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India's First PIL: Hussainara Khatoon v/s Home Secretary, State Of Bihar

The public interest litigation or the PIL is not defined in our constitution or statute. It was the interpretation of the judiciary itself. Public interest means anything for the benefit or advantage of the community as a whole, and litigation implies the process of taking action in a court of law with the object of enforcing a right or seeking any kind of remedy.

In the sum of everything, that means any matter where the public's interest at large is affected and can be rectified by filing public interest litigation in a court of law in issues related to social and economic justice, fundamental rights, road safety, so on.

The concept of PIL evolved in American jurisprudence in the 1960s. India also borrowed from the USA, giving rights and representation to unrepresented groups and vulnerable groups of society. In the Indian context, PIL evolves as one of the methods to safeguard the public's interest by Justice B.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer were the first judges who admitted PILs in court.

Any citizen can file PIL under:
  • Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the apex court (When your fundamental rights have been violated)
  • Article 226 of the Indian constitution, in the high court (when your Fundament and constitutional rights have been violated)
  • Section 133 of criminal procedure code, in a magistrate's court (Conditional order for removal of a nuisance)
The first-ever public interest litigation was filled by Pushpa Kapila Hingorani and her husband in the case of Hussainara Khatoon, and she is regarded as 'the mother of public interest litigation in India'.

Case Law
Petitioner name- Hussainara Khatoon Ors.v/s Defendant name- State of Bihar.
Date- 9 March 1979. - Court- Supreme court of India.
Bench- Divisional Bench.
Members of the Bar- Justice Krishna Iyer and justice Pathak. Citation- 1979 AIR 1369.

Facts Of The Case:
A Writ petition was filled by Hingorani for Habeas Corpus in Supreme court under Article 32 for releasing 17 under-trial prisoners in the Bihar jail. After this, the Bihar government was instructed to divide under-trial prisoners into two broad categories such as charges with minor offences and charges with major offences. The writ of Habeas Corpus is instituted to protect the person from unlawful incarceration.

A remarkable number of prisoners, including men, women and children, were kept behind bars, and they waited for their trial to state some of them who committed trivial offences completed the span of punishment then and there. The reports of the Bihar Government shows that many prisoners that were held in the central jails of Ranchi, Patna, Muzaffarpur as an under-trial their release have regularly proceeded before magistrates, and they all have been remanded judicial custody to justify their point they said 10% of cases were pending as we need experts' advice on those matters. All the arguments were found unsatisfactory by the supreme court, and they ordered to release of 17 under-trial prisoners.

  1. Can the court enforce the provision of free legal aid (Article 39 A)?
  2. Is the right to speedy trial considered as a part of Article 21?

The apex court held that the detention of these prisoners was illegal. Under Article 21 (Right to life and liberty), everybody has the right to a speedy trial as it ultimately violates Fundamental Rights. Further, the apex court ordered the state government to appoint a lawyer at its own cost when offences are bailable.

The state government and high court were required to furnish details of pendency of court and location in the court of magistrate and court of sessions and explain the reasons for the delay in cases.

The apex court understood the insensitivity of our legal system poor people have to face because of lack of resources and money. Eventually, the government is depriving them of 'access to justice. Justice Bhagwati said the state government could not deny access to justice just based on lack of availability of resources.

The right to life and liberty is violated when the accused is not provided with a speedy trial, just trial article 39A fundamental directive principle provides free legal justice regardless of their economic and other disabilities.

After this case, we understood public interest litigation is one of the effective methods to delivering justice to those who cannot afford it by themselves. In our legal system lawyers, legal scholars paid more attention to expanding the scope of PIL. As an achievement of this case that 40,000 under-trial prisoners were released from jail, and some got fast track hearings.

Though the right to a speedy trial is one of the constitution's fundamental rights, the case still depicts the violation of the same. Moreover, every citizen has to be vigilant of their rights because Vigilantibus non Dormientibus Jura Subverilunt means the law assists those who are observant of their rights and not those who sleep over it.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Gauri Sharma
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: AU223357648673-21-0822

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