Public Interest Litigation

This present article is written by Aktha Choudhury during her internship at LeDroit India.


Public Interest means for the Interest of the public and litigation means conduct of lawsuit. It was originated in the USA in the year 1980. Architects of PIL are B.N Bhagabati and Krishna Iyer. PIL is the most potent tool through which judicial activation was actually deployed on the grounds in India.

Public Interest litigation – means conduct of a lawsuit in favour of public interest. It is not for the sake of an individual interest but the sake of the people in society or people in mass. In Hindi, it is called “Janhit yachika”. For example – suppose in the case of child trafficking, selling of girls in foreign countries, the kidnapping of girl child repeatedly done in society – anyone who is a citizen of India can file PIL because of something happening wrong in the society and for the wellbeing of the society, one can do it.
Public Interest Litigation was also known as previously – social action litigation, social interest litigation, class action litigation.
Definition of public Interest litigation in terms of Supreme Court – “Legal action initiated in The court of Law for the enforcement of Public interest on general interest in which the public or a class of the community have Peculiary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected”.

Public Interest litigation was introduced in India due to lack of availability of common public law during 1970, expensive legal fees, lack of proper legal knowledge, and during an emergency. Litigation is a process for handling disputes in the court system, so if a PIL is filed in any court like the Supreme Court or High Court, it becomes an extra judiciary remedy.
PIL is a part of judicial activism, like when anyone files PIL on behalf of social welfare, then the power and activity of judicial increases. It becomes more active than normal day to day routine after PIL came into existence.
Anyone after filing PIL can enforce public Interest-only the High court and Supreme Court deals with PIL or it can be said as PIL can only be filed in High Court or Supreme Court.
PIL helps to create and enforce rights – if the fundamental right is violated. The here judicial process is more democratic – it is so because it applies to the interest of the people at large. Otherwise, generally, it happens like when a case is being filed, there come two parties one is a plaintiff and the other is a defendant. But when a PIL is filed, it may be the case of government sector or the private sector for the interest of the people of society.

Purposes of PIL – The purpose of filing PIL is for the interest of people at large and the benefit of society. But mainly purposes are:-

  1. Rule of Law and order should be maintained.
  2. In society, socially and economically disadvantaged class group’s rights should be secure and safe.
  3. Fundamental rights should be properly realized, if it gets violated in any case then through PIL it can be stopped from doing so.

Process of filing PIL:

Litigation is a process for handling disputes in the court system. Litigation is somehow like contested action where someone else, such as a judge may make the final decision.
When we feel a lack of good guidance, misguided government policies and decisions are hampering the greater common good and creating unacceptable situations related to abuse and violation of human basic rights, social injustice, corruption, etc then the one who is a citizen of India can file PIL in the court of law.
Before filing the PIL in the court, one must take proper guidance and proper advice from a knowledgeable advocate. To know better the procedure of filing PIL. Then comes repetition file, in High Court when PIL is filed, two of its copy is kept with the respondent. But when PIL is filed in SC, there must be 5 copy which has to be submitted in the Supreme Court, and the respondent should not be handed over any of the files until and unless ordered by the Supreme Court.
A recent example of PIL, in Delhi High Court PIL was filed regarding shutting down the liquor shop. This happened because the people were not maintaining proper social distancing as according to the proper guidelines given by the court. This was for the safety of the people at large.
But in case, if you don’t want to hire an advocate and want to agree in person, be better prepared to explain the issue and convince the court in the little time that you are given.
PIL itself is cheap compared to other court cases. One has to pay a court fee of Rs 50/- for each respondent and affix it with the petition.
The difference between writs/PIL is that writs are filed for the sake of their own interest, while PIL is filed for the sake of people in society.

The Supreme Court has issued a set of PIL guidelines according to which the following matters will not be allowed as PILs:
• Landlord-tenant matters.
• Service matters.
• Related matters to the pension of gratuity.
• Cases related to admission to medical and other educational institutions.
• Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Court or Subordinate Courts.
If the question arises – do judges normally admit the PIL? It differs from judge to judge. Henceforth, PILs are handled by the chief justice of the court. The time period is taken for the closure of the case varies. If the matter is of utmost importance about the lives of individuals, human right violation, etc. The court would take up the case immediately. If the case is time-consuming, it may take a year or more.

Importance of PIL:
Tracing the origin and development of PIL in various countries, justice Bhandari said,” The court’s contribution in helping the poorer sections by giving a new definition to life and liberty and in protecting ecology, environment, and the forest is extremely significant”.
While filing a PIL, it is not necessary to appoint an advocate. Though it comes with a set of challenges, the person should have the knowledge and capacity to convince the court.
In normal case-filing, there is a requirement of an advocate. In filing a PIL, there is a requirement for an awakening citizen who is aware of all the wrong things happening in society. Here in the case of PIL, the” Locus stands” concept is not at all accepted.

PIL can be filed for the following:-

  1. If anything wrong happened to the orphan child socially or in society.
  2. If worked done by the bonded labour for a long time ( many years) without any payment.
  3. A prisoner who has been kept in imprisonment although his years of confinement is over.
  4. People working in an unorganized sector where illegal work is done.
  5. If a girl is forced for marriage or has been raped/murdered/tortured for dowry, then a PIL can be filed against the culprit.
  6. If anything wrong happened to the SC/ST/economically backward classes.

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