Public Interest Litigation
- 04 Oct 2021
- 4 min read
Why in News
The Supreme Court (SC) scolded a petitioner for filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) without adequate research.
- Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is the use of the law to advance human rights and equality, or raise issues of broad public concern.
- The concept of “Public Interest Litigation” has been borrowed from the American Jurisprudence.
- In Indian law, PIL means litigation for the protection of Public Interest. It is Litigation introduced in a court of Law, not by the aggrieved party but by the court itself or by any other private party.
- It is the power given to the public by courts through Judicial activism.
- It can be filed only in the Supreme Court or the High Court.
- It is different from Writ Petition, which is filed by individuals or institutions for their own benefit, whereas PIL is filed for the benefit of the general public.
- The concept of PIL is suited to the Principles enshrined in Article 39 A of the Constitution of India to protect and deliver prompt Social Justice with the help of Law.
- Areas where PIL can be filed: Pollution, Terrorism, Road safety, Constructional hazards etc.
- PIL is an important instrument of social change and for maintaining the Rule of law and accelerating the balance between law and justice.
- The original purpose of PILs have been to make justice accessible to the poor and the marginalised. It democratises the access of justice to all.
- It helps in judicial monitoring of state institutions like prisons, asylums, protective homes, etc.
- It is an important tool for implementing the concept of judicial review.
- The number of cases pending in courts is already high, and the misuse of PILs is increasing.
- In 2010, the SC had expressed considerable displeasure over PILs involving personal or irrelevant cases and issued certain guidelines to the courts for accepting PILs.
- Conundrum of Competing Rights:
- PIL actions may sometimes give rise to the problem of competing rights.
- For instance, when a court orders the closure of a polluting industry, the interests of the workmen and their families who are deprived of their livelihood may not be taken into account by the court.
- PIL matters concerning the exploited and disadvantaged groups are pending for many years.
- Inordinate delays in the disposal of PIL cases may render many leading judgments merely of academic value.
- Judicial Overreach:
- Cases of Judicial Overreach by the Judiciary in the process of solving socio-economic or environmental problems can take place through the PILs.
Former Attorney General Soli Sorabji opinions 3 basic rules for regulating abuse of PIL:
- Reject dubious PIL at the threshold and in appropriate cases with exemplary costs.
- In cases where important project or socio economic regulations are challenged after gross delay, such petitions should be thrown out the very threshold on the ground of latches. Just because a petition is termed as PIL does not mean that ordinary principles applicable to litigation will not apply.
- PIL petitioners should be in strict terms such as providing indemnity or giving an adequate undertaking to the court to make good the damage, if PIL is ultimately dismissed.