PIL – Public Interest Litigation
What is PIL?
Public interest litigation is when the law is used to improve human rights and equality or to bring up issues that are important to a large number of people. It helps groups or people who are different or who don’t have as much going for them.
Cases of public interest can come up in both public and private law. Public law is about the different rules and laws that govern how public bodies use their power. Private law is the part of the law that deals with things that don’t involve the government. It can be found in areas like employment law and family law.
Most of the time, judicial review is used to challenge the decisions of public authorities when there is a case of public interest. A judicial review is a type of court case in which a judge checks to see if a public body’s decision, action, or lack of action was legal. Judicial review is concerned with whether the law has been correctly applied, and the right procedures have been followed. See our guide for more information about judicial review and how to file a judicial review challenge.
What PIL is used for?
- PIL is a process that takes into account the people of the country and encourages the public to take part in judicial review of regulatory actions. This makes the judicial system more democratic.
- Its main goal is to protect the people of the country by taking legal action on their behalf and to help minorities and other people or groups who have been left out.
- Instead of affecting a specific person, it gives regular people access to the law so they can get legal help for a more serious problem that affects a large number of people or has a wider public interest.
- For your own good, you might not want to talk about it. If the court thinks the PIL is important to the public, it will take on the case and choose a lawyer to fight it.
- So, we could say that in India, a person or a group of people can only start a lawsuit by sending a letter to a judge.
- A PIL must be filed directly with either the Supreme Court or the High Court.
- People have the right to advocate for a public cause by asking the courts to fix a problem that hurts the public or is in the public’s best interest, such as road safety, dangerous conditions, building risks, and so on.
Who may submit a PIL?
Any person or organization may submit a PIL on their behalf, that is, to defend or uphold a right that the government owes them, or on behalf of a group within society that is oppressed or disadvantaged and is unable to uphold their rights.
To allow the Hon’ble Court to consider complaints submitted on behalf of those who are poor, uneducated, disadvantaged, or crippled and are unable to access the courts themselves, the idea of “Locus Standi” has been eased in the context of PILs.
To file a PIL, however, you must be operating in good faith and have a legitimate stake in the case’s outcome. Any individual who approaches the Hon’ble Court for indirect purposes such as political, personal, or private benefit shall not be given consideration. The Court may also exercise suo moto cognizance.
Where does one file a PIL?
PILs are Writ Jurisdiction extensions. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India may receive PILs according to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution or any High Court according to Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. To the Chief Justice of India or the Chief Justice of a High Court, however, even a simple letter or postcard may be sufficient.
As in the case of Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [(AIR 1989 SC 594) (see here)], where the Hon’ble Court converted a letter raising the issue of unauthorized and illegal mining in Mussoorie Hills into a writ petition under Public Interest Litigation, the Court may then decide to take cognizance of the letter and convert it into a PIL.
Indian laws regulating PIL
The Indian courts have developed several PIL-related doctrines throughout the years, including:
Relaxed locus standi rules
Any individual may file a PIL on behalf of someone struggling and unable to seek justice for themselves. As a result, the usual locus standi rule has been eased in PIL cases to protect and preserve the rights and interests of these marginalized persons.
Relaxed norms of procedure
As shown in Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra, Dehradun vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, courts have recognized even a letter or telegraph as a PIL (see here). In PIL petitions, the courts have further eased the rules for filings.
Involvement of the courts
Courts have also emphasized that a fair and reasonable trial is guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution and international human rights conventions. As a result, courts must step in when numerous people experience injustice.
Whether something is maintainable
Suppose the Court is prima facie convinced that any constitutional rights of a vulnerable group of individuals have been modified. In that case, the Government may not be permitted to contest the maintainability of the PIL.
Res Judicata Principle
Applying the res judicata principle or any principles similar to it will rely on the specific facts and circumstances of the case as well as the PIL’s type.
The creation of a commission
In unique situations, a court may designate a Commission or other organizations to conduct an investigation. The Court may order the administration of a public institution that the Commission takes over.
PILs that ask the High Court to adjudicate on the legality or viability of law or statutory regulation is often inappropriate.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has the discretionary authority, under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution, to issue any decrees or orders that may be required to provide complete justice. High courts do not, however, have the same authority as the Hon’ble Supreme Court under Article 142, even though they may issue orders to carry out full justice.
PILs are misused
Courts take great care to prevent PILs from being abused since doing so would negate the entire reason they were created, which was to help the poor and the oppressed. This fact has been emphasized by the courts several times, most notably in the case of Kusum Lata v. Union of India [(2006) 6 SCC 180] (see here).
However, courts have ruled that even if the petitioner had come before the Court to address his private interests due to personal complaints, the Court might still deem it essential to learn more about the dispute and its current status to advance the public interest.
Creation of numerous ideas
Several principles, such as the Polluter Pay Principle, the Precautionary Principle, the Public Trust Doctrine, and Sustainable Development, have been developed by courts in environmental law cases.