The Hindu, 12 March 2008Reported by J. Venkatesan

"Do Not Treat Anonymous Letters as PIL"
Supreme Court allows appealWed March 12, 2008 The Hindu - Reported by
J. VenkatesanNew Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that High Court
judges cannot treat anonymous letters and petitions listing allegations against
individuals or institutions as public interest litigation (PIL) and order suo motu
investigation.A bench of Justice S. H. Kapadia and Justice B. Sudershan Reddy
said, "Setting the criminal law in motion is fraught with serious consequences,
which cannot lightly be undertaken by the High Court even in exercise of its
jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. The High Court cannot direct
investigation by constituting a special investigation team (SIT) on the strength
of anonymous petitions. The High Court cannot be converted into Station Houses.
"Writing the judgement, Mr. Justice Reddy said, "No judicial order can ever be
passed by any court without providing a reasonable opportunity of being heard
to the person likely to be affected by such order and particularly when such order
result in drastic consequences of affecting one?s own reputation."The Bench said,
"The individual who moves the court for judicial redress in cases of PIL must be
acting bona fide with a view to vindicating the cause of justice and not for any
personal gain or private profit or of the political motivation or other oblique
consideration. The [High] Court should not allow itself to be activised at the
instance of such person and must reject his application at the threshold, whether
it be in the form of a letter addressed to the court or even in the form of a regular
petition filed in the court."In the instant case, Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor in
Thrissur district, Kerala, was aggrieved over the suo motu probe ordered by a
single judge of the Kerala High Court in respect of certain allegations contained
in an anonymous letter addressed to him. The present appeal by the Centre is
directed against that judgement. Allowing the appeal, the Bench said, "Institution?s
own reputation is a priceless treasure. History teaches us that the independence of
the judiciary is jeopardised when courts become embroiled in the passions of the day
and assume prime responsibility to resolve the issues which are otherwise not entrusted
to it by adopting procedures which are otherwise not known."The Bench said, "there
is heavy duty cast upon the constitutional courts to protect themselves from the
onslaught unleashed by unscrupulous litigants masquerading as public interest litigants.
The individual judges ought not to entertain communications and letters personally
addressed to them and initiate action on the judicial side. The letters are required to
be placed before the Chief Justice for his consideration. Each judge cannot decide for
himself as to what communication should be entertained for setting the law in motion
be it PIL, or in any jurisdiction."In this case, the single judge of the High Court
ought not to have entertained the anonymous petition, contents of which remain
unverified and made it the basis for setting the law in motion against the appellant
as he was not entrusted with the judicial duty of disposing of PIL matters.

Church Welcomes Supreme Court Verdict On Retreat Centre
Indo Asian News Service Tue, Mar 11 08:49 PM Thrissur (Kerala),
March 11 (IANS)

The Catholic church in Kerala welcomed the Supreme Court judgment Tuesday
quashing the Kerala High Court order that instituted an inquiry by a special
investigation team (SIT) into the affairs of Divine Retreat Centre at Muringoor
here.A Catholic congregation runs the retreat. The Supreme Court also stopped
the investigations by the SIT.The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) said the
verdict is a victory of truth and justice and also recognition to the charities of the
centre.The Kerala High Court March 10, 2006 directed the government to constitute
an SIT to probe allegations of sexual exploitation of women, violation of foreign
exchange regulations and unnatural deaths at the centre.The court acted on an
anonymous letter on the affairs of the centre. In Sept 2006 the SIT inspected the
retreat, triggering protests by church authorities.'The Supreme Court said that no
investigation can be ordered by the high court based on an anonymous letter and
that investigation is the field of police and court can't interfere in it,' Romi Chacko,
counsel for the retreat, told IANS.Welcoming the verdict, the Centre's director
George Panackal, a Catholic priest, said: 'It is proved that all the allegations against
the centre were false.''A SIT headed by an inspector general and a large number of
police officials probed for 22 months into the running of the centre. But they could not
find anything against us. I consider the verdict as a God's recognition of our work and
also an encouragement from the highest court in the country,' he added.

Muringur: Church Hails Verdict
Wed March 12, 2008 The Hindu ? Staff Reporter

Thrisssur: Thrissur Archbishop Mar Andrews Thazhathu has welcomed the
Supreme Court's observation in the Muringur Divine Retreat Centre case that
High Court judges cannot treat anonymous letters as petitions and initiate
suo motu proceedings. He told reporters here on Tuesday that the Supreme
Court observation upheld truth."The objective of the Church is to help the
downtrodden. The Supreme Court verdict proves that the Church's activities
are clearly in this direction," he said.Addressing a press conference at Chalakudy,
near here, on Tuesday, Fr. George Panackal, Director of the Retreat Centre, too
welcomed the Supreme Court' s verdict.On March 10, 2006, the Kerala High
Court had directed the State Government to constitute a special investigation
team (SIT), headed by Inspector-General of Police Vinson M. Paul, to investigate
allegations of sexual exploitation of women, violation of foreign exchange
regulations and unnatural deaths at the centre.Justice K. Padmanabhan Nair had
initiated suo motu proceedings on the basis of an anonymous letter and two CDs
received by the court.


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