There is no doubt that the concept of PIL has been enormously successful in
allowing previously unheard voices to be heard on the path to justice. So, let's
learn more about the PIL concept and how it operates.
Litigation in the public interest is litigation in the interest of the public or
to preserve the public's interests. We can say, in a general sense, that it is
litigation that can be filed in any court of law by any member of the public who
is interested, and especially by anyone who fails to approach the court.
In addition, an act of public interest is defined as "when an act is performed
with the intention to protect or benefit the public." Such as addressing
pollution, road safety, terrorism, and industrial safety, among others. Public
Interest Litigation is a term that is not defined by any statute or law, but it
has been interpreted by the justices and is nearly identical to the writs
available under Article 226 and Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
Meaning of Public Interest Litigation:
The term "public interest litigation," or "PIL," refers to a kind of judicial
proceeding in which a person or a group of people may petition the court to
address a problem that affects the general public. Public benefit Litigation (PIL)
is a legal action that is brought not for the purpose of financial gain but
rather for the benefit of the general public. Its goal is to promote and
safeguard the rights of the people.
PIL is a potent instrument for social justice, and it is used to solve problems
that impact a significant portion of society. PIL has been effectively used in a
number of sectors, including anti-corruption efforts, the protection of
consumers' rights, environmental protection, and the rights of members of
marginalized populations. Even though a PIL may be submitted to any court, the
High Court and the Supreme Court receive the vast majority of these petitions.
PIL was first implemented for the first time in India in the 1980s, and since
then, it has been adopted by a number of nations all over the globe. PIL's
fundamental purpose is to guarantee that the people whom the government and its
agencies are supposed to serve are able to hold them responsible for their
actions. The common people are given the opportunity to take part in the process
of government and to hold those in authority responsible for the activities they
do via this medium.
Where can a PIL be filled:
It is important to be aware of the appropriate channels via which a person might
pursue legal recourse in order to protect his or her rights. As was said before,
a PIL is comparable to a writ; hence, a PIL may be filed with either the High
Court or the Supreme Court, as the Constitution of India specifies in Articles
226 and 32 respectively.
In addition, a PIL application may be submitted to the Magistrate's Court in
accordance with Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
It is essential to keep in mind that we may file a petition with the Supreme
Court in accordance with Article 32 only in the event that any Fundamental Right
has been broken, and not in the event that any other right has been violated.
However, if a person wishes to approach for not just Fundamental right but also
some other fundamental rights that are accessible, the nature of the case would
PILs that only impact a limited number of persons may be brought before the High
Court under Article 226, the same provision that governs cases brought before
An example of this would be an issue with the neighborhood's street lights that
affects fifty to sixty homes; in situations like these, it is best to go to the
High Court. If a significant number of individuals have been harmed as a result
of actions taken by either the state government or the central government, then
the matter may be brought before the Supreme Court.
Who can file a PIL?
It is vital that the person filing the PIL should not gain the profit from it,
but rather it should be just the public who gets the benefit from it. Any
public-spirited individual may submit a PIL in the Court of law; in fact, it can
even be a foreigner. However, it is important that the person filing the PIL
should not get the benefit from it.
Before submitting a PIL application, there are a few key factors that need to
be taken into consideration, and they are as follows:
- He must be a member of the general public who is genuinely interested in the
- The pursuit of personal wealth is not what drives him to act.
In the case of M.C. Mehta vs. UOI,
a company known as Shriram food fertilizers
business was a subsidiary of Delhi textile mills limited and produced chlorine
and caustic. On December 4th to December 6th, 1985, there was a significant
release of oleum gas from the industry. This release led to the deaths of
numerous innocent persons, as well as an advocate who was working in the Tis
Hazari Court at the time.
The leak occurred as a result of many mechanical and human faults that occurred
in the unit. Within the next week, Shriram Fertilizer must remove the chemical
from the Delhi area in accordance with the district magistrate's order. M.C.
Mehta submitted a public interest litigation (PIL) petition to the Supreme Court
in order to get compensation for the persons who have incurred damage as a
result of the situation and to urge that the unit be shut down and that
permission not be granted to restart it.
An NGO called Banwasi Seva Ashram in the case Banwasi Seva Ashram vs. State of
brought a public interest litigation (PIL) suit against the state of Uttar
Pradesh on behalf of the tribal people who lived in the impacted region.
Against whom it can be filled?
After going over the fundamental aspects of the Public Interest Litigation, it
is very essential to be aware of the parties that a person might file a
complaint against. Therefore, the answer to the issue is that a public interest
lawsuit (PIL) may be filed in a court of law against the state government, the
central government, or any municipality.
The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition may also be submitted by a private
party if that party is a respondent in the dispute after the State or Central
government has been consulted.
In the event that a private company is the source of pollution, those who are
adversely impacted by the circumstance have the legal right to file a PIL
against both the industry and the relevant state or federal government. In a
separate context, a PIL claim cannot be made against the private enterprise for
the acts they have committed.
Can a Letter be treated as PIL?
In the beginning, a letter was also regarded to be a PIL by the court in some of
the situations when the scenario was not affording a chance for the party to
approach the court. In these instances, a PIL may be filed by stating all of the
relevant information of the case in the letter.
The roots of this specific concept may be traced back to the landmark case D.K.
Basu vs. State of West Bengal
. In that case, a letter placed the attention of
the Court on the custodial death that occurred in the court grounds of the state
of West Bengal. In addition, one of the responsibilities of the police authority
is to tell the accused person's family members or other relatives about the
arrest. If this duty is not fulfilled, the failure of the police authority would
be considered a contempt of court.
In another important case, Hindustan Times v. Central Pollution Board, the court
interpreted a section of a newspaper as a public interest litigation (PIL)
Process to Follow When Filing a PIL
The process for submitting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is straightforward
and very comparable to that of submitting a writ to the High Court or the
Supreme Court. When it comes to submitting a PIL, one needs to do a significant
amount of study. The next step is to compile all of the pertinent information
and papers that are necessary for the PIL file.
Before the High Court
When a petition for public interest litigation (PIL) is presented to the High
Court, both an original and a copy of the petition must be provided.
Additionally, the respondent is required to be given a copy of the petition in
advance of the hearing. In addition, evidence proving the delivery of copies
should be provided to the petition.
Before the Supreme Court:
When a petition for public interest litigation (PIL) is presented to the Supreme
Court, all five copies of the petition must be provided. Additionally, when
notice is served from the Court, copies must be supplied to the opposing
The Court Fee Is:
A PIL in and of itself is a highly cost-effective solution in comparison to
other problems. Each respondent is responsible for paying a court fee of Rs.
50/-, which must be attached to the petition.
Impact of the Judiciary on the Growth of PIL:
The evolution of PIL was significantly impacted by the contributions of the
Judiciary. The Indian court has, throughout the course of numerous cases,
articulated several Indian doctrines and principles. Some examples of these are
the Absolute Doctrine in the case of M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and the
Public Trust Doctrine in the case of M.C. Mehta vs. Kamal Nath.
In addition, the Supreme Court of India has provided several Guidelines in the
majority of instances, including the case of the Taj Trapezium, the case of the
Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the issue of Ganga pollution, and the case of Ratlam
Municipality, amongst many other cases on the list.
Justice P.N. Bhagwati as a result of the ruling that one of the activist judges
on the Supreme Court of India made about the legality of public interest
litigation in the case of S.P.Gupta vs. Union of India in 1982, also known as
the Judges Transfer Case, more individuals are petitioning the Court to hear
their public interest litigation cases.
In the seminal case of Vishaka vs. the State of Rajasthan
, the victim was not
receiving any justice throughout the criminal prosecution, and there were
failures to provide meaningful remedies and restore her dignity. A lawyer named Naina Kapoor challenged the practice of sexual harassment in the workplace by
submitting a petition to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in this matter. In
addition, a petition for the same reason was sent to the state government in the
name of five non-governmental organizations (NGO).
The verdict made it very
evident that sexual harassment is a flagrant breach of the basic rights to
equality and non-discrimination, as well as the rights to life and liberty, as
stated in the ruling. And workers and employers alike are provided with a set of
rules and regulations that must be adhered to at all times in the workplace. A
revolution has been started as a result of the case, which has characterized the
precedent-setting judgement and legacies of PIL.
In the case of Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India
, a petition for a writ was
submitted to the Supreme Court of India on the basis of a newspaper article that
described an incident in which a person riding a scooter was struck by a vehicle
and physicians refused to treat him and attend to him. They instructed him to
travel to a different hospital that was around 20 kilometers distant from where
he was at the time that could handle medico-legal matters. In this particular
case, the Supreme Court of the United States set some rules and decided that:
"It is of the utmost significance to take measures to save human life. Every
physician has a moral responsibility to try to preserve a patient's life and
continue providing care for as long as possible in order to safeguard that
In a country like India, the majority of people have had their rights ignored,
and with this in mind, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that any person acting
bona fide and having the sufficient interest of the public can approach the
Court making the grievances or redressal on their part. This is especially true
in situations where such a class of people cannot approach the Court due to any
disability, poverty, or any other means of similar nature.
In the Judges Transfer Case, the Court determined that:
''Where a legal wrong or a legal injury is caused to a person or to a
determinate class of persons by reason of a violation of any constitutional or
legal right and such person or determinate class of persons is because of
poverty, helplessness, or disability or because they are in a socially or
economically disadvantaged position, unable to approach the Court for relief,
any member of the public can maintain an application for an appropriate
direction, order, or writ,'' according to the rule.
The court found that it was necessary to do so in order to uphold the Rule of
Law and to provide justice to those members of society who were at a
An Overview of the Three Stages of Public Interest Litigation:
In India, the PIL has been implemented in three distinct stages, each of which
is distinct from the others in certain particulars.
The initial phase
The late 1970s marked the beginning of the first phase, which lasted through the
decade of the 1980s. During this stage, the PIL was often submitted by those who
had a strong commitment to public services, such as lawyers, journalists, or
social activists. for the disadvantaged or less powerful members of society who
were unable to get a benefit and thus had to endure injustice on their end. The
relief sought was against the violation of Fundamental rights guaranteed under
the Indian constitution.
For this reason, the judiciary made remedies by guiding
the government and its agencies to bind with the guidelines and directions made
by it. In most cases, the cases involved child labour, bonded labour, women,
prisoners, and dwellers, among other groups. In these cases, the relief sought
was against the violation of Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian
constitution. As a result, the adoption of PIL was appropriate and in line with
what the people who drafted the constitution anticipated; thus, it fulfilled and
recognized the rights of the citizens.
Advance to Stage Two
The 1990s saw the beginning of the second phase of PIL, which included a
slightly altered chemical composition in comparison to the prior phase. A
considerable number of well-known and highly specialized nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) and legal practitioners have said that they routinely
submit petitions based on PIL.
The concerns that were brought up or reviewed
under PIL were enlarged to include sexual harassment in the workplace, free
education for children, environmental degradation, and a government free of
corruption. Additionally, the Rule of Law, the establishment of industries, and
the activities of those companies were taken into account by the Court.
During this stage of the process, the petitioner not only sought remedies for
action or no action of executive's authority, but also against the private
entities, and claimed compensation and lasting relief for the difficulties that
arose as a result of it. The court came up with a more generally applicable type
of remedy for the petitioners, and it did not hesitate to fill the gaps between
the activities taken by the legislative and the executive branch.
the court ordered private parties to compensate individuals who had been
wronged, but they did so without addressing the issue of whether or not the
state was accountable for the incident. Instead, they focused only on whether or
not fundamental rights had been violated. In certain instances, the court also
handed down punishments to public workers for failing to carry out their
responsibilities, which led to the escalation of the crisis.
During this phase, the abuse of PIL reached a certain level, which prompted the
court to impose a fine on the plaintiffs in the event that any misuse of PIL was
done by them for the sake of private gain.
The third phase, which is the present phase stated in the 21st century and
allows anybody to submit a PIL if they believe that any fundamental rights have
been violated. The issued rose has been significantly enlarged, and it now seems
that PIL may be created for almost any use. It's possible that the factors of
development and the free market will dominate the portion of the third phase of
PIL. It demonstrates that the judicial system has protected the rights of the
people by acting in accordance with what the people demanded at each given
moment in time.
Concerns pertaining to Public Interest Litigation:
It would seem that the improper use of PIL has reached the point where it
threatens to obscure the positive aspects of the policy, including the primary
reason why PIL was developed in the first place. It is time to take another look
at how PIL is being abused in certain contexts. There are a great number of
instances in which an abuse of public interest litigation may be clearly
portrayed, some of which include the following:
In the case of Subhash Kumar vs. the State of Bihar
, the director of the firm
sacked parole, and Subhash Kumar then filed a public interest litigation (PIL)
against the corporation, claiming that the company is engaged in unethical and
illegal practices and that it should be punished for these offences. The facts
clearly demonstrate the inappropriate use of PIL.
The bench issued a warning to the High Court over the improper use of PIL and
PIL is a weapon that must be used with care and depending on the circumstances,
and the judiciary needs to be exceedingly attentive to check if there is no
publicity or malicious motive behind the lovely veil of PIL. PIL is a weapon
that must be used with care and depending on the circumstances. The court ruled
that public interest litigation (PIL) must rectify a public injustice or damage
and that there must be no opportunity for notoriety or private interest in
connection with it.
In the case of Chhetriya Pradushan sangharsh Samiti vs. the State of U.P
land was bought from a member of Samiti by Jhunjhunwala mills because of rising
prices. The heirs of the land who sold the property requested for it back, and
when they did not return it, the heirs began making criminal offence reports
against the people who sold the property, claiming that the mill is harming the
environment. The Supreme Court reached the conclusion that Samiti had not
presented its case with honest intentions, and as a result, the court decided to
dismiss the PIL. As a result of a significant number of instances like this, the
Supreme Court has provided specific rules surrounding the operation of PIL.
The case was known as S.P.Gupta vs. Union of India
. J. Bhagwati outlined a few
particular scenarios in which a PIL petition cannot be filed, including the
If any individual is involved in socioeconomic crime; and if the infraction is
committed against any woman, the perpetrator of the crime is not required to
file a PIL.
In the recent past, the court has been presented with a number of instances
involving PIL from a variety of different parties. In the year 2008, the Supreme
Court of India heard a case called Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs. Union of
. In this case, a public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed
before the Court praying to the Court to enact a road safety Act in relation to
various road accidents occurring in Indian society. The Court held that they
cannot direct the legislatures to do any act, which shows that the petitioner
wants the Court to amend the legislature and perform an act which is not within
Petitions may be submitted in a number of different ways, including in the form
of letters, electronically, and most recently, it is now possible to submit them
online or by just sending an email to the Chief Justice of India.
Analysis of PIL with reference to Indian Judicial System:
The term "Public Interest Litigation," or "PIL," refers to a legal system that
enables any individual or organization to petition the court on behalf of the
general public's best interests. In the 1980s, it originated in India as a
method to ensuring that the courts could address concerns of social and economic
justice, and its origins may be traced back to that era.
PIL is a vital weapon
for the court to use in order to guarantee that the executive and legislative
arms of government are accountable to the people. However, there has been a lot
of discussion over whether or not PILs are successful and whether or not they
are suitable. In the following paragraphs, we shall examine the most important
features of PILs in India.
PILs are often started by people or organizations that have some kind of
financial or other stake in the outcome of the proposal, which is one of the
most significant arguments made against them. Because of this, the court may end
up being used as a weapon to further the interests of certain groups, rather
than being utilized to serve the general public's best interests.
especially the case when public interest litigations (PILs) are started by
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who may have their own agendas and may
not reflect the interests of the general public.
This has led to the complaint
that PILs may be used as a method of "judicial activism," which is when the
courts are regarded as overstepping their duty and intervening in the affairs of
the executive and legislative branches of government. As a result of this, the
criticism that PILs can be used as a form of "judicial activism" has become more
Another criticism of PILs is that they can be time-consuming and expensive. This
can result in delays in the delivery of justice, and can also result in a
situation where only those who can afford to pursue PILs are able to do so. This
can create a situation where the courts are seen as serving the interests of the
wealthy, rather than the wider public.
There is also the argument that PILs can be used as a means of harassing the
government and public officials. This can result in a situation where public
officials are hesitant to take decisions or implement policies, for fear of
being targeted by PILs. This can lead to a situation where decision-making is
paralyzed, and public policy is not implemented effectively.
Despite these criticisms, there is no doubt that PILs have played an important
role in shaping public policy in India. PILs have been instrumental in
addressing issues such as corruption, environmental degradation, and the
protection of human rights. They have also been used to highlight issues of
social and economic inequality, and to bring attention to the needs of
In recent years, there has been an effort to address some of the criticisms of
PILs. For example, the Supreme Court has established guidelines for the filing
of PILs, which are aimed at ensuring that PILs are filed only in cases where
there is a genuine public interest at stake. The court has also taken steps to
ensure that PILs are not used as a means of harassment.
Another criticism of PILs is that they can sometimes be seen as a substitute for
the proper functioning of other institutions. PILs should not be the only
recourse for citizens to address their grievances or seek justice. The
functioning of other institutions such as the legislature, executive, and
administrative machinery is crucial in ensuring that public interest is served.
If these institutions fail to function effectively, it can result in PILs being
used as a substitute for the proper functioning of these institutions, leading
to an imbalance in the separation of powers.
Moreover, PILs are often used to address issues that are better left to the
discretion of the executive or legislature. This can result in the judiciary
interfering in areas where it lacks the necessary expertise or information, and
can lead to a situation where the judiciary is seen as overreaching its powers.
The judiciary should be cautious in deciding to intervene in areas where the
executive and legislature have a legitimate role to play.
However, it is important to note that PILs have played a critical role in
advancing the cause of human rights in India. PILs have helped to ensure that
marginalized communities have access to justice, and have been instrumental in
holding government officials accountable for their actions. PILs have also
played a significant role in addressing issues such as gender equality, child
rights, and environmental protection.
It is essential to maintain a balance between the need for PILs and the
potential for abuse. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to ensure that
PILs are filed only in cases where there is a genuine public interest at stake,
and not for the benefit of any particular individual or group. The court has
also taken steps to ensure that PILs are not used as a means of harassment or to
obstruct the functioning of the government.
In conclusion, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been a significant
development in the Indian legal system since its inception in the 1980s. PILs
have been instrumental in addressing a range of issues related to social and
economic justice, environmental degradation, and the protection of human rights.
However, there have been valid criticisms of PILs, including their potential for
abuse by those with vested interests and their potential to undermine the
functioning of other institutions.
To mitigate these concerns, the judiciary has established guidelines to ensure
that PILs are filed only in cases where there is a genuine public interest at
stake and have taken steps to prevent PILs from being used as a means of
harassment. While there is always room for improvement.
PILs remain a critical
tool for ensuring that the government is accountable to the public and that the
interests of marginalized communities are represented in the courts. It is
essential to maintain a balance between the need for PILs and the potential for
abuse to ensure that PILs continue to serve the public interest in India.
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