Public Interest Litigation

Context : A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitioner in the Supreme Court barely escaped having to pay ₹18 lakh for indulging in a “luxury litigation”.

About Public Interest Litigation

  • Public Interest Litigation (PIL), means a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or class of the community have pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.”
  • Public Interest Litigation’s explicit purpose is to alienate the suffering off all those who have borne the burnt of insensitive treatment at the hands of fellow human being. Transparency in public life & fair judicial action are the right answer to check increasing menace of violation of legal rights. Traditional rule was that the right to move the Supreme Court is only available to those whose fundamental rights are infringed.
  • PIL has not been defined in any Indian statute. However, Courts have interpreted and defined PIL. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has, in the case of Janata Dal v. H.S.Chaudhary, held that lexically, the expression ‘PIL’  means a legal action started in a court of law for the enforcement of public/general interest where the public or a particular class of the public some interest (including pecuniary interest) that affects their legal rights or liabilities.
  • PILs are considered to be the most effective as well as the most commonly used judicial tool to safeguard the environment due to their many advantages including but not limited to speedy results, nominal court fees, relaxed procedural rules and the wide variety of investigative techniques available to courts like special committees.

Who can file a PIL

  • Any individual or organisation can file a PIL either in his/her/their own standing i.e. to protect or enforce a right owed to him/her/them by the government or on behalf of a section of society who is disadvantaged or oppressed and is not able to enforce their own rights.
  • However, only a person acting in good faith and who has sufficient interest in the proceeding will have the locus standi to file a PIL.
  • A person who approaches the Hon’ble Court for personal gain, private profit, political or any oblique consideration will not be entertained. Suo moto cognizance may also be taken by the Court.

Legality of PIL

  • PILs are extensions of Writ Jurisdiction. Therefore, PILs may be filed either before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution or any High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
  • However, even a simple letter or a postcard addressed to the Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justice of a High Court may suffice. The court may then choose to take cognizance of the letter and convert it into a PIL.

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