(Indian Polity) THE JUDICIARY - Public Interest Litigation (PIL)


Public Interest Litigation (PIL)http://www.iasplanner.com/civilservices/images/indian-polity.png

The majority of the people of our Country are Subjected to this denial of ‘access to justice’ and overtaken by despair and helplessness, they continue to remain victims of an exploitative Society where economic power is Concerntrated in the hands of a few and it is used for perpetuation of domination over large masses of human beings. The strategy of public interest litigation has been evolved by this Court with a view to bringing justice within the easy reach of the poor and disadvantaged sections of the Community.” CJI P. N. Bhagwati in Bihar Legal Support Society vs. The Chief Justice of India & Ors, 1986.

Concept of PIL

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is one of the most potent weapons, the Judiciary in India has acquired in recent times in order to enforce the legal obligation of the executive and the legislative. Its objective is to render justice and help in promotion of the Well-being of the People. It Can be defined as litigation involved in the protection of the interests of the public at large. It is generally used to protect group interest and not individual interest, for which Fundamental Rights have been provided. The right to issue PIL is available to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The concept of the PIL has emanated from the power of judicial review of the Constitution. The relief provided by the Court is usually in the form of direction or order to the State including Compensation to the affected parties.

In 1981 Justice P. N. Bhagwati in S. P. Gupta v. Union of India, firmly established the Validity of the Public interest litigation as follows, “where a legal wrong or a legal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate Class of persons by reason of violation of constitutional or legal right of any burden is imposed.. and such person or economically disadvantaged position unable to approach the Court for relief, any member of public Can maintain an application for an appropriate direction, order or writ in the. Courts to seek Judicial redress, Since then, through its Various rulings, the Supreme Court has evolved rules related to the IPL.

Through the Concept of PIL, the traditional rule of “locus Standi” that a person, whose right is infringed alone Can file a petition; has been Considerably relaxed by the Supreme Court. Now, the Court permits Public interest litigation at the instance of the So Called “public spirited citizens” for the enforcement of Constitutional and Legal rights.

Now, any Public spirited citizen or organization can move the Court for the Public Cause by filling a petition:

  • In the Supreme Court Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
  • In the High Court Under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
  • In the Court of Magistrate Under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • The Supreme Court has also taken action on the basis of letters received from aggrieved persons, journalists, lawyers and Social workers and even on the basis of newspaper repots.


PIL has succeeded in its original purpose of reaching the helpless. Judiciary has taken up number Social issues though PIL. Under PIL, the rights of under trials held under illegal detention have been restored. The Supreme Court ordered the release of many detenues without trial on the ground of their personal liberty, which Could not be Curbed due to Judicial or bureaucratic inefficiency. The Supreme Court has also taken up steps to free bonded labourers, and issues of tribals, slum dwellers, women in rescue homes, Children in juvenile homes, Child labour etc. In Case of environmental pollution and ecological destruction, the Supreme Court has ordered closure of a few factories, banned mining, road Construction, etc. It has enormously increased the awareness among the masses about their rights and the institutional arrangements in the form of the Judiciary to get them implemented. It is said that the PIL, has democratized the Judiciary. Through the PIL, the Supreme Court has Vastly expanded the Scope of the Fundamental Rights, Such as article 21, article 14 etc. It has forced the executive and the legislature to discharge their Constitutional Obligations towards the people.


The principled criticism against Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is that it detracts from the Constitutional principle of ‘Separation of powers’ by allowing the Courts to arbitrarily interfere with Policy-choices made by the legislature and pass orders that may be difficult for the executive agencies to implement. In respect of practical Consideration, the criticism revolves around the behavior of litigants as well as judges. From time to time, it has been urged that the invent of PIL's has opened up the floodgates for frivolous cases that either involve the litigants’ private interests or are vehicles for gaining publicity. Rather than seeking justice for disadvantaged groups. It has also been contended that in efficiency of Courts. From the Standpoint of the judges, it is reasoned that quite often there are no checks against decisions or orders that amount to ‘Judicial overreach’ Or ‘Judicial Populism’.


Public Interest Litigation is effectively serving one of the Purposes of law as an instrument of Social Change. It has been used as a strategy to Combat the atrocities prevailing in Society. The innovation of this legitimate instrument proved beneficial for the developing country like India. It’s an institutional initiative towards the Welfare of the needy Class of the Society. “The advent of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is one of the key Components of the approach of ‘judicial activism’ that is attributed to the higher Judiciary in India. The Courts interventions have played a pivotal role in advancing the protection of Civil liberties, the rights of workers, gender justice, accountability of public, institutions, environmental Conservation and the guarantee of Socioeconomic entitlements such as housing, health and education among others. This has not only Strengthened the position of the judiciary vis-à-vis the other wings of government ,but has also raised its prestige among the general populace.


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