Public interest Litigation one of the important topic in the legal field. any
one who wants to get justice but didnít have a proper means to move into the
court for protecting his fundamental right can opt for the same . Generally
public interest litigation filed before the court in order to protect the
interest of public in general means which affect the people at large.
Now when we are talking about public interest litigation we have to know that
every thing have some pros and cons and in this article we try to analyze that
what basically object of public interest litigation is it really working as a
helpful tool or not?
What is meaning of public interest litigation?
Basically there is no specific definition for public interest litigation whole
thing work by the interpretation from the different judgment but here in a
general we can termed it as power given to the public to represent the problem
which was breaching there fundamental rights .The main and only focus of the
public interest litigation is on protection of public interest. There was many
problems which are harming the fundamental rights of a public at a large the
main aim of the PIL is to safeguard the right of the minority and the person who
didnít have a means to represent themselves in a normal litigation.
History of public interest litigation
The term public interest litigation was originated in united states in mid 1980
the demand for the putting in environmental and other issues related with the
public at large in the frontline start from the USA everyone is concerned about
the present scenario but not everyone known to a way or in some case they didnít
have a resources to represent themselves in a court that will be a real problem
and to tackle the same the demand for the public interest litigation has started
in a USA. The first legal aid office was established in 1976 in New York.
In India the PIL was first reported in 1976 in case of Hussainara khatoon vs State
of Bihar which leads to release of more than 40000 prisoners.
The brief explanation of public interest litigation was given in case of SP gupta v/s UOI in which it was briefly explained by P.N bhagwati that the court
have to take cognizance even of the letter acting pro bono publico every
citizen has a right to to move the court against the public authority under art
32 in case of supreme court & art art 226 in case of high court.
The main contribution in field of PIL was recognized by M.C Mehta he worked a
lot in filed of PIL specially the environmental one.
Who can file PIL and against whom?
Anyone can file public interest litigation in India but the main point here is
that the public interest litigation have to be with the aim of benefit of a
public at a large there didnít have to be any private interest related to it .
which means that if there is only one person getting affected by the act that is
not the ground for filing the public interest litigation even a foreigner can
file a public interest litigation but there have to be a benefit of community
linked to it.
M.C Mehta & Machilipatnam are some of the powerful names that have a impact in
the field of public interest litigation there is a lot issues that are affecting
public at large which was raised by them some of them are Bhopal gas leak which
led to change in the system and also the taj trapezium.
Against whom the PIL can be filed?
Now the interesting part on whom the individual can file PIL the answer is
generally public official but in some cases the person can also file PIL against
private person but it have to be with prior concerned to authorities if there is
no prior than the case can be only against the government.
For ex- If there is a private factory in Delhi , which is causing pollution than
against whom the public interest litigation can be filed.
- Government of Delhi
- State pollution control board
- Also against the private factory with prior concerned of the
So one thing that from above we have to keep in mind is that generally there
is no PIL against the private authority but it can be where there is prior
concerned of authorities.
How to file a PIL
The PIL can be filed just like the normal writ petition there is a two option
with the man to either file the PIL in the high court or in supreme court in
case of high court the person have to file two copies and advance copy to every
respondent in case of supreme court it have to file 5 sets of petition copy to
respondent can be only served after the notice from the court . 50 rs court fee
has to be affixed with petition to each respondent.
These are some of the rules that have to be followed in order to file a PIL the
procedure for the same is that when the court take cognizance of offence the
judge appoint the commissioner to inspect allegations and after the opposite
parties file the replies final hearing take place .
Can a writ petition & letter can be treated as a PIL?
In case of writ petition yes but it have to follow the following requirements
that it have to be there for the public at a large and also there should be a
specific prayer asking the court to direct the state authorities to take note of
And in case of letter it start taking place in early 90s when judges start
treating post as PIL .when the court found that there is serious breach of the
fundamental rights than they can treat letter as a PIL.
Misuse of Public interest litigation:
There is serious concern about the misuse of the public interest litigation as
the public interest litigation came into light the people start exploiting it
as we all know that there is no general definition of public interest litigation
people are using in a way they like. There is a lot of cases in which people
just file a public interest litigation for there private benefits and also
just to get some limelight . Here we will discuss about some cases which sets
the guidelines for filing the Public interest litigation Ė
Chhetriya Pardushan Mukti v/s State Of U.P And Ors on 13 August, 1990
Equivalent citations: 1990 AIR 2060, 1990 SCR (3) 739
In this case it was observed by the court that the PIL filed by the said NGO was
due to rivalry between the organsiation and the mill there is no real intention
behind the PIL to safeguard the rights of the public . Therefore it was laid
down by the court that there have to be real intention for filing the public
In the case of S.P GUPTA VS UOI there is some guidelines set by P.N bhagwati for
protecting the misuse of PIL which was that there was no PIL in case of socio
economic crime also no PIL will be filed in case of offence against women.
Some important precedents:
Sanganmal Panday v/s state of UP
In this case it was construction going on from jail road to kanshiram and the
court stayed the construction activity because the PIL was filed for the same
that this construction is affecting the green belt the apex court rejected his
plea allowing to file the same in high court.
S.P Gupta Vs UOI:
In case of sp gupta vs uoi the concept of public interest litigation has been
defined in Indian context before 1980s only aggrieved party can come to the
court for justice it was P.N bhagwati who first recognized PIL in Indian context.
Shri D.K. Basu, Ashok K. Johri v/s State Of West Bengal, State Of U.P on
18 December, 1996
In this case the court take cognizance of offence by the letter in which it was
mentioned about the custodial deaths in west Bengal the court in this PIL
mandate that a relative of arrest have to be notified.
So from the above analysis we can conclude that PIL is the tool which can easily
bring any case in eyes of law without proper litigation process and cost it has
some boons which was cured by the court but there was still some loopholes on
which court have to work so that there is no misuse of Public Interest
Litigation by any means.
It is a best means to bringing the various issues in front of court also in
some cases the court can take congnicance suo moto so that the people didnít get
barred from the justice on the basis of financial or any kind of backwardness.
Authentication No: JL30528111162-19-720