Role of Public Interest Litigation in Protecting Fundamental Rights


Public Interest Litigation means a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or class of the community have some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.

 Only the aggrieved party has the right to seek redress under Article 32, right to move to the Supreme Court.

Case law:

P. N. Bhagwati in .S. P. Gupta v. Union of India, 1981

Where a legal wrong or a legal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate class of persons by reason of violation of any constitutional or legal right or any burden is imposed in contravention of any constitutional or legal provision or without authority of law or any such legal wrong or legal injury or illegal burden is threatened and such person or determinate class of persons by reasons of poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position unable to approach the court for relief, can maintain an application for an appropriate direction, order or writ in the High Court under Article 226 and in case any breach of fundamental rights of such persons or determinate class of persons, in this court under Article 32 seeking judicial redress for the legal wrong or legal injury caused to such person or determinate class of persons.

Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay and ors v. M/s Devkala Consultancy Service and Ors,

                        It was held inthe Supreme Court that where the petitioner may move to court in her private interest and for redressal of the personal grievance, the court in furtherance of Public Interest may treat it a necessity to enquire into the state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice. Thus a private interest case can also be treated as public interest case.

Significance of PIL:

  • The aim of PIL is to give to the common people access to the courts to obtain legal redress.
  • PIL is an important instrument of social change and for maintaining the Rule of law and accelerating the balance between law and justice.
  • The original purpose of PILs has beento make justice accessible to the poor and the marginalized.
  • It is an important tool to make human rights reach those who have been denied of their rights.
  • Any citizen or organization who is capable can file petitions on behalf of those who cannot or do not have the means to do so.
  • It is an important tool for implementing the concept of judicial review.
  • Enhanced public participation in judicial review of administrative action.

Who Can File a PIL and Against Whom?

  • 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

Procedure for Filing Public Interest Litigation:

(a) Filing
Public Interest Litigation petition is filed in the same manner, as a writ petition is filed. If a PIL is filed in a High Court, then two (2) copies of the petition have to be filed (for Supreme Court, then (4)+(1)(i.e.5) sets) Also, an advance copy of the petition has to be served on the each respondent, i.e. opposite party, and this proof of service has to be affixed on the petition.

(b) The Procedure
A Court fee of Rs. 50, per respondent have to be affixed on the petition. Proceedings, in the PIL commence and carry on in the same manner, as other cases. However, in between the proceedings if the Judge feels that he may appoint the commissioner, to inspect allegations like pollution being caused, trees being cut, etc. After filing of replies, by opposite party, or rejoinder by the petitioner, final hearing takes place, and the judge gives his final decision.

Certain Weaknesses of PIL

  • PIL actions may sometimes give rise to the problem of competing rights. When a court orders the closure of a polluting industry, the interests of the workmen and their families.
  • It could lead to overburdening of courts with frivolous PILs by parties with vested interests. Today the PIL is no more limited to problems of the poor and the oppressed.
  • PIL matters concerning the exploited and disadvantaged groups are pending for many years. Inordinate delays in the disposal of PIL cases may render many leading judgments merely of academic value.

Case laws:

  • 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.


  • 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. It’s an institutional initiative towards the welfare of the needy class of the society.
  • The greatest contribution of PIL has been to enhance the accountability of the governments towards the human rights of the poor.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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