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Public Interest Litigation: A Blessing for Society

Each person has an equal claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic rights and liberties -John Rawls

Although Public Interest Litigation does not have a definition in any Acts or any statute. It is the interpretation of the judicial system of India that the intention of Public Interest Litigation (Hereafter mentioned as PIL) is that of public good and to increase the reach of justice to people of India who are experiencing injustice.

As saying of the Great Martin Luther King Jr - Injustice anywhere Is a threat to justice everywhere

In Black’s Law Dictionary - Public interest is defined as:
Public Interest:
Something in which the public, the community at large has something pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything so narrow as mere curiosity, or as the interest of the particular localities, which may be affected by the matters in question. Interest shared by the citizens generally in affair of local, State or national government.

History Of PIL
The first one of many PIL that ever was instituted in India was
  1. Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar (1979 AIR 1369, 1979 SCR (3) 532 Author: P Bhagwati Bench: Bhagwati, P.N.)

    This case was stated to be a landmark case in India in the 1980s where this case brought into light the plight of the undertrial accused. This was a series of the case filed by multiple prisoners and have briefly spoken about the undertrial prisoners being in the prison for a period which is more than what they will get if they have got convicted also.

    This case helped to create a precedent over the speedy trial and equitable justice for the undertrial prisoners. This one has the special place in the list.

    In this case the Court found that the under-trial prisoners whose list was filed before the Court have been in jail for periods longer than the maximum term for which they could have been sentenced if convicted. The Court recognized the callousness of the legal and judicial system and unjustified deprivation of personal liberty.

    As it was the first ever PIL in India. The Supreme Court Bench which was led by P.N Bhagwati And So the result of this Judgement led to the release of more than 40,000 undertrial prisoners.

    And Hence the Movement that led the government to the filling of first ever PIL was started by the Petitioner Hussainara Khatoon

    This PIL made us remember one of the most essential aspect of our life that Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. And the things that matter are Freedom And Equality among many other things.
     
  2. Anil Yadav v. State of Bihar (1982 AIR 1008 1982 SCR (3) 533 1982 SCC (2) 195 ACT: Constitution of India 1950, Art.)
    This extreme case showcased the brutalities that the 33 suspected criminals sustained by being blinded by the police by putting acid into their eyes. All the blinded men were brought to Delhi for medical treatment and the court also ordered speedy prosecution of the guilty policemen. The court also read right to free legal aid as a fundamental right of every accused. Anil Yadav signalled the growth of social activism and investigative litigation.

Pros of PIL
  • PIL when used understanding the importance of it in fighting social economic injustice. But as PIL got its name as being a capable and potent weapon for it being a quintessential tool for when the public is injured as the result of misdeeds caused by any official the public duties could be enforced using PIL, For the Welfare of Society where the weaker sections of the community is benefitted
  • Another major advantage that PIL gives the public seeking right to restore their fundamental right is that it saves time by directing filing directly in High Court under Article 226 and to the Supreme Court under Article 32 instead of going through the tiresome and time consuming as per the hierarchy of the courts.

The above mentioned advantage is possible due to the relaxation of the rule of locus standi by the Supreme Court Of India.
  • The cost of filling a PIL is nominal in nature and therefore any person even from poor background can file a PIL
  • Another important point is that PIL can only be initiated for the benefit of public and not an Individual.
  • Any person irrespective of whether the person is aggrieved person or not can file a PIL

Cons of PIL

PIL has brought a lot of changes in the legal system of India. It has been considered as a successful phenomenon for a couple of decades. But, at present, this concept has started to downfall as it is founded that people are misusing this concept. The main reason for misuse of PIL is the easy working system of it. There are number of demerits of PIL. The very first demerit is that
  • Many frivolous cases has been filed in the name of PIL as it is an easy access to higher courts without investment of heavy court fees.
  • Another demerit is that, PILs have kept the courts busy with number of PIL cases resulting in lack of attention over other litigations.
  • Another point, is that, it has been found out that many people has filed a PIL for their personal gain as it is a cheaper way to seek justice. In the case of Ashok Kumar Pandey v. State of West Bengal11, the court held that if it is found out that the petition filed in the name of PIL, is to foster personal disputes, then the court should dismiss the case.

Misuse of PILs
Lately the many people have found out that PILs can be a useful tool in harassment as any inane and insubstantial case can be filed without incurring any heavy expenses of court fees as required in a private civil litigation. And as the courts have lowered the locus standi any person with privately motivated interest may file a case under pretence of public interest Such misuse of PIL has become more rampant then the original use of the PIL to help benefit the weaker sections of the society But, In recent times the use of PIL has been unprecedented as the covid-19 ravage the world with death and people with horrors of its devastating effects

People with personal agenda’s are thoughtlessly misusing PIL such recent examples are as follow
  1. Tehseen Poonawalla Vs Union Of India And Anr
    The Supreme Court expresses concern over rising incidents of misuse of PILs, says it will decrease judiciary’s efficacy.PIL jurisdiction is being brazenly used by those who have an agenda to settle scores. The true face of the petition is seldom unravelled. It’s a serious concern as frivolous PILs detract court’s time from hearing genuine petitions of personal liberty
     
  2. High Court comes down on 'publicity interest litigations', imposes cost
    A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh said some of these pleas appeared to be filed on ideas which came to the petitioners' minds while having tea or walking on the road.

    Chai peete peete idea aaya toh socha file karo PIL (while having tea you had an idea and decided to file a PIL). That is not how it is done. You may have an idea while walking on the road.

    A plea, by an organisation founded by Delhi University students in 2014, had sought directions to the Delhi government to take an undertaking from patients, who want plasma, that they will donate plasma once they recover from COVID-19 and that too within 14 to 28 days after testing negative.

    The court dismissed the plea by Think Act Rise Foundation with costs of Rs 10,000 saying it cannot direct the Delhi government to draft a policy making it compulsory for patients to donate plasma once they recover from COVID-19."The bench said the plea appeared to be a publicity interest litigation".
     
  3. Misuse of PIL at Himachal High Court
    "The Attractive Brand Name Of Public Interest Litigation Can't Be Used For Suspicious Products Of Mischief": Himachal High Court

    "Time has come to weed out the petitions, which though titled as public interest litigations are in essence something else," observed the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Thursday while expressing shock as to the number of frivolous petitions being filed before it under the garb of public interest.
     
  4. Raunaq International Limited v/s IVR Construction Ltd
    Justice Sujata V Manohar rightly enunciated that - when a stay order is obtained at the instance of a private party or even at the instance of a body litigating in public interest, any interim order which stops the project from proceeding further must provide for the reimbursement of costs to the public in case ultimately the litigation started by such an individual or body fails. In other words the public must be compensated both for the delay in the implementation of the project and the cost escalation resulting from such delay.

    Though PIL has served its best to safeguard the interest of the public, it is now being misused and if not steps taken, then the mere purpose of implementing this doctrine, would be unproductive.

GUIDELINES TO PREVENT MISUSE OF PIL:
The number of cases in which the misuse of PIL has be identified has reached its peak and so the Supreme Court has bothered to interfere with this issue and has framed guidelines which are to be followed by all the subordinate courts before entertaining a PIL petition. The guidelines are the outcome of the case State of Uttaranchal vs. Balwant Singh Chaufal.12 The guidelines stated in this case are as follows:
  1. The PIL should be genuine and bonafide
  2. Each High Court should formulate rules for encouraging genuine PILs and discourage PILs having malicious object.
  3. The court should, at the very beginning verify the credentials of the PIL before entertaining it.
  4. The court should be satisfied with the credentials of the PIL before accepting the PIL.
  5. The court should also ensure that the PIL placed before it involves a public interest or not.
  6. The courts should give priority to those PIL having larger public interest, gravity and urgency over other PILs.
  7. The court should also ensure that the PIL redresses a genuine public injury and no personal benefits.
  8. The court should further ensure that the PIL carrying ulterior motives should be disposed of with costs

Some Recent cases relating PIL
Satyam Dubey v. Union of India 2020 ( Hathras Rape Case)
On 14 September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, India, allegedly by four upper caste men. After fighting for her life for two weeks, she died in a Delhi hospital.

One accused had tried to kill her, though later in her statement to the magistrate, the victim named four accused as having raped her.[7] The victim's brother claimed that no arrests were made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. After her death, the victim was forcibly cremated by the police without the consent of her family, a claim denied by the police. The accused Sandip Thakur, Ramu Thakur, Lavkush Thakur and Ravi Thakur were convicted of charges of attempt to murder, gang rape[3] and violations of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Ajay Kumar Singh v. Union Of India 2020
The petition filed by one Ajay Kumar Singh said meesho.com, glowroad.com, shop101.com were violating the explicit provisions of law and facilitating sellers and resellers to violate the same. The plea claimed that the products were offered for sale without adequate disclosure of information to customers as per law.

Kinner Maa EkSamajik Sanstha Trust v. Union of India & Ors
A plea seeking constitution of ‘Transgender Person Welfare Board’ and 'standing committees', issued notice to the respondents. The plea is going to heard by the Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian.

The present PIL has been moved before the Supreme Court, pointing out glaring defects in the 2019 Act passed to protect Transgender Rights and further seek a writ to constitute ‘Transgender Person Welfare Board’ to address community specific-issues.

It also seeks to appoint a Standing Committee comprising of Station House Officers, Human Rights and Social Activists, to promptly investigate reports of gross abuses by the police against Transgender persons.

Conclusion
PIL as a initiative for welfare and benefiting the weaker sections of society has working for bringing about the change in society and its orthodox norms. From the time it was first introduced in 1979 to this 21st century of 2021 we can say PIL has brought the change which it meant to bring. PIL is the power given by the Courts to public to benefit itself for its own good It has not only helped to fight many atrocities in India using It as tool for justice Many such examples of injustice being corrected through the way of PIL such as NAlSA Vs Union of India in which the courts recognised the rights of the third gender or the transgender and also ordered the government to treat them as minorities which meant they would receive reservations in jobs, education and other amenities shall also be provided to them another such important PIL was that of Parmanand Katara Vs Union of India in this case the court said that the ultimate goal of the hospital should be saving a life and not escaping troubles.

The court gave complete freedom on hospitals to attend an emergency case that comes to them without worrying about legal troubles, But the ultimate result of this Landmark PIL was that it saved numerous lives.

Many such examples can be given which have not only improved but helped the weaker sections to transverse into a better society. And so I think it would be appropriate to conclude by quoting the PIL Pioneer Justice PN Bhagwati

The court has to innovate new methods and strategies to provide access to justice to large masses of people who are denied basic human rights, to whom freedom and liberty have no meaning

Further, it can be said that in future the deficiencies that the PIL may see can be removed by introducing and producing with innovation new and sophisticated techniques The essence of PIL can be said that it has created a new technique for overseeing the accountability of the state for violations of legal and constitutional nature which result in negatively affecting the interests of the weaker sections of society.

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