Public Interest Litigation during Covid 19


Public interest Litigation (PIL) means litigation filed in a court of law, for the protection of “Public Interest”, such as Pollution, Terrorism, Road safety, Constructional hazards etc. Any matter where the interest of public at large is affected can be redressed by filing a Public Interest Litigation in a court of law.  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, unorganised consumers, citizens who were passionate about the environmental issues, etc. In Indian law, means litigation for the protection of public interest. It is litigation introduced in a court of law, not by the aggrieved party but by the court itself or by any other private party.

It is not necessary, for the exercise of the court’s jurisdiction, that the person who is the victim of the violation of his or her right should personally approach the court. Public Interest Litigation is the power given to the public by courts through judicial activism.  According to the speaker  public interest litigation is the litigation by liberalized locus standi in India:-  (1) To enable the court to reach the poor and the disadvantaged sections of society who are denied their rights & entitlements (2) To enable individuals or groups of people to raise matters of common concern arising from dishonest or inefficient governance, and (3) To increase public participation in the process of constitutional adjudication.

Judiciary is the weakest of the governmental organs as it is dependent upon the executive for execution of its orders and does not have the power over the purse. Yet it is the sentinel on quive to protect the rule of law and civil liberties. It is the final interpreter of laws and the Constitution. Through PIL it has amplified the voice of some genuine concerns and brought some solutions in some matters regarding the labourers, women, children, environment and others. In PUDR v UOI the SC emphasized that PIL is a strategic arm of the legal aid movement intended to bring justice to the reach of the poor masses.

In S P Gupta v President of India the SC held that any member of the public having sufficient interest acting Bonafide can maintain an action for judicial redress for public injury arising from a breach of public duty or from violation of some provision of the constitution or the law and seek enforcement of such public duty and observance of such constitutional or legal provision. However, the development of PIL has also uncovered its pitfalls and drawbacks. As a result, the apex court itself has been compelled to lay down certain guidelines to govern the management and disposal of PILs. And the abuse of PIL is also increasing along with its extended and multifaceted use of late, many of the PIL activists in the country have found the PIL as a handy tool of harassment since frivolous cases could be filed without investment of heavy court fees as required in private civil litigation and deals could then be negotiated with the victims of stay orders obtained in the so-called PILs.

Covid 19 demands a fierce battle and our combat is to conquer the corona virus. It does not matter whether Covid 19 is nature’s fury or man’s penury or some country’s treachery: there is an emergency situation and consequential lockdown. When there are compliments pouring in for our government in its serious efforts in the battle, there are certain criticisms also. Some people have rushed to courts filing public interest litigations to compel the government to hear their suggestions and raise common concerns about lapses and lack of preparedness. The courts are grappling with the lockdown. Due to uncertainty as to the period of lockdown, E filing, video conferencing in lieu of court appearances, extending of the limitation period and such other suitable measures are being adopted. In these difficult times, the high court’s and the SC are flooded with PILs in respect of the Covid 19 crisis.

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