Public Interest Litigation

Introduction

The Constitution of a country which is also known as Suprema Lex is the fundamental law, consisting of a long list of fundamental rights. These fundamental rights are inalienable and natural rights which have been provided under Part III of the constitution. The purpose of fundamental rights, as defined in Part III of the constitution, is not only to provide security and equality, but also equality of justice and fairness to all citizens. A long list of fundamental rights is stipulated in the constitution; therefore, it is prohibited for the state to enact laws that take away any of these rights.The Constitution also endowed the supreme court with the power to grant the most effective remedies according to their nature as writs; 

Habeas Corpus

Mandamus

Prohibition

Quo-Warranto

Certiorari

A citizen of this country has the right under Article 32 and 226 of the constitution to approach the apex and high courts if their rights are not being observed. Briefly, constitutions are protectors, guarantors of fundamental rights, and constitutional remedies are cornerstones of democratic edifice. While performing the constitutional duties, the supreme court plays the role of a sentinel on the qui vive.

Then, what is the role played by  Public Interest Litigation in our constitution?

Public Interest Litigation ( pro bono publico) originated from the United States of America in the year 1980. Article 39A deals with PIL. The two architects of PIL were B.N. Bhagwati and Krishna Iyer. It was Justice Bhagwati who has been called the Father of Public Interest Litigation in India. The main four reason why the PIL introduced in india is follows;

  1. Expensive legal fees
  2. Lack of proper legal knowledge 
  3. Emergency
  4. Lack of availability of common public law

The word public interest litigation consists of three words public, interest and litigation. 

Public carries the meaning of the people, the community at large, all the citizens of the state etc . While, the word interest means legal concern or right etc. An individual’s right to some benefits that can be enforced by judicial process.Then What is litigation? Litigation is a legal proceeding with the purpose of enforcing a legal right.

 Public interest refers to what affects society as a whole. The term public interest has been defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as “something in which the public, or community at large has some pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.” Hence A PIL is a lawsuit that is filed before the court of law to enforce the public interest.

Locus standi and public interest litigation

A person who has been deprived of fundamental rights may seek redress from the court under article 32 of the constitution. Accordingly, the petitioner itself has locus standi to seek remedies as stipulated by article 32 of the constitution. If the petitioner is unable to do so, he or she may move the writ on behalf of another person who is familiar with the facts. The supreme court, however, has expanded the concept of locus standi. 

In S.P. Gupta v. Union of India ( S.P. Gupta ), the court observed that if any person’s legal right or constitutional right is violated, if that person is unable to approach the court for relief, any other citizen can approach the court for him. This observation of the court gave rise to “public interest litigation” (PIL). This litigation is an exception to Locus Standi.The supreme court, however, has expanded the concept of locus standi. 

Justice Bhagwathi says in an article, “justice has to play a vital and important role not only in preventing and remedying abuse and misuse of power but also in eliminating exploitation and injustice. For this purpose, it is necessary to make procedural innovations in order to meet the challenges posted by this role of an active and committed judiciary. The summit judiciary in india, keenly alive to its social responsibility and accountability to the people of the country, has liberated itself from the shackles of western thought, made innovative use of the power of Judicial Review , forged new tools, devised new methods and fashioned new strategies for the purpose of bringing justice for social and economically disadvantaged groups……”

Before 1980, the system was followed as the petition can be filed only by a person whose fundamental right is violated. This tradition is called ‘Locus Standi’. After the emergence of PIL, it is not necessary that if my fundamental right is infringed then I should file the petition. Now the question arises who can file PIL? 

Any person who is not politically motivated can file a PIL but there are two conditions for filing PIL. The first one, the case should not be pending in any other courts and the second, Representation should be given to the particular authority.

Public interest litigation and judicial interpretation

It was in the case, Fertiliser Corporation Kamgar Union vs. Union of India The Supreme Court first articulated the expression ‘Public Interest Litigation’. After that it was discussed in the case Mumbai Kamgar Sabha vs. Abdulbhai Faizullabhai and Maharaja Singh vs. State of U.P. Later in the case S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India, the term Public Interest Litigation was crystallised and later it was elaborated in further related judgements.

In the case Peoples Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India, the supreme court held that : “Public Interest Litigation is brought before the court not for the purpose of enforcing the right of one individual against another as happens in the case of ordinary litigation, but it is intended to promote and vindicate public interest, which demands the violation of constitutional or legal rights of large number of people who are poor, ignorant or in a socially or economically disadvantaged position should not go unnoticed and unredressed. That would be destructive of the rule of law, which forms one of the essential elements of public interest in any democratic form of government. The rule of law does not mean that the protection of law must be available only to a fortunate few or that the law should be allowed to be prostituted by the vested interests for protecting and upholding the status quo under the guise of enforcement of their civil and political rights and the rule of law is meant for them also, though today it exists only on paper and not in reality”

Conclusion

A PIL is very important for a democratic country like India as it is helping many people to claim rights against the government as well as private actions. It is more affordable and democratic.

There is only a nominal court fee for filing PIL. And it is for the interest of the public so it focuses on larger public issues. PIL emerged in 1980 and the first case of PIL in India was related to Asiad villagers. Under this case, the Supreme Court gives certain norms such as PIL was intended at poor people who cannot afford the courts, It is filed when the fundamental rights are violated and It is registered as a writ petition. During the 1970’s, there was a lack of access to justice for the common people. The main three reasons were that the people are not economically settled, there was lack of education and it was the time of emergency. So all these culminated into the introduce of Public Interest Litigation in India.

References

Raja Ram Pal vs The Hon’Ble Speaker, Lok Sabha & … on 10 January, 2007

Prem Chand Garg vs Excise Commissioner, UP, … on 6 November, 1962

State Of Madras vs VG Row.Union Of India & State … on 31 March, 1952

Janata Dal vs HS Chowdhary And Ors. on 28 August, 1992

Prem Chand Garg vs Excise Commissioner, UP, … on 6 November, 1962

State Of Madras vs VG Row.Union Of India & State … on 31 March, 1952

SP Gupta vs President Of India And Ors. on 30 December, 1981

Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar … vs Union Of India And Others on 13 November, 1980

Mumbai Kamgar Sabha, Bombay vs M/S Abdulbhai Faizullabhai & Ors on 10 March, 1976

Maharaj Singh vs State Of Uttar Pradesh & Others on 2 November, 1976

People’S Union For Democratic … vs Union Of India & Others on 18 September, 1982

Constitutional Law,Mamta Rao, pg 1,35,299,300,303,304,320

PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION AND OUR RIGHTS,Dwivedi Law Agency,pg 1,7,11,13,23

PUBLIC INTEREST LAWYERING,LEGAL AID AND PARA LEGAL SERVICES, Dr, S.R. Myneni pg 1,7,8,9,10

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