Wednesday, 10 March 2021

How to file a PIL (Public Interest Litigation)?

 Public Interest Litigation, as the name suggests is litigation in the interest of public. It is the power given to the general public to raise their voice in the court of law for public issues. PIL is the legal action taken by a public spirited person so as to protect the public interest.  

Any individual of the belief that injustice is being done to the public or society can approach the court for judicial remedies. Even though it is always recommended to hire a PIL lawyer for filing of PIL, a lay man can also file and argue the PIL in front of the Court.

Consult: Top PIL/Civil Lawyers in India


What can a PIL be filed for?

As stated earlier, PIL can be filed for any matter of public interest at large. A few important subjects for which PIL filing is popular have been stated below:

Violation of fundamental rights or any other legal right guaranteed by laws;

In matters of (violation of) basic human rights of the poor ;

To ensure government authorities or municipal authorities perform their public duties;

For conduct of government policy. 


Who can file a PIL?

Initially, only a person whose interest was directly affected along with the others, could file a PIL. However, now, the trend has changed for the good and any ‘public-spirited’ person can file a PIL on behalf of, or for a group of persons whose rights are affected. It is thus not necessary that the individual filing a PIL should have a direct interest in the matter. However, it should not be filed with a private interest and for private reasons, but only for the good of the public at large. 

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How can a lawyer help in filing a PIL?

A lawyer can help you in the entire procedure of preparing, filing and presenting your PIL in the appropriate court. A PIL advocate has the requisite experience in PIL matters. He/She is an expert in the art of drafting with all the information. He/she also has the expertise to present arguments in the Court with utmost precision and craft. With the increasing number of frivolous and bizarre PILs in the Courts each day, the Courts have become wary of accepting each and every PIL. Each PIL is scrutinized in great detail by the courts and only then the decision of acceptance or rejection of the petition is taken. This is why it is very important to consult a lawyer before filing a PIL. 

A good PIL lawyer will ensure that your PIL has a good motive and is not rejected for want of sufficient reason. He/she will also ensure that your petition is well drafted without any errors and unnecessary contents. You will be thoroughly assisted by the lawyer in the entire procedure and its requirements. He/She would also be able to ensure that your PIL has been filed in the correct court, thus reducing the chances of your PIL getting thrown away/rejected. All in all, you will end up saving your time and hiring a PIL lawyer will make sure that your experience throughout is hassle free.  


Where can an individual file a PIL?

Both the High Court and the Supreme Court have the authority to entertain Public Interest Litigation. If the matter upon which the PIL is filed concerns individuals, authorities, etc. confined to a particular State only, High Court (under Article 226 of the Constitution) would be the appropriate platform, whereas, if the matter concerns individuals or authorities at the central level, the Supreme Court (under Article 32 of the Constitution) shall be the appropriate platform. 

Consult: Top PIL/Civil Lawyers in India


What is the procedure to file a PIL?

If a citizen of the country has a good reason to file a PIL, the first step that he/she needs to undertake is to do a thorough research on the matter. One should ensure that no similar PIL or case has been filed or settled before by the judiciary. The affected groups of individuals should be consulted. One needs to collect all relevant information including data and documents to strengthen the case. It is advised that one should hire an advocate since he would already be experienced in the entire procedure, including drafting of the petition and presenting the arguments. However, if you decide to argue yourself and not hire an advocate, you should at least consult one in order to be better prepared for the whole course. 

Once all the information has been gathered, the individual is required to draft the petition stating all facts and prayers that are sought from the Court. Once the PIL petition has been readied, you would be required to file it in the appropriate Court. A PIL is filed in the same manner as a writ petition is filed either in the High Court or the Supreme Court. 

If you are filing in the High Court, two copies of the petition would have to be given to the Court. A copy of the PIL petition would also have to be served to each respondent/other party in advance. The proof that the copies have been given to the respondents in advance has to be affixed upon the petition.

If the PIL filing is supposed to be made in the Supreme Court, five copies of the petition would have to be filed before the Court. In this case, Respondents are to be served with copies of the PIL only once the notice is issued from the Court. 

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What is the average cost to file a PIL?

Filing a PIL is inexpensive compared to most of the other court cases. The Court fee would approximately be of Rs. 50 for each respondent. However, if you hire a PIL lawyer, (which is recommended since a lawyer has knowledge and experience in making petitions after gathering facts and framing arguments and presenting them in court), your cost would depend on the charges of the lawyer you hire.


Are there any issues/matters for which PIL cannot be filed?

Yes, there are several subjects for which PILs cannot be filed. These topics pertain to matters wherein individuals’ private interests lie. The Supreme Court has set some guidelines, according to which certain matters cannot be allowed in the form of PILs. These are:

Service matters;

Landlord and Tenant matters;

Pension and gratuity matters;

Matters related to admission in medical and other educational institutions;

Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in the High Court or other subordinate courts;

Complaints against Central and State government departments and Local Bodies, except those relating to items 1-10 as mentioned in the said guidelines by the Supreme Court.


Consult: Top PIL/Civil Lawyers in India


Misuse of PILs

Considering the huge number of cases pending before the Courts in the country, misuse of PILs is a growing concern. Due to the increasing number of frivolous PILs, the Supreme Court laid down the guidelines to be followed by Courts in entertaining PILs. PILs that are frivolous and/or filed for personal interest only add unnecessary strain on the judiciary and in turn lead to delay in justice for and disposal of genuine cases. Therefore, it is very necessary to file only those PILs that can lead to a positive change and help the common good. 

Even though misuse of Public Interest Litigation is a disconcerting issue, it is nonetheless a revolutionary concept that enables the common man to fight for the benefit of the public at large. Several PILs have shown extremely positive results and have led to developments, such as promoting greater enforcement of women’s rights against sexual harassment at workplace through the Vishakha judgment, stricter laws against polluting industries through M.C. Mehta judgment, etc. All in all, if the power of PILs is used judiciously, it can be of great benefit to the under-priviledged, environment and public health, and against exploitation of the weaker sections and consumers. Over the years, Public Interest Litigation has achieved a place of immense importance in India’s legal system and rightly so. 

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