Competitive Exams: Political Science Study Material Public Interest Litigation

Public Interest Litigation

  • 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 Legislature.

  • Its objective is to render justice and help in promotion of the well-being of the people. It can be defined as a litigation involved in the protection of the interests of the public at large.

  • It is generally used to protect group interests and not individual interests, for which the Fundamental Rights have been provided.

  • The right to issue PIL is available to the Supreme Court and the High Courts only.

  • The concept of the PIL, having its origin in Australia, has emanated from the power of Judicial Review of the Constitution.

  • The Supreme Court through its various rulings has evolved rules related to the PIL.

  • A PIL can be filed by any publicly spirited individual or organisation.

  • Even a post-card can be treated as a writ petition.

  • The relief provided by the Court is usually in the form of direction or order to the State including compensation to the affected parties.

  • However, the PIL is not without criticism-It is said that it has interfered with the normal judicial function of the Courts. Also, it has led to frivolous litigations filed merely to get certain things delayed.

  • There should be no legislative interference in the PIL to regulate it.

  • The Supreme Court on March 12, 1997, in an oral observation, said that the PIL should be supported by an affidavit sworn by the one who has personal knowledge of the facts mentioned in the petition, while entertaining the PIL petition made against the (then) proposed Yanni concert at the Taj Mahal.

PIL Purpose

The PIL has served four important purposes:

  1. 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.

  2. Through the PIL, the Supreme Court has vastly expanded the scope of the Fundamental Rights by liberally interpreting Arts. 32 and 226.

  3. It has forced the Executive and the Legislature to discharge their Constitutional obligations towards the people.

  4. It has made an attempt to provide a corruption-free administration and a liveable environment to the public.

Code of Ethics

Instead, the Judiciary should evolve its own code of ethics while dealing with the PIL.

  1. A screening committee can be appointed by the Judiciary to study the PILs, which can submit a report to save time.

  2. The Judiciary may also impose fines for filing frivolous PILs.

  3. The Court may also make liberal use of amicus curie ( ‘Friend of the Court’ ) in disposing the PILs more effectively.

  4. The litigants, must be, as a general rule, made to provide the proof of the allegation made in the petition.

42nd Amendment Act, 1976

  • Equal opportunity for justice and free legal aid.

  • To protect the environment, forests and wildlife.

  • Right of workers to participate in management of industries.

  • To protect children against exploitation and to provide opportunities for their healthy development in conditions of freedom and dignity.

44th Amendment Act, 1978

  • State shall minimize inequality in income, status, facilities and opportunities among individuals and groups [Art. 38 (2) ].

86th Amendment Act 2002

  • The State shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years [Art. 45]