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PIL: Grounds of Filing And Rejection

Part of India's judicial system since the 1970s, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was first mentioned during the case of S.P. Gupta v. Union of India by Justice P.N. Bhagwati. Essentially, PIL refers to any legal action with the goal of law reform, safeguarding legal rights, or stopping legal malpractice.

Every concerned citizen is expected to take immediate action when there are matters that affect a significant portion of the populace. This type of legal action is called Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and has the purpose of safeguarding the interest and welfare of the public. Government officials who are not performing according to the standards of their duty may be subject to PIL.

To promote actions in the public's best interest, the higher judiciary has PIL as one of its weapons. From a notable decision by the Supreme Court on the transfer of judges, the concept of PIL was born. Fostering judicial review has been the result of India's elevated courts, thereby fostering the emergence of Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

It is worth noting, however, that PIL is limited to being filed in the interest of the public or a group of individuals - personal grievances do not suffice.

Courts where PIL can be filed:

In order to file a PIL, individuals can typically submit a writ petition before the High Court or Supreme Court. If your case is won initially, it is not possible to appeal to the Supreme Court unless there was a mistake or something was omitted. On the other hand, if you've lost your case in the High Court, you can still try for the Supreme Court but you have to do it within 30 days.

Taking advantage of a peculiar rights framework, NRIs in India can push a PIL into motion, which can then be brought forth either to the Supreme Court or to any of the High Courts, as deemed appropriate by the case and the desired course of action. One key factor here is to make sure you hit the right court setup, considering factors like local jurisdiction, scope of the court's mandate, and the intrinsic public concerns involved. In short, it's a complex legal maneuver that calls for precise planning, but which can have far-reaching rewards for those who dare to try.

Filing a PIL in the High Court that governs a particular area is the best course of action for issues that are limited to one region. However, if the matter affects the entire country, presenting it to the Supreme Court of India is a viable option.

By drafting an application addressed to "The Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court," an individual can request to file a writ petition under either Article 32 or Article 226 of the Constitution respectively. The PIL must be signed by either the individual or their legal representative.

Eligibility to file PIL

By anyone who is a public-spirited individual or organization, a PIL can be filed on behalf of the aggrieved and afflicted. As far as the writ petition is concerned, it can be as straightforward as a postcard. It's important to note that PIL is preoccupied with what's best for the group, not for singular persons.

If the situation appears to favor an individual, the Supreme Court or High Court retains the authority to dismiss it. A petition may be submitted in an attempt to bring about changes under Article 32 with the Supreme Court of India or Article 226 with the High Court of India.

An order can only be passed under Section 133 CrPC if the safety of the public is in danger, and in such cases, the implemented restrictions must be equitable and fair. It's worth highlighting that these legal proceedings should not be utilized as a means to address personal disputes.

Additionally, if a matter is of great significance, the court has the authority to take suo motu cognizance.

Among the prerequisites for bringing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to court are that the petitioner must be both a citizen of India and at least 18 years of age. If the PIL represents a collective of people, the petitioner should preferably be a part of that assembly. More significantly, the PIL must exhibit a matter of public concern and the purpose should be to demand justice or legal remedies.

If the petitioner desires for their PIL to be granted, they must demonstrate that the potential damages they would receive surpass the cost of filing and other legal fees if the judgement turns out to be unfavorable. To ensure that the court deems the documents admissible, originals must be submitted since copies will not be legally recognized.

Grounds for filing PIL:

A PIL can be filed based on the following conditions:

  • Human rights violations, including custodial torture, extrajudicial killings, and forced labor, can be remedied by filing PIL.
  • Artifacts, historical monuments, and cultural heritage can all be protected through the use of PILs.
  • In PIL, issues concerning students' rights, education quality, and discrimination in educational institutions can be addressed.
  • Through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), legal action can be taken against urban planning and developmental projects that have negative consequences on the public. Additionally, PIL can be filed for poor public infrastructure issues.
  • To make sure that prisoners' rights are safeguarded and they're treated humanely, filing Public Interest Litigations could be considered as an avenue.
  • The protection of linguistic and religious minorities falls under PIL.
  • PILs can be implemented to combat issues related to child trafficking, child labor, and child protection.
  • Gender-based harassment, violence, and discrimination with a special emphasis on women's security and rights can be tackled well through PILs.
  • Making use of PILs can be an effective means to demand transparency and accountability from the government and its officials, thereby making it a powerful tool to fight against corruption.
  • Inadequacies in product quality and predatory pricing tactics can be addressed by employing legal remedies such as filing PILs. Addressing unfair trade practices and protecting consumer rights can be achieved through employing this tool.
  • Filing PILs is an option to ensure that prisoners' rights are protected and they receive humane treatment.
  • PIL applies to rights and the well-being of linguistic and religious minorities.
  • The protection of children, child labor, and child trafficking can be addressed through PILs.
  • Through PILs, women's safety and rights can be addressed including gender-based harassment, violence, and discrimination.
  • Transparency and accountability from government entities and officials can be demanded with the use of PILs, making it a tool against corruption.
  • PIL has the potential to address matters that have a significant impact on public health, including disease spread, availability of clean drinking water, and sanitation.
  • Filing PILs is an avenue available to address concerns related to the natural world, whether it be battling pollution, preventing deforestation, preserving wildlife, or protecting natural resources.
  • When one's fundamental rights protected by India's Constitution are violated, it is possible to submit a PIL. Within that context, this may involve aspects pertaining to expressions of speech, equal opportunities, one's wellbeing, and additional factors.
  • On the non-implementation of governmental measures, PIL can be initiated.
  • Filing PIL is an option when the underprivileged and marginalized populations are taken advantage of.
  • A PIL can be filed to expose corruption and demand transparency and accountability from government bodies.
  • A PIL is just the thing to bring to court issues related to programs that promote social welfare, efforts to alleviate poverty, and the protection of the rights of communities that are marginalized.
  • Administrative actions, policies, and decisions that harm the interests of the general public are subject to challenge through PILs.

Procedure of filing PIL

While filing a Public Interest Litigation, one must be responsible and follow the proper procedure that adheres to the Constitution's rules. A checklist of crucial documents is mandatory, including details about the afflicted individuals which must be submitted to the court. Moreover, information about the officials who are sought to deliver relief should be gathered, and incidents that infringe upon people's rights need to be meticulously reported.

Relevant documents such as identity proof, address proof and title deeds have to be presented for the respective incident. Additionally, the desired relief must also be specified by the applicant. Normal court proceedings are followed by PIL hearings. Furthermore, when necessary, the judge has the authority to assign a commissioner to investigate the matter.

Benefits of PIL

Societal well-being is positively influenced by Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which presents many noteworthy benefits. Marginalized and disadvantaged groups become empowered to defend their rights and seek justice through PIL. As a result, it offers a means of keeping government authorities in check by requiring them to carry out their obligations.

It shines a light on issues violating basic human rights and creates awareness, driving people to band together to combat such wrongs. Primarily, PIL plays an integral part in protecting vulnerable communities, guaranteeing that their concerns receive attention and are corrected suitably.

Grounds for Rejection of PIL

Sometimes, the court investigates the petition to determine if an individual or group's rights have been violated. If no infringement has occurred, any public interest litigation may be rejected.

One can file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India in hopes of promoting a greater good; nonetheless, the Supreme Court can refuse or dismiss the motion if the need arises.

The ability for courts to reject PILs is granted if insufficient public interest is shown and when the case is focused on individual or private matters. Public concern is the primary objective of PILs, handling matters crucial to the public sphere.

For a litigation to be viable, having credible authority to prove their claim is crucial. In the absence of sufficient evidence, the proceedings may come to a halt.

If a particular issue is currently being examined by a lower court, the Supreme Court has the discretion to dismiss any Public Interest Litigation (PIL) related to that same subject matter. The intent behind such a dismissal is to prevent any confusion or avoid repetition of legal procedures.

Should the nature of the appeal be seen as questionable by the court, due to poorly specified claims that are unfounded and too ambiguous, it may choose to reject a PIL proposal.

If the court suspects that a petition submitted through the PIL mechanism was filed with an ulterior motive or as an abuse of the legal system, it has the authority to reject it outright. This helps to ensure that petitions filed in good faith are given the attention that they deserve and are not buried beneath a wave of frivolous or malicious petitions.

The court may reject the PIL and recommend alternative solutions if the petitioner neglects to exhaust all available legal options for handling any obstacle.

Providing incomplete or inaccurate information when filling out the PIL can lead to its rejection.

Non-compliance with procedural guidelines, particularly the mis-formatting of PIL submissions, can result in their dismissal.

The Court retains the ability to evaluate PILs based on their unique attributes, making it crucial to highlight that each case is distinct. The court is generally willing to consider Public Interest Litigations (PILs) if they aim to protect the public's interests and address important issues. Therefore, those filing PILs must focus on generating well-constructed and coherent petitions that accurately reflect public opinion. This will prevent the court from dismissing or rejecting them. It is essential for petitioners and their legal representatives to bear this in mind when presenting their argument.

Misuse of PIL:

The Indian legal system is facing a troubling problem with the misapplication of Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Despite being an effective means of addressing social issues and protecting the integrity of justice, the instrument remains vulnerable to exploitation. The filing of pointless or trivial cases has burdened the judiciary with meaningless claims and consumed valuable court resources, thereby wasting precious time and effort.

Frequent misuse of PILs exists, often due to ulterior motives, rather than with the intent of resolving matters pertinent to the common weal. This may come in the form of seeking vengeance against an individual or entity or gaining attention where it's not warranted. "PIL activists" may inundate the courts with numerous filings, sometimes lacking a substantial public interest component. Additionally, PILs can be exercise as a means of legal harassment, with the intent of singling out individuals, businesses, or government officials, and sometimes twisted to serve political ends, manipulating public sentiment or discrediting adversaries.

The rampant misuse of PILs has forced courts to implement safeguards in order to maintain their legitimacy. Strategies include penalizing individuals who file unwarranted or aggravating PILs, mandating proof of a real public interest aspect in cases, and tossing out claims that do not meet the criteria required for a PIL. Despite these precautions, the problem of misuse lingers, necessitating ongoing efforts to find a middle ground between the genuine necessity of PILs and the deterrence of misuse.

The increase in PILs misuse or abuse has become a severe worry. The Supreme Court criticized baseless PIL requests for personal or unrelated reasons in 2010 and ultimately set up rules for courts to follow when considering PILs. "It creates undue burden on the justice system and results in serious slowdown in the handling of legitimate cases," stated justices Mukundakam Sharma and Dalveer Bhandari in regards to the submission of haphazard petitions.

Court Judgments:
A plea against an order of the Karnataka High Court which had rejected a petition regarding pension to the State Information Commissioners was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The court declared that an interested person was not entitled to file Public Interest Litigation (PIL)., 14 October, 2021

The Supreme Court dismissed the Bombay Lawyers Association's Special Leave Petition. The petition contested the High Court's ruling that dismissed their PIL accusing Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar and former Law Minister Kiren Rijiju for their public remarks regarding the basic structure doctrine evolved by the Apex Court and the Supreme Cout's Collegium system for appointing judges., 15 May 2023

The Supreme Court turned down a PIL filed by Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who is both a BJP leader and an attorney, concerning renaming ancient places and towns that he deems are currently named after "invaders" [Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. the Union of India and others]., 27 February 2023

The Supreme Court rejected an absurd proposal that urged the Centre to develop guidelines regarding the registration of live-in relationships. The court referred to it as a "hare-brained" concept., 20 March 2023

A PIL that sought to alter the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009 was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The request aimed to institute a uniform syllabus and curriculum for students throughout the nation while stating that the RTE was arbitrary and irrational., 11 February 2022

The Supreme Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation that aimed to limit political candidates' ability to run for the same office in multiple constituencies simultaneously. The court stated that these concerns are under the jurisdiction of the legislative branch., 2 February 2023

The Supreme Court rejected a writ petition under Article 32 that contested both Albert Einstein's theory that mass and energy are equivalent, as well as Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Sanjay Kishan Kaul both agreed that it was not appropriate to challenge established scientific theories through legal filings., 13 October, 2023

In the matter of Madhya Pradesh Judicial Service Rules, the Supreme Court rejected a Public Interest Litigation that opposed the prerequisite of a minimum three-year advocacy practice for those LL.B. graduates who couldn't secure at least 70% combined marks in their examination, as a mandatory requirement for eligibility in the recruitment process for Civil Judges in the subordinate judiciary. Initially, the petitioner was charged a cost of Rs. 30,000, but upon being requested, the Court waived the cost. verdictum. in, 10 October, 2023

The Odisha government's construction activities at the Jagannath temple in Puri were questioned by the petitioners in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which was criticized by the Supreme Court for their misuse of the process. The court which found the petitions to be without merit and detrimental to the public interest, imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on each petitioner, and dismissed their appeals., 3 June 2022

The PIL system was introduced into the Indian legal system in an effort to advance social justice. However, this noble pursuit has been derailed into self-promotion and political advancement by its users. Unfortunately, there has been a growing trend of using PILs to spread intolerance and animosity, masking it as public interest. The uncontrolled abuse of this system has resulted in a decrease in its credibility, despite its history of producing groundbreaking court rulings.

Frivolous litigation cases often referred to as "publicity interest" or "political interest" litigations, have seen an increase owing to the lack of a concrete mechanism to separate them from legitimate ones. Curbing this vicious cycle is being entrusted upon the moral conscience of the litigants by the courts. These baseless petitions not only burden the judiciary but also adversely impact the public trust in the legal process. Judges, even if dismissing such a plea, need to initiate proceedings that take up considerable time for reviewing the petition and hearing the petitioner.

With great care and caution, Public Interest Litigation has been regarded as a powerful tool. The Judiciary is mindful of the need to remain vigilant to ensure the appearance of unsightly personal vendettas and self-serving goals are not disguised behind the facade of noble public interest litigation.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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