetus by the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan in the recent past. Some of the issues of public concern which have attracted indulgence of the August Supreme Court.

The rationale behind public interest litigation in developing countries like Pakistan and India is the social and educational backwardness of its people, the dwarfed development of law of tort, lack of developed institutions to attend to matters of public concern, the general inefficiency and corruption at various levels. In such a socio-economic and political milieu, the non-intervention by Courts in complaints of matters of public concern will amount to abdication of judicial authority.

However, wholesome or beneficial it may be in the interest of weaker sections of the community who are unable to afford the cost of a formal litigation, it is capable of producing unforeseen and untoward consequences, unless even this informal procedure is circumscribed by some formal restraints:
Firstly, the judge to whom such letter may have been addressed, should not, have the power to take suo motu action or even to one of the Bench which ultimately hears the matters disclosed by the letter. Unless it is provided that the letter so received should be placed before the Chief Justice for assignment in the usual manner, there is a danger of an aggrieved person or association to choose a Judge for relief upon a cause regarding which the particular Judge’s favourable views are know,– a right which regular litigants do not possess.

Secondly, Judges take oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws in their performance of the duties of may office (Sched. III of the Constitution). What, now, are the duties of the office of a Judge? Is it to decide cases properly brought before the Court or to exercise a roving and general supervision over the length and breadth of the country which power may belong to an ombudsman set up by law, and not the Courts.
Having considered the submissions made by the Managing Director, WASA, the report of the District Magistrate, gravity of the matter in issue and with view to prevent the recurrence of the tragedy which has promoted these proceedings this Court holds and directs as under:–

(i) That that act of keeping the manholes uncovered constitutes a serious threat to right to life and besides the civil liability it discloses the commission of a cognizable offence;

(ii) Taking note of the compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 (Rupees one lac only) given by the WASA to the bereaved family and the equality clause of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 this Court directs that on any future eventuality if a child dies by falling into the uncovered manhole, the WASA shall be liable to pay compensation t the bereaved family provided the family so affected had lodged a complaint about the uncovered manhole immediately after having come to know about it and the WASA had failed to cover the manhole within 48 hours of the said complaint;

(iii) In terms f the undertaking given by the Managing Director, WASA and the General Manager, T&T, Multan all the manholes in their respective areas of jurisdiction shall be covered by 30th September, 1997 and a report to that effect shall be sent by these officials t the Additional Registrar of this Court;

(iv) The S.S.P., Multan shall ensure that in the event of a case having been registered qua any future incident of the kind which is subject matter of this petition, the report under section 173, Cr.P.C. is submitted before the learned trial Court within two weeks; and

(v) As it is a matter of general public importance the trial Court seized of the challan of the kind referred to above shall ensure that the trial is concluded within a period of one month of the submission of the challan before it. The President of High Court Bar Association, Multan shall render legal aid to bereaved family through the Free Legal Aid Society of the Bar. [pp. 473, 474 & 475]A, B, C & D

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