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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.

Key Points

  • About:
    • 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.
  • Significance:
    • 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.
  • Issues:
    • Misuse:
      • 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.
    • Procrastination:
      • 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.

Way Forward

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.

Source: IE

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