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Public Interest Litigation

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Meaning of Public Interest Litigation

As the name suggests, Public interest Litigation is the litigation filed before the court for safeguarding the interest of the public. Any matter which affects the rights of people at large can be addressed to the Court through the filing of Public Interest Litigation.

No formal definition is provided for PIL in any statues. The concept has developed over time through judicial decisions and awareness of the judiciary and public. It has always been expected of the judiciary to protect the rights of the general public and even of those who are not aware of their rights or do not have enough resources to speak for themselves.

Origin Of Public Interest Litigation (Pil)

The term PIL evolved in India and internationally in the 1980s through the Bar, the Bench, public-spirited individuals, and NGOs.

In India, Justice Bhagwati introduced and harboured the concept of Public Interest Litigation by delivering many landmark judgments which has encouraged PILS for the underprivileged and oppressed and to remind the executive bodies and the legislature to work restlessly towards the welfare of the public.

Major Objectives Of PIL

PIL has the singular objective: utilizing the legal authority to achieve public good. It has over time developed its form and usage as per the current scenario while staying true to its primary objective. Following are several areas in which the Public Interest Litigation are filed or have been filed in past:

  • Violation of basic human rights of any group of people
  • Violation of basic fundamental rights
  • Content or execution of any government policy, notification, order etc
  • Violation of any religious rights or sentiments
  • Induce the municipal authorities to perform their duties
  • Any actions of the government or private agency causing an environmental hazard or pollution
  • Any inconvenience on roads being faced by the commuters like due to potholes, traffic lights, lack of street lights, lack of PCR vans etc
  • Issues relating to child labour, bonded labour, inhumane working conditions of labour etc

As understood, these issues relate to the large group of people or the public at large. If merely one person is affected by any government action or inaction, it cannot form a ground for the filing of Public interest litigation.

Who Can File Public Interest Litigation?

Any person can file a Public Interest Litigation, even without any personal or direct interests. The only requirement is that the issue being brought to the court must relate to the Interest of public at large and not individuals coming for their own motives. The Court may even take up a particular issue on its own or suo moto. A Letter may be considered as a PIL in itself.

It is expected of the court to keep have a judicious blend of liberal view and curbing any hidden personal motives.

Against Whom Public Interest Litigation Can Be Filed?

  • A Public Interest Litigation can only be filed against a Central Government, State government or any Municipal Authority and not against any Private Party.
  • Nevertheless, if the facts and the subject matter demands then a Private Party can be included in the array of respondents in a Public Interest Litigation after suitably including the concerned Public Authority as the respondent. Thus, a PIL cannot be filed against a Private party alone.

Procedure To File Public Interest Litigation under Indian Laws

As mentioned above any citizen can approach the Court thorough a Public Interest Litigation for a public cause. Filing of the PIL is in the manner as of a Writ Petition:

  • In Supreme Court under Art.32 of the Constitution; The handbook of procedure of Supreme Court states that “Under the Extra-ordinary Original Jurisdiction, a writ petition in the nature of public interest litigation can be filed in the Supreme Court.”
  • In High Court under Art.226 of the Constitution; and
  • In the Court of Magistrate under Section 133, Criminal Procedure Code

In High Court

For a Public Interest Litigation filed in a High Court, two (2) copies of the petition have to be filed with the registry. Advance copies have to be served to the opposite party or their empanelled Advocates.

In Supreme Court

For a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Supreme Court, a total of five (5) sets of the petition have to be filed. Here the opposite party is supplied with the copy only after the notice is issued by the Court.

A fixed Court Fee of Rs. 50 for each respondent named in the petition has to be affixed with the PIL.

After the filing, the regular process is followed by the court: first hearing, admission, reply, rejoinder, appreciating the evidence etc.

Any Writ Petition which fulfils the criteria set for the Public Interest Litigation i.e. for greater public welfare can be treated as a Public Interest Litigation by the Court.

What Do We Help You With?

  • Contact us with your issue of the Public interest Litigation keeping in mind that the grievance should not be of a private nature but should address the public at large or should be in the interest of the society. The issue and relief sought must not be solely against a private party. It is essential that a direction for any public authority is being sought as a relief.
  • A Case Manager shall be assigned to you with whom you can discuss the facts, material, your research, and your queries. The Case Manager shall remain your point of contact during the entire proceedings.
  • A lawyer shall be appointed as per the jurisdiction and the subject matter.
  • The documentation and procedures shall be administered by our team in collaboration with the lawyer.
  • At every stage of the proceedings, till its finality, you shall be notified of the updates of the case.
  • We shall keep track of the lawyer assigned to you so that you face no troubles.

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