Saturday, 28 May 2022

PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION

 PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION 

BY NUPUR GARG

INTRODUCTION 

The expression ‘Public Interest Litigation’ has been borrowed from American jurisprudence, where it was designed to provide legal representation to previously unrepresented groups like the poor, the racial minorities, unorganized consumers, citizens who were passionate about the environmental issues, etc.

PIL has not been defined in any Indian statute. However, Courts have interpreted and defined PIL. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has, in the case of Janata Dal v. H.S. Chaudhary, held that lexically, the expression ‘PIL’ means a legal action started in a court of law for the enforcement of public/general interest where the public or a particular class of the public some interest (including pecuniary interest) that affects their legal rights or liabilities. PILs are considered to be the most effective as well as the most commonly used judicial tool to safeguard the environment due to their many advantages including but not limited to speedy results, nominal court fees, relaxed procedural rules and the wide variety of investigative techniques available to courts like special committees.

Public interest litigation is the power given to the public by courts through judicial activism. However, the person filing the petition must prove to the satisfaction of the court that the petition is being filed for a public interest and not just as a frivolous litigation by a busy body. The court can itself take cognizance of the matter and proceed suo motu or cases can commence on the petition of any public spirited individual.

M.C Mehta vs. Union of India: In a Public Interest Litigation brought against Ganga water pollution so as to prevent any further pollution of Ganga water. Supreme Court held that petitioner although not a riparian owner is entitled to move the court for the enforcement of statutory provisions, as he is the person interested in protecting the lives of the people who make use of Ganga water.

WHO CAN FILE A PIL?

Any individual or organization can file a PIL either in his/her/their own standing i.e., to protect or enforce a right owed to him/her/them by the government or on behalf of a section of society who is disadvantaged or oppressed and is not able to enforce their own rights. However, only a person acting in good faith and who has sufficient interest in the proceeding will have the locus standi to file a PIL. A person who approaches the Hon’ble Court for personal gain, private profit, political or any oblique consideration will not be entertained.

Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition:

  • Under Art 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court.

  • Under Art 226 of the Indian Constitution, in the High Court.

  • Under sec. 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in the Court of Magistrate.

However, the court must be satisfied that the Writ petition fulfils some basic needs for PIL as the letter is addressed by the aggrieved person, public spirited individual and a social action group for the enforcement of legal or Constitutional rights to any person who are not able to approach the court for redress.

A Public Interest Litigation can be filed against a State/ Central Govt., Municipal Authorities, and not any private party. The definition of State is the same as given under Article 12 of the Constitution and this includes the Governmental and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.

CONCLUSION

Public Interest Litigation has produced astonishing results which were unthinkable three decades ago. Degraded bonded labourers, tortured under trials and women prisoners, humiliated inmates of protective women’s home, blinded prisoners, exploited children, beggars, and many others have been given relief through judicial intervention.

The greatest contribution of PIL has been to enhance the accountability of the governments towards the human rights of the poor.


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