COMMON CAUSE, a registered society with a nation-wide membership, has established its credentials by championing common causes and securing redress of the grievances of the people. Its initiatives in public interest litigation have greatly contributed to the refinement and adoption of this instrument for addressing a wide range of problems at the Government-citizen interface. A large number of writ petitions has been filed by the Organisation in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court resulting in landmark decisions which have brought about significant systemic reforms in different areas of governance. A number of important cases has also been taken to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act.

The very first case taken up by COMMON CAUSE soon after its establishment related to the problems of pensioners. Almost four million pensioners benefited from the three important decisions which the Organisation was able to secure from the Supreme Court in respect of extension of liberalisation of pension, restoration of commutation of pension and extension of the scheme of family pension. An important matter relating to the multitude of pending criminal cases in various courts of the country was taken to the Supreme Court with specific suggestions for dealing with the backlog. The decision of the Supreme Court on our petition led to the discharge of a large number of accused persons and the release of undertrial prisoners, whose cases had dragged on for years. These directions brought about the termination of hundreds of thousands of cases all over the country. A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court on the subject of malfunctioning of Blood Banks. The directions given by the Court led to the evolution of the system for registration of Blood Banks and discontinuance of the practice of using professional blood donors. On a writ petition of COMMON CAUSE on the general matter of corruption and establishment of the institutions of Lokpal and Lok Ayukta, the Supreme Court imposed severe punishment in a particular case of abuse of authority. The matter relating to appointment of Lok Ayuktas has continued to be pursued through direction to all States. On another writ petition, the Supreme Court issued directions of far-reaching consequence in regard to the conduct of election campaigns by political parties, leading to incorporation of a specific provision in the election law. The Court also directed strict compliance with the law for submission of Income-tax returns by political parties. COMMON CAUSE has also agitated the issues of recurrence of rail disasters, functioning of fake universities and unqualified teaching shops, crime and violence on TV and grant of freebies to over three lac telecom employees.

The petitions filed in the Delhi High Court have dealt with several matters of general importance, such as anomalies arising in the Property Tax and the difficulties encountered in the operation of old Rent Control laws. The problem of large-scale theft of electricity in Delhi resulting in load shedding and disruption of power supply has also been pursued. A major problem in Delhi has been the mushrooming of unauthorised residential colonies. The demand for their regularization is generally acquiesced in when elections are imminent. This practice was challenged by the Organisation in a writ petition. The High Court has ordered that no unauthorised colony would be regularized without its clearance. The Court is also monitoring the implementation of its orders on our petition on the menace of stray cattle.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act has, on our submission, given important decisions on matters such as use of iodized salt, substandard intravenous fluids, operation of buses on Delhi roads and strikes by commercial banks and Air India. Significant decisions secured from the Supreme Court in the interest of consumers include establishment of Consumer Forums in all districts of the country and printing of prices on imported packaged goods.

April - June 2007