During the emergency period, the Supreme Court was the only guardian of the Constitution and after the widespread denial of rights during the period, it became essential for the supreme court to assure the people of their rights and to rebuild its reputation. The nationwide need for a stronger institution with promoted legal services was at an all-time high. This need was fulfilled by introducing PIL which undoubtedly served its purpose of being used to promote the public good.
PILs aims at dealing with public grievances by ensuring that the vulnerable sections of society have access to legal rights and benefits that have been provided to them and maintaining social justice. Despite it being introduced at a time when the country was still recovering, PIL was of extreme importance to provide relief to those who hailed from the lower socio-economic strata of the community. Several important matters which have public importance have established themselves as landmark cases under the ambit of PIL. Regarded as one of the most important cases in the history of PIL, Hussainara Khatoon vs the State of Bihar raised the right of an accused to a speedy trial. The court discovered under trial prisoners who were languishing in jail for longer periods than the maximum term to be served had they been convicted. It was held that this is a violation of Article 21 as the accused is being denied his life and liberty in an unjust manner. These under-trial prisoners should not be made to suffer due to the fault of the state. The state has to ensure that fair trials are provided without delay in investigation and trial. It is not fair for an accused person to languish in jail for such a long period and later be acquitted. This case broadened the horizons of Article 21 and disallows the state from carrying out overly stretched out trials.
In the case of People’s Union For Democratic Rights v. Union Of India, the Supreme Court safeguarded the right to life and the right to live with human dignity under Article 21. Whether the employer is public or private would not matter, the principle of Equal pay for Equal work was instituted and made to comply with. All these issues were addressed due to the emergence of PIL and they have been used generously in matters concerning sections of people who have been denied access to justice due to ignorance, illiteracy, and poverty.
MC Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu through PIL made it possible to bring about changes in the rights related to children. The problem of child labour was brought to the attention of the courts. Despite the constitution safeguarding the rights of children below the age of 14 years to work in hazardous employment, the issue of child labour is still prevalent. PIL has proved to be a handy tool to question this practice. Positive directions were followed in this case to arrive at a conclusion.
In Vishaka v State of Rajasthan, the court laid down comprehensive guidelines which aimed at protecting sexual harassment at the workplace. It also established machinery to redress complaints. Decisions like these are of great importance to serve a greater good for society. By passing these guidelines, the court has taken a step forward in serving equal opportunities by guaranteeing basic human rights to live a life with dignity, privacy, and self-determination.
In the sphere of environmental protection, the Supreme Court of India in MC Mehta mandated strict compliance with environmental laws. New environmental policies were initiated and a stricter noose was tied around the authorities who permitted such activities which affected the lives and health of the people. Though the petitioner did not own the land and water which was being polluted, by means of PIL he was allowed to approach the court. PIL now occupies an unrivalled space in Indian constitutional law that bridges the citizen, the court, and the State. With the ever-changing needs of society and a new generation of aspiring populations, PIL allows the citizens to approach the court to resolve pressing issues that society is facing at large. It also facilitates the court to intervene in matters of human rights and environment, which are important rights that are required for any society to thrive.
- Hussainara Khatoon vs the State of Bihar AIR 1979 1369
- People’s Union For Democratic Rights v. Union Of India AIR 1982 1473
- MC Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu (1996) 6 SCC 756
- Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241
- MC Mehta v. Union of India (1987) SCR 1 819
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.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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