Public interest litigation means filing an appeal or litigation in a court, for the protection of “Public Interest” for example; road safety, pollution, construction hazard, terrorism, maintenance of heritage and culture, neglected children, food adulteration, etc. meanwhile it means that any matter in which there is the interest of the public at large is afflicted can be redressed by filing a PIL in a court. In some cases, courts can themselves take cognizance of the matter meanwhile the court can suo moto; action when getting any information through newspapers or letters, etc. The main motive to file public interest litigation is to promote the welfare of the people and give justice.
Significance of Public Interest Litigation in India-
It is an important tool in judicial review. It is also an important tool to make human rights reach those who have infringed her rights. Any citizen who is capable can file the petition on behalf of those who cannot or do not have such knowledge that how to file a PIL. There is a purpose of PILs to make justice easy for the poor. It democratizes the access of justice to all. It helps as a legal invigilator of state institutions like prisons, asylum, protective homes, etc.
Procedure/ Format of filling PILs in India-
Any person (Indian citizen) or any organization can file a petition in the interest of the public at large. Article 32 and 226 of the Indian constitution give us the right to move Supreme Court and High Court simultaneously. The proceedings in the case (PIL) commence and carry on in the same method as other cases. The judge can select a commissioner to investigate charges such as tree cutting, pollution caused, sewer problems, etc. After this, in the last hearing, the judge gives his final decision. In, the format; there should be the name of the petitioner and the name of the respondent. The format should be written to the chief justice of India. Meanwhile, proceed with the subject of that format to fill the necessary events.
Landmark cases related to public interest litigation-
In 1981, in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India; the concept of PIL came into existence. In this case, it was held that “any member of the public or social action group acting bonafide” can invoke the Writ Jurisdiction of the High Court (under article 226) or the Supreme Court (under Article 32) seeking redressed against violation of legal or constitutional rights of persons who due to social or economic or any other disability cannot approach the Court[i].
By this judgment, PIL became a potent weapon for the enforcement of “public duties” where executive action or misdeed resulted in public injury. And as a result, any citizen of India or any consumer group or social action group can now approach the apex court of the country seeking legal remedies in all cases where the interests of the general public or a section of the public are at stake. Justice Bhagwati did a lot to ensure that the concept of PILs was clearly enunciated. He did not insist on the observance of procedural technicalities and even treated ordinary letters from public-minded individuals as writ petitions.
The first reported case of PIL was Hussainara Khatoon vs. the State of Bihar (1979) which focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under-trial prisoners that led to the release of more than 40,000 under-trial prisoners[ii].
The right to speedy justice emerged as a basic fundamental right that had been denied to these prisoners. The same set pattern was adopted in subsequent cases.
· Importance of Public interest litigation-
Public interest litigation provides a wider scope promoting the right to quality. By creating a new regime of human rights by expanding the meaning of the fundamental right to equality, life, and personal liberty. In this method, the rights to a quick trial, free legal aid, dignity, education, and so on appear as human rights.
These rights afford legal support to initiate the courts for their execution through PIL. By democratization of access to justice. This is achieved by relaxing the traditional rule.
Any public-spirited citizen or social workgroup can address the court on behalf of the abused classes. By creating new kinds of reliefs under the court’s writ jurisdiction. For instance, the court can grant interim compensation to the victims of governmental lawlessness.
By judicial monitoring of state institutions such as jails, women’s protective homes, etc. Through judicial invigilation, the court seeks gradual improvement in its management and administration. This has been characterized as creeping jurisdiction in which the court takes over the administration of the institutions for protecting human rights. By devising new techniques of fact-finding.
In most of the events, the court has selected its own socio-legal commissions of analysis or has deputed its own official or investigation. Sometimes it has taken the guidance of the National Human Rights Commission or Central Bureau of Investigation or authorities to inquire into human rights violations. This is also known as investigative litigation.
A PIL is an important judicial tool, especially for the protection of the rights of those who are unable to approach the courts themselves. They are one of the most commonly used forms of litigation, especially in environmental cases. The courts have tried to make rules regarding PILs simpler so as to not discourage the filing of PILs in the public interest and on behalf of the poor, disabled, or deprived classes of persons. However, there are several instances in which people have tried to further their own private interests under the guise of PILs. Thus, courts must continue to remain extremely cautious to ensure that PILs are not misused.
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