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Taking the state to court

Much has been said by the political class against judicial activism but the fact remains that the executive has failed to govern and needs to be pulled up by the court every now and again. Article 39 A of the Constitution is a tool for protection of public interest. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL), as the name suggests is litigation for the protection of larger public interest. A PIL may be taken up by the court itself (suo-motu) or it can be taken up by any public spirited citizen. In Meghalaya, the High Court has been actively pursuing cases where the executive has failed to deliver. Every other day we see reports of the Meghalaya High Court pulling up the state government for its failure to deliver basic civic services from garbage collection to proper water supply and even in speeding up the completion of the Umroi Airport. One reason why the judiciary has had to be active is because the laws enacted by Parliament and the state legislatures since independence have not been properly implemented. Non-implementation of various laws affects the most vulnerable groups who form a large chunk of the Indian population. Let us not forget that a large majority of Indians have fallen between the economic cracks and have no means of sustenance; not even a roof over their heads. They also don’t have the wherewithal to knock at the doors of the judiciary. This is where NGOs can help file PILs on behalf of the powerless.

In a democracy the three pillars –namely the legislature, executive, and judiciary have their respective mandates.  The judiciary interprets the Constitution and delivers justice based on the principles therein. When the executive and legislature fail to discharge their statutory, constitutional duties, the common citizen has no option but to approach the judiciary. In the case of Meghalaya when the legislature meets very infrequently and for short periods, the woes of the citizens remain unaddressed. The legislature is supposed to checkmate executive. It is because of the failure of the legislature that the courts have had to step in to push the executive to carry out its mandate. Very often the executive looks the other way when rights of different segments of society such as children who are forced to work instead of being at school, are violated. The Right to Food and Right to Education are important legislations for a country where food security and education for all are still major challenges.


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