56. Public Interest Litigation: an instance of Judicial Activism

Public Interest Litigation, initiated by Chief Justice Bhavati has played an unique role in carrying justice to the doors of the week and the oppressed. But it has been misused and in a few cases has led to PRIVATE INTEREST LITIGATION. But because if this we cannot abolish this. Care should be taken to see that in the name of Public Interest , private interests are not furthered. This topic is important in Public Administration, Political Science and General Studies

20 thoughts on “56. Public Interest Litigation: an instance of Judicial Activism

  1. 1.From out of the emerging social consciousness in India there emerged a new attitude in Judicial orientation. Some judges in particular expressed concern for social welfare and redressal of the grievances of the poor and the deprived. How did it alter functioning of the S.C.and how did it affect the common man?

    1. The concept of Public Interest Litigation was given by Justice Krishna Iyer.

      PIL is a product of time and circumstances. It did not spring from any specific constitutional provision or legislative code; rather, it has been evolved by the need for redress, generally through affirmative action, in cases where the general public, or ascertainable sections of the public, are aggrieved. In the main, these are cases where Parliament or a State legislature has failed to address problems affecting the quality of life of the community or identifiable segments of society, or the executive is alleged to have been guilty of non-use or misuse of its powers touching the fundamental rights of individuals.

      It Started as a remedy for various ills afflicting society, especially the poor people could not get due justice ; and in regard to this the Pil developed by the SC comes under Article 32 and the HC under Article 226

    1. One of the reasons why the Supreme Court evolved the PIL mechanism was also to protect the rule of law and the Constitution. It realised that people were getting increasingly disillusioned with the justice system and soon their frustrations might reach such a level that they take the law into their own hands. As noted by Justice Bhagwati in S.P.Gupta’s case, “It is also necessary to point out that if no one can have standing-to maintain an action for judicial redress in respect of a public wrong or public injury, not only will the cause of legality suffer but the people not having any judicial remedy to redress such public wrong or public injury may turn to the street and in that process the rule of law will be seriously impaired. It is absolutely essential that the rule of law must wean the people away from the lawless street and win them for the court of law.”

    1. Any person can file a PIL provided:

      •He is a member of the public acting bona fide and having sufficient interest in instituting an action for redressal of public wrong or public injury.
      •He is not a mere busy body or a meddlesome interloper.
      •His action is not motivated by personal gain or any other oblique consideration.

      A PIL can be filed when the following conditions are fulfilled:
      – There must be a public injury and public wrong caused by the wrongful act or omission of the state or public authority.
      – It is for the enforcement of basic human rights of weaker sections of the community who are downtrodden, ignorant and whose fundamental and constitutional rights have been infringed.
      – It must not be frivolous litigation by persons having vested interests.

      Who may file a PIL?
      The Supreme Court (SC), through its successive judgements has relaxed the strict rule of ‘locus standi’ applicable to private litigation.

    2. Requirement of bona fide:

      The bona fide of the litigator and the lawyer who represents the case is very important. If the PIL were to be misused for serving other personal reasons then it would lead to a situation where courts would reject PILs all together.

    3. One example to highlight PIL:

      S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India: AIR 1982 SC 149

      This judgment hasoften been described as the “Charter of PIL.” The main question was, who is entitled to move the high court or the Supreme Court when there is a violation of a fundamental right? Is it only the per-son who suffered, or can anyone else on behalf of the sufferer move the court? One is the subject of this judgment, which settled this question locus standi once and for all in public interest cases. It widened the locus standi of public-spirited persons before the court.

  2. 4. It should be noted that PIL is not meant for enforcement of individual’s specific rights. For this regular petitions asking for appropriate writ must be filed. Nor can it be filed to realize private interests. If so what is the purpose of the PIL?

    1. PIL is like an antibiotic and so should not be over worked. Like all medicines PILs must be used sparingly and only in appropriate cases. PILs cannot cure all ills.

      As per Justice R.S.Pathak “Public Interest Litigation has also extended to matters touching educational institutions under statutory control — e.g. appointment of teachers, admission policies and the conduct of examinations, matters affecting public administration in relation to public health, and law and order; state policy with regard to affirmative action programmes for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes; the pension rights of retired government employees, and so on.”

      Thus, PIL has developed into a wide spectrum antibiotic. However, like all medicines there is a danger of an overdose.

      The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in the Narmada Bachao litigation lucidly sets out the limitations of public interest litigation; Courts will also not involve in exercising their jurisdictions in feilds of policy decisions.

  3. 6. A former Chief Justice Krishna Iyer observed “it is true that judges are constitutional investigators and statutory interpreters; but they are also responsive and responsible to directive principles. The judiciary in its sphere shares the revolutionary purpose of the constitutional order”. Comment

  4. 7. Through PIL is the judiciary in India overplaying its role? Some people feel that judiciary encroaching on policy matters. Policy is a function of the executive and the legislature. But our courts are asserting powers with general public support over the Legislature and the courts. The constitution does not authorize them to do so. Comment. Is there any other evidence of Judiciary in other countries acting like the Indian S.C.

    1. PIL is mainly useful in developing countries like India. The legal process in developing countries tends to intimidate the litigant, who feel alienated from the system. Poor people don’t have awareness about the legal process. If they need any help from the legal systems they may find the experience traumatic. So, PIL was introduced to bring justice within the reach of those who are unable to reach courts.

  5. Writs are the petitions filed by individuals/corporates and other persons for reliefs in their own causes.(see Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution) Whereas

    the PILs are applications filed by any citizen for remedying the hardships faced by the public at large. PIL is not defined in any Statute. It is the outcome of judicial activism to take cognisance of a cause at the instance of any person(whether he is personally affected or not) affecting the public at large. it is an exception to the doctrine of Locus Standi applicbale to actions in courts of law.

    All PIL’s are Writs but not vice versa

    PIL is writ only but PIL means litigation in the interest of public and not in the interest of the litigant

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