Public interest litigation is not defined in any statute or in any act. It has been interpreted by judges to consider the intent of public at large. Although, the main and only focus of such litigation is only Public Interest there are various areas where a Public interest litigation can be filed. For e.g.
– Violation of basic human rights of the poor
– Content or conduct of government policy
– Compel municipal authorities to perform a public duty.
– Violation of religious rights or other basic fundamental rights.
The value of public interest litigation
Public interest litigation can:
- Clarify the law.
- Hold public bodies to account by ensuring that they make appropriate decisions, act fairly and transparently and within the remit of their powers.
- Help develop the law by giving judges the opportunity to interpret legislation
- Give vulnerable people a voice by highlighting an important issue and providing a platform for advocating for their rights.
- Raise awareness of important issues encouraging public debate and media coverage.
Public interest litigation gives a wider description to the right to equality, life and personality, which is guaranteed under part III of the Constitution of India. It also functions as an effective instrument for changes in the society or social welfare. Through public interest litigation, any public or person can seek remedy on behalf of the oppressed class by introducing a PIL.
Who can apply for PIL?
The traditional rule is that a person whose constitutional or legal right is infringed can apply for relief under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. But the Supreme Court has now considerably liberalized the above rule of Locus Standi. The Court now permits the public-spirited persons to file a writ petition for the enforcement of constitutional and statutory rights of any other person or class, form if that person or class is unable to invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court due to poverty or any social economic disability.
Article 32 and Article 226 – Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is wider in scope than Article 32. Under article 226, the aggrieved party can approach the High Court for violation of not just their fundamental rights but also legal rights. However, under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, a person can approach the Supreme Court only for Violation of Fundamental Rights.
PIL- A BOON
1. In Public Interest Litigation (PIL) vigilant citizens of the country can find an inexpensive legal remedy because there is only a nominal fixed court fee involved in this.
2. Further, through the so-called PIL, the litigants can focus attention on and achieve results pertaining to larger public issues, especially in the fields of human rights, consumer welfare and environment.
WHO CAN FILE ?
Any Indian citizen can file a PIL, the only condition being that it should not be filed with a private interest, but in larger public interest. At times, even the Court can take cognizance of a matter if it is one of utmost public importance, and appoint an advocate to handle the case.
ELIGIBLE PARTIES TO BE FILED AGAINST
A PIL may be filed against state government, central government, municipal authority not any private party. But, private person may be included in PIL as ‘Respondent’, after concerned of state authority. i.e. a private factory in Mumbai which is causing pollution then public interest litigation can be filed against government of Mumbai, state pollution central board including that private factory of Mumbai.
WHERE CAN A PIL BE FILED?
Public interest petitions can be filed only in the Supreme Court or the High Court.
HOW TO FILE A PIL?
Before filing a PIL, the petitioner should thoroughly investigate the related matter. If the PIL is related to many people, then the petitioner should consult all the people. Once a person has decided to file a PIL, he should collect all relevant information and documents to strengthen his case. The person filing the PIL can either debate himself or appoint a lawyer. Generally, in any case, it is advisable to consult a lawyer before filing a PIL.
If a PIL is filed in the High Court, then two copies of the petition have to be submitted in the court. Also, a copy of the petition has to be sent in advance to each defendant and proof of this has to be added to the PIL.
If a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is filed in the Supreme Court, then five copies of the petition have to be submitted in the court. The copy of the PIL is sent to the respondent only when a notice is issued by the court for it.
FEES FOR FILING A PIL
Public interest litigation is cheaper than in other court cases. Each defendant mentioned in a PIL has to pay a fee of Rs 50 and it has to be mentioned in the petition. However, the cost incurred in the entire proceedings depends on the lawyer whom the petitioner authorizes to argue on his behalf.
ABUSE OF PIL
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 alongwith 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.
Just as a weapon meant for defence can be used equally effectively for offence, the lowering of the locus standi requirement has permitted privately motivated interests to pose as public interests.
The abuse of PIL has become more rampant than its use and genuine causes either receded to the background or began to be viewed with the suspicion generated by spurious causes mooted by privately motivated interests in the disguise of the so-called public interests.
Ban on Burning of Effigies of Ravana on Dussehra
Anand Prakash Sharma, a UP-based journalist and social activist, argued in Hindi that every year a huge amount of money is “wasted” on the burning of effigies. He added that burning of Ravana’s effigy has not been mentioned in any religious or mythological book.
People watch as effigies of demon king Ravana, his brother Kumbhkarana and son Meghnad are burnt during Vijayadashami in Amritsar on September 30, 2017. (REUTERS/Munish Sharma)
“Have you read Article 25 of the Constitution? It says that everyone has the right to practice his/her religion,” retorted the court. It dismissed the PIL, adding: “We have no jurisdiction to go into what is good or bad. We go into what is legal and what is illegal. You do what you feel is
good for your faith and let others do what is good for their faith.”
Policy on ‘Vande Mataram’
The court refused to entertain the plea on issuing separate guidelines for Vande Mataram. It noted there was no concept of a national song in law. “We do not intend to enter into any debate as far as the national song is concerned… Be it clearly noted, Article 51A(a) of the Constitution (fundamental duties) does not refer to ‘National Song’. It only refers to National Flag and National Anthem,” noted the court.
Public Interest Litigation is working as an important instrument of social change. It is working for the welfare of every section of society. It’s the sword of every one used only for taking the justice. The innovation of this legitimate instrument proved beneficial for the developing country like India. PIL has been used as a strategy to combat the atrocities prevailing in society. It’s an institutional initiative towards the welfare of the needy class of the society. In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, Supreme Court ordered for the release of bonded labourers. In Murli S. Dogra v. Union of India, the Supreme Court banned smoking in public places. In a landmark judgment of Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India, Supreme Court issued guidelines for rehabilitation and compensation for the rape on working women. In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, Supreme court has laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of working women in place of their work.
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