What is a Public Interest Litigation?

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This article is written by Shambhavi, a student of Banasthali Vidyapeeth.

Public Interest Litigation or PIL, is a term that was adopted during the era of 1960s social turmoil in the United States. In India, the term Public Interest Litigation was instituted in 1986 by then Chief Justice P.N Bhagwati. He introduced the term to the Indian Judicial System. The main scheme behind adopting this idea was to give the disadvantaged and marginalized citizens ingress to justice. During the era of 1990s, this concept had transmuted the legal landscape all over the country. It is not a very old concept in the Indian Judicial System. The main motive of introducing the concept was to transform society and paves the way or means of social injustices.

Public Interest Litigation is a common concern among citizens in the arrangement and affairs of local, state, and national governments. The term Public Interest litigation mainly refers to a legal action inaugurated in a court for the enforcement of general interest in which public or particular class of the community has pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. In historical times, only those are permitted to move to Supreme Court whose fundamental right being infringed. The participation of the local people can be assured in judicial review of administrative action by this concept of Public Interest Litigation. It plays a vital role in preservice of the rule of law and ensure the accountability and transparency within the structures of governance.

PIL is a highly convincing weapon in the armoury of law for reaching social justice to the common man.  However, with the passage of time, petitions have been filed which attempted to appropriate PIL for corporate gain, political advantage or personal interest. It is an undemocratic, unrealistic and dangerous tendency that is to be impeded by our judicial attitude.

Public Interest Litigation is one of the revolutionary concepts aimed at extending its long arm of sympathy to the poor, the ignorant, the oppressed and the needy whose rights are infringed and whose suffering or grievances go unnoticed, unrepresented and unheard. 

This led to the dismantling of the traditional concept of locus standi and the court could be approached by any person espousing the case of the underprivileged, who were by themselves not in a position to access the courts. 

Public Interest Litigation has seriously reduced the efficiency of the judicial system by detracting from the ability of the court to devote its time and resources to cases that legitimately require attention. As easy access to the higher courts is provided to the people through Public Interest Litigation numerous frivolous cases have been filed. As these cases kept the courts busy it resulted in a lack of attention over other litigations. Many people filed cases for their own personal gain as it is easy as well as cheaper ways to seek justice. Though PIL is a valuable innovative judicial remedy its abuse becomes more rampant than its use. The overstepping of judiciary beyond the boundaries of its jurisdiction adversely affected the credibility of the process and doctrine of Public Interest Litigation as well as the orders of the judiciary which can’t be supervised or implemented effectively.

It also led to the new problem which is unanticipated increase in the workload of the superior courts as well as the lack of infrastructure to determine the factual matter and gap between the promise and reality, abuse of power, friction and confrontation with fellow organs of the government, and dangers inherent in judicial populism.

The Constitution of India doesn’t follow any strict separation of power as it still embodies the doctrine of checks and balances, which even the judiciary should respect but under the guise of redressing public grievances sometimes PIL encroached upon the sphere reserved by the Constitution of India which should not be done by the courts.

The overuse of PIL for every conceivable public interest might dilute the original commitment to use this remedy only for enforcing human rights of the swindled and the disadvantaged groups. If civil society or disadvantaged groups lose optimism in the potency of PIL, that would sound a death knell for it.

Public Interest Litigation or PIL, is a term that was adopted during the era of 1960s social turmoil in the United States. In India, the term Public Interest Litigation was instituted in 1986 by then Chief Justice P.N Bhagwati. He introduced the term to the Indian Judicial System. The main scheme behind adopting this idea was to give the disadvantaged and marginalized citizens ingress to justice. During the era of 1990s, this concept had transmuted the legal landscape all over the country. It is not a very old concept in the Indian Judicial System. The main motive of introducing the concept was to transform society and paves the way or means of social injustices.

Public Interest Litigation is a common concern among citizens in the arrangement and affairs of local, state, and national governments. The term Public Interest litigation mainly refers to a legal action inaugurated in a court for the enforcement of general interest in which public or particular class of the community has pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. In historical times, only those are permitted to move to Supreme Court whose fundamental right being infringed. The participation of the local people can be assured in judicial review of administrative action by this concept of Public Interest Litigation. It plays a vital role in preservice of the rule of law and ensure the accountability and transparency within the structures of governance.

PIL is a highly convincing weapon in the armoury of law for reaching social justice to the common man.  However, with the passage of time, petitions have been filed which attempted to appropriate PIL for corporate gain, political advantage or personal interest. It is an undemocratic, unrealistic and dangerous tendency that is to be impeded by our judicial attitude.

Public Interest Litigation is one of the revolutionary concepts aimed at extending its long arm of sympathy to the poor, the ignorant, the oppressed and the needy whose rights are infringed and whose suffering or grievances go unnoticed, unrepresented and unheard. 

This led to the dismantling of the traditional concept of locus standi and the court could be approached by any person espousing the case of the underprivileged, who were by themselves not in a position to access the courts. 

Public Interest Litigation has seriously reduced the efficiency of the judicial system by detracting from the ability of the court to devote its time and resources to cases that legitimately require attention. As easy access to the higher courts is provided to the people through Public Interest Litigation numerous frivolous cases have been filed. As these cases kept the courts busy it resulted in a lack of attention over other litigations. Many people filed cases for their own personal gain as it is easy as well as cheaper ways to seek justice. Though PIL is a valuable innovative judicial remedy its abuse becomes more rampant than its use. The overstepping of judiciary beyond the boundaries of its jurisdiction adversely affected the credibility of the process and doctrine of Public Interest Litigation as well as the orders of the judiciary which can’t be supervised or implemented effectively.

It also led to the new problem which is unanticipated increase in the workload of the superior courts as well as the lack of infrastructure to determine the factual matter and gap between the promise and reality, abuse of power, friction and confrontation with fellow organs of the government, and dangers inherent in judicial populism.

The Constitution of India doesn’t follow any strict separation of power as it still embodies the doctrine of checks and balances, which even the judiciary should respect but under the guise of redressing public grievances sometimes PIL encroached upon the sphere reserved by the Constitution of India which should not be done by the courts.

The overuse of PIL for every conceivable public interest might dilute the original commitment to use this remedy only for enforcing human rights of the swindled and the disadvantaged groups. If civil society or disadvantaged groups lose optimism in the potency of PIL, that would sound a death knell for it.

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