Public Interest Litigation

  • Product of the judicial activism role of the Supreme Court
  • 1980- Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwati
  • Social Action Litigation (SAL), Social Interest Litigation (SIL) and Class Action Litigation (CAL)
  • any public-spirited citizen or a social organisation can move the court for the enforcement of the rights of any person or group of persons who because of their poverty or ignorance or socially or economically disadvantaged position are themselves unable to approach the court for the remedies Public Interest litigation (PIL)
  • any member of the public having ‘sufficient interest’ can approach the court for enforcing the rights of other persons and redressal of a common grievance
  • The Supreme Court has defined the PIL as “a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or a class of the community have pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.”
  • absolutely necessary for maintaining the rule of law, furthering the cause of justice and accelerating the pace of realization of the constitutional objectives

Features of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

  • strategic arm of the legal aid movement and is intended to bring justice
  • totally different kind of litigation from the ordinary traditional litigation which is essentially of an adversary character
  • intended to promote and vindicate public interest
  • demands that violations of constitutional and legal rights of large numbers of people should not go unnoticed and unredressed
  • co-operative effort on the part of the petitioner, the State or Public Authority, and the Court to secure observance of the constitutional or legal rights
  • redressing public injury, enforcing public duty, protecting social, collective, diffused rights and interests or vindicating public interest
  • role held by the Court is more assertive than in traditional actions; it is creative rather than passive
  • court enjoys a degree of flexibility unknown to the trial of traditional private law litigations
  • procedure adopted by the court it must be procedure known to judicial tenets and characteristics of a judicial proceeding.
  • no determination on adjudication of individual rights

Scope of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

  • Bonded labour matters
  • Neglected children
  • Non-payment of minimum wages to workers and exploitation of casual workers and complaints of violation of Labour Laws
  • Petitions from jails complaining of harassment, for premature release and seeking release after having completed 14 years in jail, death in jail, transfer, release on personal bond, speedy trial as a fundamental right
  • Petitions against police for refusing to register a case, harassment by police and death in police custody
  • Petitions against atrocities on women, in particular harassment of bride, brideburning, rape, murder, kidnapping, etc
  • Petitions complaining of harassment or torture of villagers by co-villagers or by police from persons belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and economically backward classes Petitions pertaining to environmental pollution, disturbance of ecological balance, drugs, food adulteration, maintenance of heritage and culture, antiques, forest and wild life and
    other matters of public importance
  • Petitions from riot-victims
  • Family pension

No Entertained Cases of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

    • Landlord-tenant matters
    • Service matter and those pertaining to pension and gratuity
    • Complaints against Central/ State Government departments and Local Bodies
    • Admission to medical and other educational institution
    • Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Courts and Subordinate Courts

Principles of Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

  • Court in exercise of powers under Articles 32 and 226 can entertain a petition
  • issues of public importance- court treat a letter or a telegram as a PIL & court relaxes the procedural laws and also the law relating to pleadings
  • Whenever injustice is meted out to a large number of people, the court will not hesitate to step in to invoke Articles 14 and 21 as well as the International Conventions on Human Rights
  • common rule of locus standi is relaxed
  • When the Court is prima facie satisfied about violation of any constitutional right it may not allow the State or the Government from raising the question as to the maintainability of the petition
  • Principles analogous thereto would apply depend on the nature of the petition and also facts and circumstances of the case.
  • dispute between two warring groups purely in the realm of private law would not be allowed to be agitated as PIL
  • in an appropriate case, although the petitioner might have moved a Court in his private interest and for redressal of the personal grievances, the Court in furtherance of the public interest may treat it necessary to enquire into the state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice
  • Court in special situations may appoint Commission or other bodies for the purpose of investigating into the allegations and finding out facts
  • Court will not ordinarily transgress into a policy
  • Court would ordinarily not step out of the known areas of judicial review
  • The High Court although may pass an order for doing complete justice to the parties, it does not have a power akin to Article 142 of the Constitution of India.
  • High Court should not entertain a writ petition by way of PIL questioning constitutionality or validity of a statute or a statutory rule

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