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Why First Bench of the Madras High Court erred in dismissing a writ petition from a human rights defender

Guest Post by Henri Tiphange

The First Bench of the Madras High Court erred in dismissing a writ petition from a human rights defender [HRD] Mr. K.R. Ramaswamy alias Traffic Ramasamy

The First Bench of the Madras High Court erred in dismissing a writ petition from a human rights defender [HRD] Mr. K.R. Ramaswamy alias Traffic Ramasamy as a ‘publicity interest litigation.’ Mr. K.R. Ramaswamy is an HRD as per Article 1 of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The High Court has the right to dismiss any petition that it considers fit on merit, but it cannot do so calling a case filed by an HRD as a ‘ Publicity Interest Petition’. India has a duty to respect this UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders 1998 and therefore all institutions in the country including the judiciary. We are all proud to declare that ‘ Traffic’ Ramaswamy is an HRD .

Here is a man of 85 years who has filed a host of over 400 Writ Petitions before the Madras High Court – but for the sake of this piece I only wish to start from the year 2001.

2001 : W.P. No 16209/2001, W.P. No 20294/2001, W.P. No 21529/ 2001, W.P. No 22663/2001, W.P. No 24894 / 2001, W.P. M.P. No 36944/2001

2002 : W.P. No WP 36010 Of 2002, WP 39019 Of 2002 , WP 41161 Of 2002 , WP 42795 Of 2002, WP 491 Of 2002, WP. MP 43974 Of 2002, WPMP 58226 Of 2002, WP. MP 60927 Of 2002, WP. MP 63068 Of 2002

2003: CRLOP 45177 Of 2003,WP 11069 Of 2003,P 13641 Of 2003, WP 18657 Of 2003, P 29944 Of 2003, WPMP 13894 Of 2003

2004: CRLOP 28229 Of 2004,TCMP 174 Of 2004, WP16029 Of 2004, WP 587 Of 2004, WPMP 19000 Of 2004, WPMP 605 Of 2004

2005: WP 19705 Of 2005, WP 30988 Of 2005, WP 36083 Of 2005, WP 38180 Of 2005,WP 41528 Of 2005,WP 5932 Of 2005,WP 7641 Of 2005,WPMP 12008 Of 2005,WPMP 12009 Of 2005, WPMP 21415 Of 2005, WPMP 21416 Of 2005,WPMP 38923 Of 2005, WPMP 40822 Of 2005,WPMP 44624 Of 2005,WPMP 8345 Of 2005,WPMP 8346 Of 2005

2006: WP 2620 Of 2006,WP 35374 Of 2006,WP 38843 Of 2006, WP 49156 Of 2006,WPMP 2739 Of 2006 .

2007: WP 12121 Of 2007, WP 14965 Of 2007, WP 21803 Of 2007, WP 25683 Of 2007, WP 26558 Of 2007, WP 28419 Of 2007, WP 28987 Of 2007, WP 29930 Of 2007, WP 31462 Of 2007, WP 4288 Of 2007, WP 4906 Of 2007, WP 6025 Of 2007, WP 719 Of 2007 .

2008: CRL OP 23888 Of 2008, REV.APLW 126 Of 2008, WP 14029 Of 2008, WP 21874 Of 2008, WP 24976 Of 2008, WP 26408 Of 2008, WPMP 1419 Of 2008, WPMP 305 Of 2008, WPMP 383 Of 2008, WPMP 452 Of 2008

2009: WA 877 Of 2009, WP 12015 Of 2009, WP 16720 Of 2009, WP 17040 Of 2009, WP 18170 Of 2009, WP 24068 Of 2009, WP 25812 Of 2009, WP 2923 Of 2009, WP 3906 Of 2009 , WP 9352 Of 2009

2010: CRL OP 3352 Of 2010, CRL OP 3353 Of 2010, CRL OP 3354 Of 2010, CRL OP 3355 Of 2010, CRL OP 3356 Of 2010, CRL OP 4233 Of 2010, REV.APLW 139 Of 2010 , WP 1443 Of 2010, WP 23776 Of 2010, WP 7140 Of 2010, WP 7831 Of 2010, WP 938 Of 2010, WPMP 626 Of 2010

2011: CONT P 1380 Of 2011, CONT P 1916 Of 2011, CRL OP 17893 Of 2011, CRL OP 20609 Of 2011, CRL OP 29131 Of 2011, CRL OP 5023 Of 2011, WP 10174 Of 2011, WP 11395 Of 2011, WP 12431 Of 2011, WP 12895 Of 2011, WP 12964 Of 2011, WP 13863 Of 2011, WP 18873 Of 2011, WP 20948 Of 2011, WP 22360 Of 2011, WP 22991 Of 2011, WP 25933 Of 2011, WP 25964 Of 2011, WP 26496 Of 2011, WP 26799 Of 2011, WP 26904 Of 2011, WP 28964 Of 2011, WP 29639 Of 2011, WP 3710 Of 2011, WP 4758 Of 2011, WP 5180 Of 2011, WP 7991 Of 2011

2012: CRL OP 10374 Of 2012, CRL OP 10375 Of 2012, CRL OP 14334 Of 2012, CRL OP 1650 Of 2012, CRL OP 16874 Of 2012, CRL OP 16875 Of 2012, CRL OP 16876 Of 2012, CRL OP 16877 Of 2012, CRL OP 16878 Of 2012, CRL OP 18747 Of 2012, CRL OP 19524 Of 2012 CRL OP 19573 Of 2012, CRL OP 19584 Of 2012, CRL OP 22191 Of 2012, CRL OP 22192 Of 2012, CRL OP 22193 Of 2012, CRL OP 22194 Of 2012, CRL OP 22195 Of 2012, CRL OP 24138 Of 2012, CRL OP 24139 Of 2012, CRL OP 24140 Of 2012, CRL OP 24141 Of 2012, CRL OP 24142 Of 2012, CRL OP 27272 Of 2012, CRL OP 27330 Of 2012, CRL OP 28109 Of 2012, CRL OP 28110 Of 2012, CRL OP 4973 Of 2012, CRL OP 5396 Of 2012, CRL OP 6397 Of 2012, CRL OP 793 Of 2012, WP 12921 Of 2012, WP 13263 Of 2012, WP 13957 Of 2012, WP 15183 Of 2012, WP 16036 Of 2012, WP 18776 Of 2012, WP 19550 Of 2012, WP 20464 Of 2012, WP 20800 Of 2012, WP 24647 Of 2012 , WP 25838 Of 2012, WP 27572 Of 2012, WP 27743 Of 2012, WP 29693 Of 2012 , WP 30030 Of 2012, WP 31081 Of 2012, WP 31484 Of 2012, WP 31546 Of 2012, WP 32695 Of 2012, WP 32946 Of 2012, WP 34348 Of 2012, WP 4910 Of 2012, WP 5416 Of 2012

2013: CONT P 1570 Of 2013, CONT P 1822 Of 2013, CRL OP 11956 Of 2013, CRL OP 13218 Of 2013, CRL OP 17985 Of 2013, CRL OP 17986 Of 2013, CRL OP 17993 Of 2013, CRL OP 18766 Of 2013, CRL OP 18769 Of 2013, CRL OP 18770 Of 2013, CRL OP 18771 Of 2013, CRL OP 236 Of 2013, CRL OP 237 Of 2013, CRL OP 238 Of 2013, CRL OP 239 Of 2013, CRL OP 240 Of 2013, CRL OP 241 Of 2013, CRL OP 242 Of 2013, CRL OP 243 Of 2013, CRL OP 28068 Of 2013, REV.APLW 172 Of 2013, WP 104 Of 2013, WP 12192 Of 2013, WP 13427 Of 2013, WP 14332 Of 2013, WP 1482 Of 2013, WP 15793 Of 2013, WP 15797 Of 2013, WP 15828 Of 2013, WP 1664 Of 2013, WP 16716 Of 2013, WP 18646 Of 2013, WP 23965 Of 2013, WP 24210 Of 2013, WP 25088 Of 2013, WP 26447 Of 2013 , WP 28144 Of 2013, WP 28261 Of 2013, WP 31335 Of 2013, WP 33893 Of 2013, WP 6411 Of 2013

2014: CONT P 2594 Of 2014, CONT P 3 Of 2014, CONT P 3037 Of 2014, CONT P 668 Of 2014, CONT P 671 Of 2014, CONT P 701 Of 2014, CRL OP 1167 Of 2014, CRL OP 12969 Of 2014, CRL OP 16585 Of 2014, CRL OP 23204 Of 2014, CRL OP 23939 Of 2014, CRL OP 24509 Of 2014, CRL OP 24510 Of 2014, CRL OP 24511 Of 2014, CRL OP 27220 Of 2014, CRL OP 27221 Of 2014, CRL OP 27222 Of 2014, CRL OP 27223 Of 2014, CRL OP 29405 Of 2014, CRL OP 30041 Of 2014, CRL OP 30042 Of 2014, CRL OP 30043 Of 2014, CRL OP 30125 Of 2014, CRL OP 30162 Of 2014, CRL OP 30180 Of 2014, CRL OP 30887 Of 2014, CRL OP 30889 Of 2014, CRL OP 31837 Of 2014, CRL OP 31838 Of 2014, CRL OP 31839 Of 2014, CRL OP 31840 Of 2014, CRL OP 31841 Of 2014, CRL OP 31842 Of 2014, CRL OP 31843 Of 2014, CRL OP 31844 Of 2014, CRL OP 4861 Of 2014, CRL OP 6091 Of 2014, REV.APLW 147 Of 2014, REV.APLW 259 Of 2014, WP 10358 Of 2014, WP 10397 Of 2014, WP 13547 Of 2014, WP 13770 Of 2014, WP 13862 Of 2014, WP 147 Of 2014, WP 16555 Of 2014, WP 16841 Of 2014, WP 17953 Of 2014, WP 2359 Of 2014, WP 25797 Of 2014 , WP 26661 Of 2014, WP 26696 Of 2014, WP 4387 Of 2014, WP 6727 Of 2014, WP 7346 Of 2014, WP 8058 Of 2014, WP 8060 Of 2014, WP 9819 Of 2014

2015: CONT P 2062 Of 2015, CRL OP 15721 Of 2015, CRL OP 15737 Of 2015, CRL OP 18593 Of 2015, CRL OP 18596 Of 2015, CRL OP 18597 Of 2015, CRL OP 18598 Of 2015, CRL OP 18599 Of 2015, CRL OP 18600 Of 2015, CRL OP 25603 Of 2015, CRL OP 25630 Of 2015, CRL OP 25631 Of 2015, CRL OP 262 Of 2015, CRL OP 26894 Of 2015, CRL OP 30063 Of 2015, CRL OP 415 Of 2015, CRL OP 5379 Of 2015, CRL OP 896 Of 2015, REV.APLW 267 Of 2015, WP 14200 Of 2015, WP 14600 Of 2015, WP 17461 Of 2015,WP 18857 Of 2015,WP 21074 Of 2015, WP 22424 Of 2015, WP 26703 Of 2015,WP 31576 Of 2015, WP 31577 Of 2015, WP 32313 Of 2015, WP 32622 Of 2015,WP 35523 Of 2015,WP 36385 Of 2015, WP 36609 Of 2015, WP 40385 Of 2015, WP 41106 Of 2015

2016: Madras High Court: CONT P 20 Of 2016, CONT P 31 Of 2016, CRL OP 12230 Of 2016, CRL OP 12231 Of 2016, CRL OP 12320 Of 2016, CRL OP 12321 Of 2016, CRL OP 12323 Of 2016, CRL OP 2764 Of 2016, CRL OP 4097 Of 2016,REV.APLW 100 Of 2016, WMP 12833 Of 2016, WMP 13014 Of 2016,WMP 15799 Of 2016,WMP 15837 Of 2016, WMP 16664 Of 2016, WMP 20567 Of 2016, WMP 24164 Of 2016, WMP 25646 Of 2016, WMP 3674 Of 2016, WMP 3675 Of 2016, WMP 4919 Of 2016, WMP 8669 Of 2016, WMP 927 Of 2016, WP 13710 Of 2016, WP 16141 Of 2016, WP 177 Of 2016, WP 17901 Of 2016, WP 18054 Of 2016, WP 1991 Of 2016, WP 27453 Of 2016, WP 28165 Of 2016, WP 29614 Of 2016, WP 31022 Of 2016, WP 4325 Of 2016, WP 7035 Of 2016

2016 Madurai Bench: WP(MD) 11171 Of 2016, WP(MD) 12667 Of 2016, WP(MD) 16190 Of 2016, WP(MD) 16400 Of 2016, WP(MD) 17730 Of 2016, WP(MD) 17813 Of 2016,
He has filed all these litigations in this age and argued all of them as a party in person before the Madras High Court. Some of the most recent issues are as follows:

  1. His PIL to ban the fish-cart vehicle (tri-wheeler motorized rickshaws) in September 2002 earned the wrath of the fish-cart drivers and he was attacked right in front of the L & O Inspector. The PIL was to find a way to end the fish-cart connected accident that was growing in the city and many two-wheeler riders became victims. When the attack was reported to the Court, he was provided with armed police guard. Since 2002 he is with an escort police. [ was this not a public interest petition?]

  2. When T.Nagar’s Usman Road and Ranganthan street, were bursting in seams with shopping crowds, it was his PILs that pulled down high raise buildings (Chennai silks, Saravana Stores, Jayachandra Textiles to name a few), removed the hawkers, regulated unauthorized constructions. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  3. In 2007, his PIL made Motor Vehicles Act section 129 enforceable with wearing helmet made compulsory throughout the country. He brought out the dormant rule to the light that motor vehicle sellers’ package should include an helmet also. This gave way to a Government Order (G.O.) that directed RTO to register a vehicle with an helmet, like insurance papers, road tax, pollution check certificates, although ‘helmet-rule’ is followed in breach today, due to political ‘go slow, go soft’ direction. [ was this not a public interest petition?]

  4. If the city’s water bodies like Porur lake is glistening with sheet of water, again it is because of his PIL, the encroached huts and colonies were cleared, and Cooum river in front of MGR University at Maduravoyal is back to its full breadth. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  5. In 2004 when advocates were boycotting courts in Tamil Nadu, his PIL in the Supreme Court, upheld his contention and 160 advocates were arrested.
    http://www.echarcha.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif Again when the lawyers were on strike on Sri Lankan Tamils issue and on subsequent attack by police on them, with shamiana spread on full length of the road, blocking one-way traffic for more than 35 days, this ‘Traffic’ could not keep quite, he was out with his weapon—PIL.http://www.echarcha.com/forum/images/smilies/biggrin.gif Some lawyers went to ’kill’ him. There is a case against 10 lawyers, FIR filed and pending. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  6. A recent PIL questioned Tamil New Year change. His one PIL challenged the government’s move to make the first day of the Tamil month of Thai as the Tamil New year’s day on June 26, Friday. His original petition in 2008 was dismissed with a cost of Rs. 10,000 for non-appearance of the petitioner. He went to the Supreme Court and reversed the order and brought the matter back to the High Court for hearing. He questioned the order of the Government that it had not given any reason to alter the Tamil New Year from the existing Chithirai 1 to Thai 1. He wanted the New Year day restored to the first day of Chithirai. [was this not a public interest petition ?]

  7. By another PIL he sought to restrain the authorities from collecting road toll at 15th kilometre on NH-5 Chennai-Kolkatta highway. Pointing out that the four-lane was not constructed by L&T, he said toilets, rooms, pedestrian underpass, service roads and bylanes too had not been completed before the toll collection was started. The toll gate near Karanodai did not have a canopy and lacked light, he said, adding that there was no uniform fee collections too. Describing it as a scandalous activity, he said that instead of the original 27th kilometre toll was being collected at 15th km on the highway. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  8. He had filed a PIL seeking a direction to prevent pictures of Ms Jayalalithaa and AIADMK’s party symbol being carried on bunks erected on pavements, in bus stands and on buses. He had said bottled ‘Amma’ mineral water was being sold from kiosks outside metropolitan transport corporation depots and sought their removal as it hindered movement and inconvenienced public. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  9. In 2002 he filed a PIL against motorized three wheeler make-shift auto-rickshaws that were used for selling fish. “Bikes like Bullet were stolen and its engine was used for such auto-rickshaws. They did not come under the motor vehicles act because the government was unable to decide under which category they would come. Without regulation the number of such vehicles increased and there were a lot of accidents. Mr. Ramswamy wrote to the Transport Secretary asking him to issue a tender so that manufacturers could come forward and manufacture these legally. He could not find any manufacturer. It was then that he filed a PIL pleading the court to declare these as illegal. For the fishermen it was former Union minister Chidambaram’s wife who was the lawyer. She offered Mr. Ramaswamy Rs. 4 lakh to withdraw the case, but he did not. The court held his view correct and declared these vehicles as illegal. The fishermen community got very angry with him because his PIL affected their jobs. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

  10. Social activist ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy filed his petition on the illegal granite mining in Madurai district with the Legal Commissioner, U. Sagayam. The High-Court-appointed Commissioner had summoned Mr. Ramasamy to depose before him about his knowledge on the granite scam. It was Mr. Ramasamy who had fought a legal battle in the High Court seeking appointment of Mr. Sagayam as the legal commissioner to enquire into the multi-crore granite scandal in the district. On 11.10.2014 the interim order was passed by the First Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay KishanKaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan, on a PIL filed by PIL-activist Traffic Ramaswamy. Making it clear that Sagayam would be the special investigation officer, the bench asked the committee to be headed by him to submit its interim report on October 28. [ was this not a public interest petition? ]

When such are the examples of what Traffic Ramasamy has engaged in and he has also filed more than 400 applications – the Madras High Court’s First Bench did not have any jurisdiction to term his intervention before the Court as a ‘ Publicity Interest Litigation’.

The First bench of the Madras High Court is headed by its Chief Justice who is also the Patron in Chief of the Tamilnadu State Legal Services Authority. The Tamilnadu State Legal Services Authority has so far not filed even a single PIL of significance in this state although it is mandated to do so in order to comply by its function under Sec 12 of the National Legal Services Authority Act 1987. When a paid functionary of the Government in the judiciary, has so far not intervened in a PIL, the National Legal Services Authority filed a PIl in September, 2012 seeking several directions from the SC, including granting of equal rights and protection to transgender persons; inclusion of a third category in recording one’s sex/gender in identity documents like the election card, passport, driving license and ration card; and for admission in educational institutions, hospitals, amongst others. The Patron in Chief who could not do so in the SLSA in Tamilnadu cannot under any circumstances call Traffic Ramasamy’s intervention as a ‘Publicity Interest Litigation’. Traffic Ramaswamy has also paid the price almost every time he filed the PILs from vested interests. The HC itself has also provided him armed guard for his personal protection. Then how could this terminology be right ? I wish to call upon the First Bench of the Madras High Court to recall this comment which is political in nature and anti-HRD in content.

The First Bench has erred and erred beyond contrition by this pungent comment. How will it remedy the situation now? The comment by the Madras High Court will not devoid Mr. Ramaswamy of his position as a human rights defender. It will do good for all the Chief Justice to take steps to acquaint all Judges of the Madras High Court with the Provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

It is important that human rights defenders across the state and country also recognize that we all have to stand with Mr. Ramaswamy at this time.

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Comment (1)

  1. K SHESHU BABU

    High Court should not be influenced by political leaders. The PILs of ‘ traffic’ Ramaswamy have brought to light many problems in Tamil nadu in general and Chennai in particular. Solidarity should be expressed by all human rights activists in support of him and the court must consider his litigations.

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