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Analysis Of PIL And It's Usage In Indian Judicial System

There is no doubt that the concept of PIL has been enormously successful in allowing previously unheard voices to be heard on the path to justice. So, let's learn more about the PIL concept and how it operates.

Litigation in the public interest is litigation in the interest of the public or to preserve the public's interests. We can say, in a general sense, that it is litigation that can be filed in any court of law by any member of the public who is interested, and especially by anyone who fails to approach the court.

In addition, an act of public interest is defined as "when an act is performed with the intention to protect or benefit the public." Such as addressing pollution, road safety, terrorism, and industrial safety, among others. Public Interest Litigation is a term that is not defined by any statute or law, but it has been interpreted by the justices and is nearly identical to the writs available under Article 226 and Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.

Meaning of Public Interest Litigation:

The term "public interest litigation," or "PIL," refers to a kind of judicial proceeding in which a person or a group of people may petition the court to address a problem that affects the general public. Public benefit Litigation (PIL) is a legal action that is brought not for the purpose of financial gain but rather for the benefit of the general public. Its goal is to promote and safeguard the rights of the people.

PIL is a potent instrument for social justice, and it is used to solve problems that impact a significant portion of society. PIL has been effectively used in a number of sectors, including anti-corruption efforts, the protection of consumers' rights, environmental protection, and the rights of members of marginalized populations. Even though a PIL may be submitted to any court, the High Court and the Supreme Court receive the vast majority of these petitions.

PIL was first implemented for the first time in India in the 1980s, and since then, it has been adopted by a number of nations all over the globe. PIL's fundamental purpose is to guarantee that the people whom the government and its agencies are supposed to serve are able to hold them responsible for their actions. The common people are given the opportunity to take part in the process of government and to hold those in authority responsible for the activities they do via this medium.

Where can a PIL be filled:

It is important to be aware of the appropriate channels via which a person might pursue legal recourse in order to protect his or her rights. As was said before, a PIL is comparable to a writ; hence, a PIL may be filed with either the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the Constitution of India specifies in Articles 226 and 32 respectively.

In addition, a PIL application may be submitted to the Magistrate's Court in accordance with Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

It is essential to keep in mind that we may file a petition with the Supreme Court in accordance with Article 32 only in the event that any Fundamental Right has been broken, and not in the event that any other right has been violated. However, if a person wishes to approach for not just Fundamental right but also some other fundamental rights that are accessible, the nature of the case would be considered.

PILs that only impact a limited number of persons may be brought before the High Court under Article 226, the same provision that governs cases brought before that court.

An example of this would be an issue with the neighborhood's street lights that affects fifty to sixty homes; in situations like these, it is best to go to the High Court. If a significant number of individuals have been harmed as a result of actions taken by either the state government or the central government, then the matter may be brought before the Supreme Court.

Who can file a PIL?

It is vital that the person filing the PIL should not gain the profit from it, but rather it should be just the public who gets the benefit from it. Any public-spirited individual may submit a PIL in the Court of law; in fact, it can even be a foreigner. However, it is important that the person filing the PIL should not get the benefit from it.

Before submitting a PIL application, there are a few key factors that need to be taken into consideration, and they are as follows:
  • He must be a member of the general public who is genuinely interested in the matter.
  • The pursuit of personal wealth is not what drives him to act.

In the case of M.C. Mehta vs. UOI, a company known as Shriram food fertilizers business was a subsidiary of Delhi textile mills limited and produced chlorine and caustic. On December 4th to December 6th, 1985, there was a significant release of oleum gas from the industry. This release led to the deaths of numerous innocent persons, as well as an advocate who was working in the Tis Hazari Court at the time.

The leak occurred as a result of many mechanical and human faults that occurred in the unit. Within the next week, Shriram Fertilizer must remove the chemical from the Delhi area in accordance with the district magistrate's order. M.C. Mehta submitted a public interest litigation (PIL) petition to the Supreme Court in order to get compensation for the persons who have incurred damage as a result of the situation and to urge that the unit be shut down and that permission not be granted to restart it.

An NGO called Banwasi Seva Ashram in the case Banwasi Seva Ashram vs. State of U.P. brought a public interest litigation (PIL) suit against the state of Uttar Pradesh on behalf of the tribal people who lived in the impacted region.

Against whom it can be filled?

After going over the fundamental aspects of the Public Interest Litigation, it is very essential to be aware of the parties that a person might file a complaint against. Therefore, the answer to the issue is that a public interest lawsuit (PIL) may be filed in a court of law against the state government, the central government, or any municipality.

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition may also be submitted by a private party if that party is a respondent in the dispute after the State or Central government has been consulted.

In the event that a private company is the source of pollution, those who are adversely impacted by the circumstance have the legal right to file a PIL against both the industry and the relevant state or federal government. In a separate context, a PIL claim cannot be made against the private enterprise for the acts they have committed.

Can a Letter be treated as PIL?

In the beginning, a letter was also regarded to be a PIL by the court in some of the situations when the scenario was not affording a chance for the party to approach the court. In these instances, a PIL may be filed by stating all of the relevant information of the case in the letter.

The roots of this specific concept may be traced back to the landmark case D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal. In that case, a letter placed the attention of the Court on the custodial death that occurred in the court grounds of the state of West Bengal. In addition, one of the responsibilities of the police authority is to tell the accused person's family members or other relatives about the arrest. If this duty is not fulfilled, the failure of the police authority would be considered a contempt of court.

In another important case, Hindustan Times v. Central Pollution Board, the court interpreted a section of a newspaper as a public interest litigation (PIL) petition.

Process to Follow When Filing a PIL

The process for submitting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is straightforward and very comparable to that of submitting a writ to the High Court or the Supreme Court. When it comes to submitting a PIL, one needs to do a significant amount of study. The next step is to compile all of the pertinent information and papers that are necessary for the PIL file.

Before the High Court

When a petition for public interest litigation (PIL) is presented to the High Court, both an original and a copy of the petition must be provided. Additionally, the respondent is required to be given a copy of the petition in advance of the hearing. In addition, evidence proving the delivery of copies should be provided to the petition.

Before the Supreme Court:

When a petition for public interest litigation (PIL) is presented to the Supreme Court, all five copies of the petition must be provided. Additionally, when notice is served from the Court, copies must be supplied to the opposing parties.

The Court Fee Is:

A PIL in and of itself is a highly cost-effective solution in comparison to other problems. Each respondent is responsible for paying a court fee of Rs. 50/-, which must be attached to the petition.

Impact of the Judiciary on the Growth of PIL:

The evolution of PIL was significantly impacted by the contributions of the Judiciary. The Indian court has, throughout the course of numerous cases, articulated several Indian doctrines and principles. Some examples of these are the Absolute Doctrine in the case of M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and the Public Trust Doctrine in the case of M.C. Mehta vs. Kamal Nath.

In addition, the Supreme Court of India has provided several Guidelines in the majority of instances, including the case of the Taj Trapezium, the case of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, the issue of Ganga pollution, and the case of Ratlam Municipality, amongst many other cases on the list.

Justice P.N. Bhagwati as a result of the ruling that one of the activist judges on the Supreme Court of India made about the legality of public interest litigation in the case of S.P.Gupta vs. Union of India in 1982, also known as the Judges Transfer Case, more individuals are petitioning the Court to hear their public interest litigation cases.

In the seminal case of Vishaka vs. the State of Rajasthan, the victim was not receiving any justice throughout the criminal prosecution, and there were failures to provide meaningful remedies and restore her dignity. A lawyer named Naina Kapoor challenged the practice of sexual harassment in the workplace by submitting a petition to the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in this matter. In addition, a petition for the same reason was sent to the state government in the name of five non-governmental organizations (NGO).

The verdict made it very evident that sexual harassment is a flagrant breach of the basic rights to equality and non-discrimination, as well as the rights to life and liberty, as stated in the ruling. And workers and employers alike are provided with a set of rules and regulations that must be adhered to at all times in the workplace. A revolution has been started as a result of the case, which has characterized the precedent-setting judgement and legacies of PIL.

In the case of Parmanand Katara vs. Union of India, a petition for a writ was submitted to the Supreme Court of India on the basis of a newspaper article that described an incident in which a person riding a scooter was struck by a vehicle and physicians refused to treat him and attend to him. They instructed him to travel to a different hospital that was around 20 kilometers distant from where he was at the time that could handle medico-legal matters. In this particular case, the Supreme Court of the United States set some rules and decided that:

"It is of the utmost significance to take measures to save human life. Every physician has a moral responsibility to try to preserve a patient's life and continue providing care for as long as possible in order to safeguard that patient's life.

In a country like India, the majority of people have had their rights ignored, and with this in mind, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that any person acting bona fide and having the sufficient interest of the public can approach the Court making the grievances or redressal on their part. This is especially true in situations where such a class of people cannot approach the Court due to any disability, poverty, or any other means of similar nature.

In the Judges Transfer Case, the Court determined that:
''Where a legal wrong or a legal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate class of persons by reason of a violation of any constitutional or legal right and such person or determinate class of persons is because of poverty, helplessness, or disability or because they are in a socially or economically disadvantaged position, unable to approach the Court for relief, any member of the public can maintain an application for an appropriate direction, order, or writ,'' according to the rule.

The court found that it was necessary to do so in order to uphold the Rule of Law and to provide justice to those members of society who were at a disadvantage.

An Overview of the Three Stages of Public Interest Litigation:

In India, the PIL has been implemented in three distinct stages, each of which is distinct from the others in certain particulars.

The initial phase
The late 1970s marked the beginning of the first phase, which lasted through the decade of the 1980s. During this stage, the PIL was often submitted by those who had a strong commitment to public services, such as lawyers, journalists, or social activists. for the disadvantaged or less powerful members of society who were unable to get a benefit and thus had to endure injustice on their end. The relief sought was against the violation of Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution.

For this reason, the judiciary made remedies by guiding the government and its agencies to bind with the guidelines and directions made by it. In most cases, the cases involved child labour, bonded labour, women, prisoners, and dwellers, among other groups. In these cases, the relief sought was against the violation of Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Indian constitution. As a result, the adoption of PIL was appropriate and in line with what the people who drafted the constitution anticipated; thus, it fulfilled and recognized the rights of the citizens.

Advance to Stage Two
The 1990s saw the beginning of the second phase of PIL, which included a slightly altered chemical composition in comparison to the prior phase. A considerable number of well-known and highly specialized nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and legal practitioners have said that they routinely submit petitions based on PIL.

The concerns that were brought up or reviewed under PIL were enlarged to include sexual harassment in the workplace, free education for children, environmental degradation, and a government free of corruption. Additionally, the Rule of Law, the establishment of industries, and the activities of those companies were taken into account by the Court.

During this stage of the process, the petitioner not only sought remedies for action or no action of executive's authority, but also against the private entities, and claimed compensation and lasting relief for the difficulties that arose as a result of it. The court came up with a more generally applicable type of remedy for the petitioners, and it did not hesitate to fill the gaps between the activities taken by the legislative and the executive branch.

In addition, the court ordered private parties to compensate individuals who had been wronged, but they did so without addressing the issue of whether or not the state was accountable for the incident. Instead, they focused only on whether or not fundamental rights had been violated. In certain instances, the court also handed down punishments to public workers for failing to carry out their responsibilities, which led to the escalation of the crisis.

During this phase, the abuse of PIL reached a certain level, which prompted the court to impose a fine on the plaintiffs in the event that any misuse of PIL was done by them for the sake of private gain.

Phase Three
The third phase, which is the present phase stated in the 21st century and allows anybody to submit a PIL if they believe that any fundamental rights have been violated. The issued rose has been significantly enlarged, and it now seems that PIL may be created for almost any use. It's possible that the factors of development and the free market will dominate the portion of the third phase of PIL. It demonstrates that the judicial system has protected the rights of the people by acting in accordance with what the people demanded at each given moment in time.

Concerns pertaining to Public Interest Litigation:

It would seem that the improper use of PIL has reached the point where it threatens to obscure the positive aspects of the policy, including the primary reason why PIL was developed in the first place. It is time to take another look at how PIL is being abused in certain contexts. There are a great number of instances in which an abuse of public interest litigation may be clearly portrayed, some of which include the following:

In the case of Subhash Kumar vs. the State of Bihar, the director of the firm sacked parole, and Subhash Kumar then filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the corporation, claiming that the company is engaged in unethical and illegal practices and that it should be punished for these offences. The facts clearly demonstrate the inappropriate use of PIL.

The bench issued a warning to the High Court over the improper use of PIL and said that:

PIL is a weapon that must be used with care and depending on the circumstances, and the judiciary needs to be exceedingly attentive to check if there is no publicity or malicious motive behind the lovely veil of PIL. PIL is a weapon that must be used with care and depending on the circumstances. The court ruled that public interest litigation (PIL) must rectify a public injustice or damage and that there must be no opportunity for notoriety or private interest in connection with it.

In the case of Chhetriya Pradushan sangharsh Samiti vs. the State of U.P., a land was bought from a member of Samiti by Jhunjhunwala mills because of rising prices. The heirs of the land who sold the property requested for it back, and when they did not return it, the heirs began making criminal offence reports against the people who sold the property, claiming that the mill is harming the environment. The Supreme Court reached the conclusion that Samiti had not presented its case with honest intentions, and as a result, the court decided to dismiss the PIL. As a result of a significant number of instances like this, the Supreme Court has provided specific rules surrounding the operation of PIL.

The case was known as S.P.Gupta vs. Union of India. J. Bhagwati outlined a few particular scenarios in which a PIL petition cannot be filed, including the following:

If any individual is involved in socioeconomic crime; and if the infraction is committed against any woman, the perpetrator of the crime is not required to file a PIL.

In the recent past, the court has been presented with a number of instances involving PIL from a variety of different parties. In the year 2008, the Supreme Court of India heard a case called Common Cause (A Regd. Society) vs. Union of India. In this case, a public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed before the Court praying to the Court to enact a road safety Act in relation to various road accidents occurring in Indian society. The Court held that they cannot direct the legislatures to do any act, which shows that the petitioner wants the Court to amend the legislature and perform an act which is not within its

Petitions may be submitted in a number of different ways, including in the form of letters, electronically, and most recently, it is now possible to submit them online or by just sending an email to the Chief Justice of India.

Analysis of PIL with reference to Indian Judicial System:

The term "Public Interest Litigation," or "PIL," refers to a legal system that enables any individual or organization to petition the court on behalf of the general public's best interests. In the 1980s, it originated in India as a method to ensuring that the courts could address concerns of social and economic justice, and its origins may be traced back to that era.

PIL is a vital weapon for the court to use in order to guarantee that the executive and legislative arms of government are accountable to the people. However, there has been a lot of discussion over whether or not PILs are successful and whether or not they are suitable. In the following paragraphs, we shall examine the most important features of PILs in India.

PILs are often started by people or organizations that have some kind of financial or other stake in the outcome of the proposal, which is one of the most significant arguments made against them. Because of this, the court may end up being used as a weapon to further the interests of certain groups, rather than being utilized to serve the general public's best interests.

This is especially the case when public interest litigations (PILs) are started by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), who may have their own agendas and may not reflect the interests of the general public.

This has led to the complaint that PILs may be used as a method of "judicial activism," which is when the courts are regarded as overstepping their duty and intervening in the affairs of the executive and legislative branches of government. As a result of this, the criticism that PILs can be used as a form of "judicial activism" has become more prevalent.

Another criticism of PILs is that they can be time-consuming and expensive. This can result in delays in the delivery of justice, and can also result in a situation where only those who can afford to pursue PILs are able to do so. This can create a situation where the courts are seen as serving the interests of the wealthy, rather than the wider public.

There is also the argument that PILs can be used as a means of harassing the government and public officials. This can result in a situation where public officials are hesitant to take decisions or implement policies, for fear of being targeted by PILs. This can lead to a situation where decision-making is paralyzed, and public policy is not implemented effectively.

Despite these criticisms, there is no doubt that PILs have played an important role in shaping public policy in India. PILs have been instrumental in addressing issues such as corruption, environmental degradation, and the protection of human rights. They have also been used to highlight issues of social and economic inequality, and to bring attention to the needs of marginalized communities.

In recent years, there has been an effort to address some of the criticisms of PILs. For example, the Supreme Court has established guidelines for the filing of PILs, which are aimed at ensuring that PILs are filed only in cases where there is a genuine public interest at stake. The court has also taken steps to ensure that PILs are not used as a means of harassment.

Another criticism of PILs is that they can sometimes be seen as a substitute for the proper functioning of other institutions. PILs should not be the only recourse for citizens to address their grievances or seek justice. The functioning of other institutions such as the legislature, executive, and administrative machinery is crucial in ensuring that public interest is served. If these institutions fail to function effectively, it can result in PILs being used as a substitute for the proper functioning of these institutions, leading to an imbalance in the separation of powers.

Moreover, PILs are often used to address issues that are better left to the discretion of the executive or legislature. This can result in the judiciary interfering in areas where it lacks the necessary expertise or information, and can lead to a situation where the judiciary is seen as overreaching its powers. The judiciary should be cautious in deciding to intervene in areas where the executive and legislature have a legitimate role to play.

However, it is important to note that PILs have played a critical role in advancing the cause of human rights in India. PILs have helped to ensure that marginalized communities have access to justice, and have been instrumental in holding government officials accountable for their actions. PILs have also played a significant role in addressing issues such as gender equality, child rights, and environmental protection.

It is essential to maintain a balance between the need for PILs and the potential for abuse. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to ensure that PILs are filed only in cases where there is a genuine public interest at stake, and not for the benefit of any particular individual or group. The court has also taken steps to ensure that PILs are not used as a means of harassment or to obstruct the functioning of the government.

In conclusion, Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been a significant development in the Indian legal system since its inception in the 1980s. PILs have been instrumental in addressing a range of issues related to social and economic justice, environmental degradation, and the protection of human rights. However, there have been valid criticisms of PILs, including their potential for abuse by those with vested interests and their potential to undermine the functioning of other institutions.

To mitigate these concerns, the judiciary has established guidelines to ensure that PILs are filed only in cases where there is a genuine public interest at stake and have taken steps to prevent PILs from being used as a means of harassment. While there is always room for improvement.
 PILs remain a critical tool for ensuring that the government is accountable to the public and that the interests of marginalized communities are represented in the courts. It is essential to maintain a balance between the need for PILs and the potential for abuse to ensure that PILs continue to serve the public interest in India.

  • Divan, Anil and Rao, G. H. The Supreme Court of India: A Socio-Legal Critique. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Mehta, Pratap Bhanu. "The Transformative Constitution." India Legal, January 2018.
  • Sathe, S.P. Judicial Activism in India: Transgressing Borders and Enforcing Limits. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Aggarwal, Aradhana. "Public Interest Litigation and the Indian Supreme Court: Institutionalizing Dissent." Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 51, no. 2 (2013): 228-249.
  • Baxi, Upendra. "Public Interest Litigation: An Indian Experience." California Western International Law Journal 14, no. 2 (1983): 221-255.
  • Choudhry, Sujit. "The Origins and Evolution of Public Interest Litigation in India." International Journal of Constitutional Law 5, no. 1 (2007): 119-148.
  • Gupta, Aparna. "Public Interest Litigation in India: A Critique." Journal of the Indian Law Institute 44, no. 4 (2002): 491-514.
  • Menon, Nivedita. "Public Interest Litigation and the Shaping of Postcolonial Environmental Governance in India." In Environmental Politics and Governance in the Anthropocene: Institutions and Legitimacy in a Complex World, edited by Philipp Pattberg and Fariborz Zelli, 221-239. Cham: Springer, 2018.
  • Ramanujam, Srinivasan. "Public Interest Litigation and the Indian Judiciary: An Evaluation." Journal of the Indian Law Institute 45, no. 3 (2003): 363-378.

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