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The Power and Impact of Public Interest Litigation

PIL which stands for public interest litigation is the strategic arm of the legal aid movement which refers to a legal action brought before the constitutional court to uphold the public interestand to give justice to the last standing people of the line.

It is a way to make justice accessible to those people who are unable to knock on the door of court due to financial or sociological reasons among others. The concept of PIL was started for the welfare of those people who had been denied their legal rights and are being exploited by the dominant people of the societyon account of their socio-economic disabilities.

Supreme Court in the judgement of Janta dal vs H.S. Chowdhury[1]explains the meaning of PIL as a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of general interest in which the public of the community has a pecuniary interest by which their liabilities are affected.Prof. Upendra Baxi renamed public interest litigation with social action litigation because of its effectiveness to bring favourable social changes.[2]

Origin of PIL

The term PILoriginated in the USAin the mid-1960sas the USA is entering the 19th century along with the world, various movements in the USA had been occurring for the legal aid movement. With this, the establishment of the first legal aid office was taken in new-York in 1876. But at that time, they didn't get much attention. In the 1960s, the movement of PILstart getting attention and began to receive financial backup persuading lawyers and social activists to bring the cases which were not taken earlier.

History of PIL in India

Only the party who had been wronged can seek justice before the court, before the 1980s. but after this period PIL had begun its place in the Indian legal system at the starting period of the 1980s.

The judges of the supreme court of India, Justice V.R.KrishnaIyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwatiplayed a very important role which consequences into the opening of new vistas in public interest litigation in India, through their judgement they used the term PIL for the first time in their judgement of fertilizer corporation Kamgar union vs union of India[3]. As per Justice Iyer, the PIL is a method to obtain justice for the unprivileged person. The main objective of PIL is to give legal support to the most unprivileged people in India.

Advantage of PIL

PIL make the justice system available for the last people of India and makes people aware of the constitutional power of intervention of the court. The under-trails prisoners andexploited women among others are the vulnerable group of society that have now access to the judiciary for securing their human rights. The PIL has made people aware of the dignity of human life and teaches the importance of liberty and equal justice.

It has further exposed the failure of govt. to implement its program and this exposure of injustices and tyranny has begun to hurt the national conscience. PIL makes the procedure simple which makes it easily accessible for social groups or individuals and it also makes court accessible without many resources. As per Indian law, it refers to legal action taken to safeguard the public interest and can be brought before a court of law by a third party other than the party who is being wronged.

Drawbacks of PIL

A large number of scholars of the legal arena felt that PIL was an unruly horse which followed no rules, and hence, could completely disrupt the discipline of the judicial process. The majority of the lawyers and judges attacked its validity and strategy. The increased use of public interest lawsuits has given victims of governmental criminal negligence and administrative abuses fresh hope. The main purpose to bring the PIL was to give justice to the unprivileged people of the society but many unfavorable patterns that are seen to abuse the real motive behind the pil.

The supreme court in the S.P.Gupta vs. Union of India[4]has also noted that if a person is acting for personal profit and motivation, the court should reject the application. The Indian judiciary is flooded with pending cases as per the various data more than 5 crore cases are pending out of which 69000 are pending before the supreme court of India[5]. The Supreme Court acknowledged that PIL petitions consume a significant amount of judicial time. The court system is strangled by this pattern of delay and the accumulation of pointless burdens due to the backlog of unfinished business.

The Court in the case of Delhi municipal workers union vs municipal corporation of Delhi and another[6]ruled that PIL, which has grown to be a significant area of administrative law, should not be "publicity interest litigation" or "politics interest litigation" but rather should involve a real and genuine public interest, and it cannot be used by an individual or group of individuals to further theircauses or animosity.

Way forward
The success of PIL depends on the appreciation of the judiciary to the state as a welfare state and the willingness on the part of the state to implement the constitutional mandate. To avert the Indian judiciary with flooded cases in which a PIL made an important role, there is a need to establish a PIL cell in the constitutional court and the PIL petition should be circulated among the judgesto obtain the view before admitting them and the whole process of hearing PIL cases must be expedited so that the faith of public will not be lost. The establishment of a PIL journal can further relevant PIL cases in the need of an hour to share information among interested people.

Most of the time, the petition of PIL is rejected due to the lack of research on the part of the petitioner, they may file the petition based on the newspaper report which is not correct. There is also a need to expand the legal aid programmeto meet the expense of the PIL which will help to enforce the right of the poor.

The Indian Constitution protects the right to uphold human rights as outlined in the above readings. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is a new strategy that has been developed to make justice accessible to the underprivileged and disadvantaged people of society. A new age of human rights advocacy and preservation in India has begun with the public interest litigation movement. PIL helped in enhancing the responsibility of the government towards the poor's rights. PIL has produced astonishing resultsin the passing years.

PIL proved to be a boon for the marginalised community but as every coin has two sides, soit alsotends to become a bane if the PIL is filed wrongfully.The exploitation of it would lead to a lot of damage. Public interest litigation is a powerful instrument for upholding the rights of those who are oppressed or disadvantaged and seek justice. It ought to be carried out with the appropriate caution and regard for the resources it uses.

  1. (1992) 4 SCC 305
  2. Dr. Swapna Deka Madrinath, "Judicial Activism in Post Emergency Era", Notion Press, 2015
  3. (1981) 1 SCC 568
  4. (1982) 2 SCR 365
  5. Sumeda, 'the clogged state of the Indian judiciary' The Hindu (Delhi 13 May 2022)
  6. (2000) 55 DRJ 161

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Harsh Raj
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