Man with a PIL for every 'ill'

From instant talaq to Lokpal, 'BJP spokesperson' plays lone hand-cum-loose cannon

By R. Balaji
  • Published 2.04.18
The Supreme Court

New Delhi: At first sight, there seems little remarkable about the soft-spoken, middle-aged man of medium height and light build, roaming the Supreme Court premises in an advocate's robe.

Three years ago, few would have given Ashwini Upadhyay a second look. Today, he has a reputation as the country's PIL Pro, a Supreme Court advocate who has hardly any client's cases to fight but has moved 35 public interest pleas before the apex court.

Ashwini Upadhyay

One of his triumphs has been to get the instant triple talaq outlawed last year. His latest petition challenges polygamy and contract marriages among Muslims.

Upadhyay claims to be a Delhi BJP spokesperson. Asked why he is not seen at the party's news conferences, he explains he is too busy fighting PILs but does attend the party's core meetings that take place in the evening.

Some of his pleas may not entirely please his party, though, such as the pending petition to have a Lokpal appointed at the Centre and a Lokayukta in every state.

While many petitioners have earned the apex court's wrath for moving frivolous PILs and slapped with fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 25 lakh, Upadhyay has seen each of his petitions admitted.

Many in the legal fraternity, though, wonder how he survives merely filing PILs without having any private practice worth the name. Some of the PILs he has filed:

• Plea to restrict accused, against whom charges have been framed in serious cases, from contesting elections, forming political parties or holding party posts.

Status: Pending before a five-judge bench.

• Plea to debar convicts from contesting elections for life. Currently, the ban is for six years after the end of the prison term.

Status: Pending.

• Plea to use a "totaliser" to count votes from multiple booths together so that candidates cannot identify and victimise those who voted against them.

Status: Pending.

• Pleas to restrict people from contesting from multiples constituencies simultaneously, and discourage Independents from contesting parliamentary and state elections.

Status: Both pending.

• Plea to ban lawmakers from practising other professions, particularly law.

Status: Pending.

• Pleas to make yoga, the singing of the national anthem and the national song, and the study of Hindi compulsory for schoolchildren aged 6-14.

Status: All three disposed of with directions to the government to consider them.

• Plea for minority status for Hindus in eight states.

Status: Disposed of with direction to the National Minority Commission to consider it.

• Pleas to link Aadhaar with voter I-cards and people's movable and immovable property to check electoral malpractice and black money/ benami transactions.

Status: Both pending.

• Pleas to hold elections on Sundays to improve turnouts.

Status: Pending.

• Plea to recall currency above Rs 100 and restrict cash transactions above Rs 10,000.

Status: Pending.

• Plea to detect, detain and deport all illegal migrants.

Status: Pending.

• Pleas to implement a uniform civil code, and ban liquor and intoxicating drugs throughout the country.

Status: Both disposed of with directions to the government to consider them.

Upadhyay has also moved 15 PILs before various high courts. He has got Delhi High Court to direct the Centre to provide condoms and contraceptive pills free of cost to poor families.