Sorabjee defends ''judicial activism''

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Kochi, Nov 15 (UNI) Declaring that the judiciary has a vital function to protect minority rights in a pluralist society, former Attorney General of India Soli J Sorabjee today said ''judicial activism has contributed to the protection of fundamental human rights.'' Delivering the Fifth V R Krishna Iyer Law Lecture on 'Human Rights Jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of India' here, Mr Sorabjee said while the Supreme Court did not want to interfere in the executive's domain, it could not ignore violation of fundamental human and social rights.

When serious issues like environmental pollution crop up and the statutory bodies take no action and the people suffer, the courts have to step in to alleviate human suffering, he added.

Calling upon the judiciary to evolve a ''jurisprudence of compassion'', Mr Sorabjee said the institution of public interest litigation (PIL) had helped to secure ''fundamental rights as a living reality for some sections of society.'' However, the senior Superme Court lawyer cautioned that PIL ''could not be treated as a pill for every ill'' and said that some had sought to use it as an instrument of blackmail and oppression.

The judiciary had to be vigilant against personal, political and publicity-oriented litigation masquerading as PIL, he added.

However, the abuse of PIL was not a ground for its abolition or restriction as it had played an important role in securing justice to suffering sections, ranging from undertrial prisoners to children working in hazardous occupations and workers treated as slaves in quarries and kilns.

Lauding Justice (Retd.) V R Krishna Iyer for his judgements upholding rights of prisoners, Mr Sorabjee said torture was rampant in Indian prison cells. By giving judgments against solitary confinement and handcuffing of prisoners, Justice Krishna Iyer had upheld basic human dignity.

Former Supreme Court Judge K T Thomas presided over the lecture, which was organised by the V R Krishna Iyer National Foundation for Law and Social Justice to mark Justice Iyer's 94th birthday today.

Justice Krishna Iyer was also present at the function.


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