Citizens cannot claim right to directly petition Parliament to discuss important issues: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a declaration that citizens have a fundamental right to directly petition Parliament and invite deliberation on important issues of public interest [Karan Garg v. Union of India].

A Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud with Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said that a citizen cannot seek a right to stand up in Parliament.

“Go and talk outside Parliament. Go to your local MP and present a petition. But a citizen cannot seek a right to stand up in Parliament. Sorry,” the bench said.

The Court further observed that the relief sought fell exclusively within the domain of Parliament and state legislatures. Therefore, such directions could not be passed in a PIL.

“We have to draw a line and we cannot tell Parliament what to do.”

A submission by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati that there was already a procedure in place to receive petitions from citizens was also taken on record.

The matter was earlier listed before a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, who had taken an unfavourable view of the same, opining that allowing the prayers could impede the functioning of Parliament.

That Bench had wondered aloud whether the plea was maintainable, keeping in view that the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, rather than their Secretaries-General, were made parties.

The petitioner called for the creation of a system, rules and regulatory framework that would empower citizens to petition Parliament to have debates, discussions and deliberations on issues and concerns raised by citizens.

Pertinently, the petitioner urged the Supreme Court to declare that citizens have a fundamental right to do so under Articles 14, 19(1)(a), and 21 of the Constitution.

It stressed that there is no justifiable reason to exclude citizens from fully realising the promise of participative and direct democracy by engaging with Parliament on issues of larger public interest.

In the plea, the following process had been suggested:

– If enough number of signatures are gathered, then the a petition will be converted into a Public Petition, which then would be published on a platform and become visible to the public.

– At this stage, after the Public Petition gets higher support in the form of more signatures from the public, a written response from the respective government department/ministry would be mandated.

– If the signatures on the petition cross a higher threshold requirement with respect to the number of signatures that are to be obtained, after being converted into a Public Petition, then it would be identified as an Extraordinary Petition involving an issue concerning a high number of citizens, which would immediately mandate that the issue be formally taken up for discussion in Parliament.

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