‘Can’t be substituted for decision-making body’, SC strongly remarks on PILs seeking overstretch of its jurisdiction

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Constitutional Courts cannot expand their judicial review powers to become decision-making authorities, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, while giving vent to its disenchantment over PILs trying to overstretch its constitutionally demarcated jurisdiction.

The SC’s strong remarks against the trend of PILs exhorting Courts to become supervisors of all kinds of policy decisions came on a PIL filed by some citizens seeking the apex court’s intervention in getting a stalled housing project, ‘Premia Corporate City-2’, in Noida restarted or ensure refund of their money with interest.

The reluctance to entertain the PIL probably also stemmed from the considerable time, energy and effort put in by the SC in its attempt to get back on track several stalled housing projects by real estate giants Unitech and Amrapali.

A bench comprising of Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Sanjiv Khanna rebuffed a determined effort from Advocate Shikhil Suri to convince the court to intervene and said, “Article 32 (using which anyone can directly move the Supreme Court for violation of fundamental rights) is a precious right, but we cannot revive and supervise construction projects, in which we have no expertise. Should the Supreme Court start monitoring and supervising hundreds of housing or real estate projects across the country? If we do so, then why not textile and other industries?”

The purpose behind creation of PIL jurisdiction is different. We are constitutionally tasked to adjudicate. We cannot take over policy issues without having any expertise. If we do so, the people after a few years will question our wisdom for undertaking this path. We must understand the limitations of our jurisdiction.”

The bench further said, “Essentially, the writ petition requires the SC to step into the construction project and to ensure that it is duly completed. This would be beyond the remit and competence of the court under Article 32.”

“Managing a construction project is not within the jurisdiction of the court. Several provisions of law confer statutory rights on purchasers of real estate and invest them with remedies enforceable at law. These include the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.”

Disposing of the PIL, Justice Chandrachud, Justice Banerjee and Khanna added, “Parliament has enacted a statutory regime to protect the rights of purchasers of real estate and created forums which are entrusted with decision-making authority. A decision of a public authority which is entrusted with a public duty is amenable to judicial review. But it is quite another hypothesis to postulate that the decision-making authority should be taken over by the court. The latter is impermissible.”

For full report, visit ww.toi.in”It would be inappropriate for this court to assume the jurisdiction to supervise the due completion of a construction project, especially in facts such as those presented in the present case.

This will inevitably draw the court into day to day supervision of the project, including financing, permissions and execution – something which lies beyond the ken of judicial review and the competence of the court. The court must confine itself to its core competencies which consist in adjudication of disputes amenable to the application of legal standards.”

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