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PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION

CHANAKYA NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY

PATNA

PROJECT ON

PUB LI C I NTEREST L I TI GATI O N

SUBM IT TE D T O: S UB MI TTE D B Y:
DR. A L I M O H A M M E D R I C H A J OSH I
FACULT Y:- ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 3RD YE AR, 6TH SE M .

R o ll N o. 12 2 5

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PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION

ACK NO WLE DGEM E NT

I take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and deep regards to my


guide Dr. Ali Mohammed for his exemplary guidance, monitoring and constant
encouragement throughout the course of this project. The blessing, help and guidance given
by him time to time shall carry me a long way in the journey of life on which I am about to
embark.
I also take this opportunity to express a deep sense of gratitude to my seniors, the
library staff and my friends for their valuable information and guidance, which helped me
in completing this task through various stages.
I would also thank my institution and my faculty members without whom this project
would have been a distant reality. I also extend my heartfelt thanks to my family and well
wishers.

-RICHA JOSHI

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CONTENTS

I. AIMS AND OBJECTIVE- .................................................................................................... 4


II. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY:- ........................................................................................ 4
III. SOURCES OF DATA:- ......................................................................................................... 4
IV. SCOPES AND LIMITATIONS:- .......................................................................................... 4

1. PROLOGUE ............................................................................................................................ 5

2. EMERGENCE OF PIL IN INDIA......................................................................................... 5

3. THE THREE PHASES OF PIL ............................................................................................. 7

4. JUDICIAL MOULDING OF STANDING, PROCEDURE, SUBSTANCE, RELIEF ..... 9

5. FACTORS FOR GROWTH OF PIL IN INDIA ................................................................ 11

6. JUDICIARY AND PIL IN INDIA : LANDMARK DECISIONS ..................................... 12

7. CONCLUSION ...................................................................................................................... 15

8. BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................................................................................. 16

BOOKS ....................................................................................................................................... 17
WEBSITES ................................................................................................................................. 17

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RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

I. AIMS AND OBJECTIVE-


The aim of researcher, in doing the research work is to give a broad outline of concept of
public interest litigation. The researcher will also analyze the concept of the public
interest litigation and compare with the legal system of various nations.
II. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY:-
As whole research work for this work is confined to the library and books and no field
work has been done hence researcher in his research work has opted the doctrinal methodology of
research. Researcher has also followed the uniform mode of citation throughout the project work.
III. SOURCES OF DATA:-
For doing the research work various sources has been used. Researcher in the research
work has relied upon the sources like many books of the Constitution and Administrative Law
Articles, and Journals. The online materials have been remained as a trustworthy and helpful
source for the research.
IV. SCOPES AND LIMITATIONS:-
Though the researcher has tried his level best to not to leave any stone unturned in doing
his research work to highlight the various aspects relating to the topic, but Public Interest
Litigation is such a vast and dynamic field of law and the topic itself whose horizon and ambit
cannot be confined and narrowed down, thus the research work has sought with some of the
unavoidable limitations.

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1. PROLOGUE

Public Interest Litigation: The term "Public Interest" means the larger interests of the public,
general welfare and interest of the masses1 and the word Litigation means "a legal action
including all proceedings therein, initiated in a court of law with the purpose of enforcing a right
or seeking a remedy." Thus, the expression `Public Interest Litigation' means "any litigation
conducted for the benefit of public or for removal of some public grievance." In simple words,
public interest litigation means any public spirited citizen can move/approach the court for the
public cause (or public interest or public welfare) by filing a petition in the Supreme Court under
Art.32 of the Constitution or in the High Court under Art.226 of the Constitution or before the
Court of Magistrate under Sec. 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
The seeds of the concept of public interest litigation were initially sown in India by Justice
Krishna Iyer in 1976 in Mumbai Kamgar Sabha vs. Abdul Thai2 and was initiated in Akhil
Bharatiya Shoshit Karmachari Sangh (Railway) v. Union of India3, wherein an unregistered
association of workers was permitted to institute a writ petition under Art.32 of the Constitution
for the redressal of common grievances. Krishna lyer J., enunciated the reasons for liberalization
of the rule of Locus Standi in Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union v. Union of India4 and the
idea of 'Public Interest Litigation' blossomed in S.P. Gupta and others vs. Union of India5.

2. EMERGENCE OF PIL IN INDIA

Public interest litigation or social interest litigation today has great significance and drew
the attention of all concerned. The traditional rule of "Locus Standi" that a person, whose right is
infringed alone can file a petition, has been considerably relaxed by the Supreme Court in its
recent decisions. Now, the court permits public interest litigation at the instance of the so-called
PUBLIC-SPIRITED CITIZENS for the enforcement of Constitutional and Legal rights. Now,
any public spirited citizen can move/approach the court for the public cause (in the interests of the
public or public welfare) by filing a petition:

1
Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edn. Vol.Xll.
2
AIR 1976 SC 1455.
3
AIR 1981 SC 298.
4
AIR 1981 SC 344.
5
AIR 1982 SC 149.

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1. In the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India;
2. In the High Court under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution
3. In the Court of Magistrate under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal procedure
Justice Krishna Iyer in the Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union case enumerated the
following reasons for liberalization of the rule of Locus Standi:-
1. Exercise of State power to eradicate corruption may result in unrelated interference with
individuals rights.
2. Social justice wan ants liberal judicial review administrative action.
3. Restrictive rules of standing are antithesis to a healthy system of administrative action.
4. Activism is essential for participative public justice.

Therefore, a public minded citizen must be given an opportunity to move the court in the
interests of the public.
Further, Bhagwati J., known as one of the pro-poor and activist judges of the Supreme
Court in S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India6 popularly known as JUDGES TRANSFER CASE,
firmly established the validity of the public interest litigation. Since then, a good number of public
interest litigation petitions were filed.
It should be noted at outset that PIL, at least as it had developed in India, is different from
class action or group litigation. Whereas the latter is driven primarily by efficiency considerations,
the
PIL is concerned at providing access to justice to all societal constituents. PIL in India has
been a part of the constitutional litigation and not civil litigation.5 Therefore, in order to appreciate
the evolution of PIL in India, it is desirable to have a basic understanding of the constitutional
framework and the Indian judiciary6. After gaining independence from the British rule on August
15, 1947, the People of India adopted a Constitution in November 1949 with the hope to establish
a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.
The founding fathers envisaged the judiciary as a bastion of rights and justice7. An
independent judiciary armed with the power of judicial review was the constitutional device
chosen to achieve this objective. The power to enforce the FRs was conferred on both the
Supreme Court and the High Courts8 the courts that have entertained all the PIL cases. The

6
AIR 1982 SC 149.
7
Austin, Cornerstone of a Nation, p.175.
8
Constitution of India 1950 arts 32 and 226.
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judiciary can test not only the validity of laws and executive actions but also of constitutional
amendments. It has the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution and its orders, supported
with the power to punish for contempt, can reach everyone throughout the territory of the country.
Since its inception, the Supreme Court has delivered judgments of far-reaching importance
involving not only adjudication of disputes but also determination of public policies and
establishment of rule of law and constitutionalism9.

3. THE THREE PHASES OF PIL

At the risk of over-simplification and overlap, the PIL discourse in India could be divided,
in my view, into three broad phases.40 One will notice that these three phases differ from each
other in terms of at least the following four variables: who initiated PIL cases; what was the
subject matter/focus of PIL; against whom the relief was sought; and how judiciary responded to
PIL cases.

The First Phase:


In the first phasewhich began in the late 1970s and continued through the 1980sthe
PIL cases were generally filed by public-spirited persons (lawyers, journalists, social activists or
academics).
Most of the cases related to the rights of disadvantaged sections of society such as child labourers,
bonded labourers, prisoners, mentally challenged, pavement dwellers, and women. The relief was
sought against the action or non-action on the part of executive agencies resulting in violations of
FRs under the Constitution. During this phase, the judiciary responded by recognizing the rights
of these people and giving directions to the government to redress the alleged violations. In short,
it is arguable that in the first phase, the PIL truly became an instrument of the type of social
transformation/revolution that the founding fathers had expected to achieve through the
Constitution.

The Second Phase:


The second phase of the PIL was in the 1990s during which several significant changes in
the chemistry of PIL took place. In comparison to the first phase, the filing of PIL cases became
more institutionalized in that several specialized NGOs and lawyers started bringing matters of
9
Gobind Das, The Supreme Court: An Overview in B.N. Kirpal et al. (eds), Supreme but not Infallible: Essays in
Honour of the Supreme Court of India (New Delhi: OUP, 2000), pp.1647.
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public interest to the courts on a much regular basis. The breadth of issues which were raised in
PIL also expanded tremendouslyfrom the protection of environment to corruption-free
administration, right to education, sexual harassment at the workplace, relocation of industries,
rule of law, good governance, and the general accountability of the Government. It is to be noted
that in this phase, the petitioners sought relief not only against the action/non-action of the
executive but also against private individuals, in relation to policy matters and regarding
something that would clearly fall within the domain of the legislature. The response of the
judiciary during the second phase was by and large much bolder and unconventional than the first
phase. For instance, the courts did not hesitate to come up with detailed guidelines where there
were legislative gaps. The courts enforced
FRs against private individuals and granted relief to the petitioner without going into the question
of whether the violator of the FR was the state. The courts also took non-compliance with its
orders more seriously and in some cases, went to the extent of monitoring government
investigative agencies and/or punishing civil servants for contempt for failing to abide by their
directions. The second phase was also the period when the misuse of PIL not only began but also
reached to a disturbing level, which occasionally compelled the courts to impose fine on plaintiffs
for misusing PIL for private purposes.
It is thus apparent that in the second phase the PIL discourse broke new grounds and chartered on
previously unknown paths in that it moved much beyond the declared objective for which PIL was
meant. The courts, for instance, took resort to judicial legislation when needed, did not hesitate to
reach centres of government power, tried to extend the protection of FRs against non-state actors,
moved to protect the interests of the middle class rather than poor populace, and sought means to
control the misuse of PIL for ulterior purposes.

The Third Phase:


On the other hand, the third phasethe current phase, which began with the 21st
centuryis a period in which anyone could file a PIL for almost anything. It seems that there is a
further expansion of issues that could be raised as PIL, e.g. calling back the Indian cricket team
from the Australia tour and preventing an alleged marriage of an actress with trees for astrological
reasons.
From the judiciarys point of view, one could argue that it is time for judicial introspection and for
reviewing what courts tried to achieve through PIL. As compared to the second phase, the
judiciary has seemingly shown more restraint in issuing directions to the government. Although

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the judiciary is unlikely to roll back the expansive scope of PIL, it is possible that it might make
more measured interventions in the future.
One aspect that stands out in the third phase deserves a special mention. In continuation of its
approval of the governments policies of liberalization in Delhi Science Forum, the judiciary has
shown a general support to disinvestment and development policies of the Government.41 What is
more troublesome for students of the PIL project in India is, however, the fact that this judicial
attitude might be at the cost of the sympathetic response that the rights and interests of
impoverished and vulnerable sections of society (such as slum dwellers and people displaced by
the construction of dams) received in the first phase. The Supreme Courts observations such as
the following also fuel these concerns10: Socialism might have been a catchword from our
history. It may be present in the Preamble of our Constitution. However, due to the liberalization
policy adopted by the Central Government from the early nineties, this view that the Indian
society is essentially wedded to socialism is definitely withering away.
It seems that the judicial attitude towards PIL in these three phases is a response, at least in part, to
how it perceived to be the issues in vogue. If rights of prisoners, pavement dwellers,
child/bonded labourers and women were in focus in the first phase, issues such as environment,
AIDS, corruption and good governance were at the forefront in second phase, and development
and free market considerations might dominate the third phase. So, the way courts have reacted to
PIL in India is merely a reflection of what people expected from the judiciary at any given point
of time.

4. JUDICIAL MOULDING OF STANDING, PROCEDURE, SUBSTANCE,


RELIEF

Two judges of the Indian Supreme Court11 prepared the groundwork from mid-1970s to
early 1980s, for the birth of PIL in India. This included modifying the traditional requirements of
locus standi, liberalizing the procedure to file writ petitions, creating or expanding FRs,

10
State of Punjab v. Devans Modern Breweries Ltd, (2004) 11 SCC 26.
11
Bhagwati and Iyer JJ.

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overcoming evidentiary problems, and evolving innovative remedies12. Modification of the
traditional requirement of standing was sine qua non for the evolution of PIL and any public
participation in justice administration. The need was more pressing in a country like India where a
great majority of people were either ignorant of their rights or were too poor to approach the court.
Realizing this need, the Court held that any member of public acting bona fide and having
sufficient interest has a right to approach the court for redressal of a legal wrong, especially when
the actual plaintiff suffers from some disability or the violation of collective diffused rights is at
stake. Later on, merging representative standing and citizen standing, the Supreme Court in
Judges Transfer case held13: 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 . . . and
such person or determinate class of persons is by reasons of poverty, helplessness, or disability or
socially or economically disadvantaged position, unable to approach the Court for any relief, any
member of the public can maintain an application for an appropriate direction, order or writ.
The court justified such extension of standing in order to enforce rule of law and provide justice to
disadvantaged sections of society14.Furthermore, the Supreme Court observed that the term
appropriate proceedings in Art.32 of the Constitution15 does not refer to the form but to the
purpose of proceeding: so long as the purpose of the proceeding is to enforce a FR, any form will
do16. This interpretation allowed the Court to develop epistolary jurisdiction by which even letters
or telegrams were accepted as writ petitions17. Once the hurdles posed by locus standi and the
procedure to file writ petitions were removed, the judiciary focused its attention to providing a
robust basis to pursue a range of issues under PIL. This was achieved by both interpreting existing
FRs widely and by creating new FRs. Article 21no person shall be deprived of his life or
personal liberty except according to the procedure established by lawproved to be the most
12
See Cooper, Poverty and Constitutional Justice (1993) 44 Mercer Law Review 611, 616632; See Shah,
Illuminating the Possible in the Developing World (1999) 32 Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law 435, 467
473; Vijayashri Sripati, Human Rights in India Fifty Years after Independence (1997) Denver Journal of
International Law and Policy 93, 118125.
13
Gupta v Union of India (1981) Supp S.C.C. 87, 210. See also PUDR v Union of India AIR 1982 SC 1473; Bandhua
Mukti Morcha v Union of India (1984) 3 S.C.C. 161.
14
It is suggested that the way a judge applies the rule of standing corresponds to how she sees her judicial role in the
society. Aharon Barak, Foreword: A Judge on Judging: The Role of a Supreme Court in a Democracy (2002) 116
Harvard Law Review 16, 107108.
15
The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights contained in
this Part is guaranteed..
16
Shukla V.N., Singh M.P.(ed), Constitution of India, pp.278279.
17
Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980 SC 1579.

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fertile provision to mean more than mere physical existence18; it includes right to live with
human dignity and all that goes along with it.
Ever-widening horizon of Art.21 is illustrated by the fact that the Court has read into it, inter alia,
the right to health, livelihood, free and compulsory education up to the age of 14 years, unpolluted
environment, shelter, clean drinking water, privacy, legal aid, speedy trial, and various rights of
under-trials, convicts and prisoners. It is important to note that in a majority of cases the judiciary
relied upon DPs for such extension. The judiciary has also invoked Art.21 to give directions to
government on matters affecting lives of general public, or to invalidate state actions, or to grant
compensation for violation of FRs. The final challenge before the Indian judiciary was to
overcome evidentiary problems and find suitable remedies for the PIL plaintiffs. The Supreme
Court responded by appointing fact-finding commissioners and amicus curiae19. As in most of the
PIL cases there were no immediate or quick solutions, the Court developed creeping
jurisdiction thereby issuing appropriate interim orders and directions20. The judiciary also
emphasized that PIL is not an adversarial but a collaborative and cooperative project in which all
concerned parties should work together to realize the human rights of disadvantaged sections of
society21.

5. FACTORS FOR GROWTH OF PIL IN INDIA

Among many other the major factors which contributed in growth of PIL in India are:

1. Unlike Britain, India has a written constitution which through Part III (Fundamental
Rights) and Part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) provides a framework for regulating
relations between the state and its citizens and between citizens inter-se.
2. India has some of the most progressive social legislation relating to bonded labor,
minimum wages, land ceiling, environmental protection, etc which are rarely found anywhere in

18
Kharak Singh v. State of UP, AIR 1963 SC 1295.
19
See Ashok H. Desai and S. Muralidhar, Public Interest Litigation: Potential and Problems in Kirpal et al.,
Supreme but not Infallible, pp.159, 165167. The Court also held that the power to appoint Commissioners is not
constrained by the Code of Civil Procedure or the Supreme Court Rules.
20
Baxi, Taking Suffering Seriously (1985) Third World Legal Studies 107, 122.
21
See Sathe, Judicial Activism in India, pp.207208, 235237.

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the world.. This has made it easier for the courts to drag up the executive when it is not
performing its duties in ensuring the rights of the poor as per the law of the land.
3. Remedial nature of PIL departs from traditional locus standi rules. Thus a person
acting bonafide and having sufficient interest in the proceeding of PIL will alone have a locus
standi and can approach the court and genuine infraction of statutory provisions. The judges
themselves have in some cases initiated suo moto action based on newspaper articles or letters
received.
4. It is indirectly incorporated the principles enshrined in the Part IV into Part III of
Indian Constitution thereby making them judicially enforceable. For instance the "right to life" in
Article 21 has been expanded to include right to free legal aid, right to live with dignity, right to
education, right to work, freedom from torture, bar fetters and hand cuffing in prisons, etc.
5. Perceptive judges have persistently innovated on the side of the poor. Like, in the
Bandhua Mukti Morcha case, the apex court put the burden of proof on the respondent stating it
would treat every case of forced labor as a case of bonded labor unless proven otherwise by the
employer. Similarly in the Asiad Workers judgment case, Justice Bhagwati held that anyone
getting less than the minimum wage can approach the Supreme Court directly without going
through the labor commissioner and lower courts.
6. In PIL cases where the petitioner is not in a position to provide all the necessary
evidence, either because it is capacious or because the parties are weak socially or economically,
courts have appointed commissions to collect information on facts and present it before the bench.

6. JUDICIARY AND PIL IN INDIA : LANDMARK DECISIONS

One of the earliest cases of public interest litigation was that reported as Hussainara Khatoon (I)
v. State of Bihar22.This case was concerned with a series of articles published in a prominent
newspaper - the Indian Express which exposed the plight of under-trial prisoners in the state of
Bihar. A writ petition was filed by an advocate drawing the Court's attention to the deplorable
plight of these prisoners. Many of them had been in jail for longer periods than the maximum
permissible sentences for the offences they had been charged with. The Supreme Court accepted
the locus standi of the advocate to maintain the writ petition. Thereafter, a series of cases followed

22
(1980) 1 SCC 81.

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in which the Court gave directions through which the 'right to speedy trial' was deemed to be an
integral and an essential part of the protection of life and personal liberty.
Soon thereafter, two noted professors of law filed writ petitions in the Supreme Court highlighting
various abuses of the law, which, they asserted, were a violation of Article 21 of the
Constitution23. These included inhuman conditions prevailing in protective homes, long pendency
of trials in court, trafficking of women, importation of children for homosexual purposes, and the
non-payment of wages to bonded labourers among others. The Supreme Court accepted their
locus standi to represent the suffering masses and passed guidelines and orders that greatly
ameliorated the conditions of these people. In another matter, a journalist, Ms. Sheela Barse 24,
took up the plight of women prisoners who were confined in the police jails in the city of
Bombay. She asserted that they were victims of custodial violence. The Court took cognizance of
the matter and directions were issued to the Director of College of -Social Work, Bombay. He was
ordered to visit the Bombay Central Jail and conduct interviews of various women prisoners in
order to ascertain whether they had been subjected to torture or ill-treatment. He was asked to
submit a report to the Court in this regard. Based on his findings, the Court issued directions such
as the detention of female prisoners only in designated female lock-ups guarded by female
constables and that accused females could be interrogated only in the presence of a female police
official25.
Public interest litigation acquired a new dimension - namely that of 'epistolary jurisdiction' with
the decision in the case of Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration26. It was initiated by a letter that
was written by a prisoner lodged in jail to a Judge of the Supreme Court. The prisoner complained
of a brutal assault committed by a Head Warder on another prisoner. The Court treated that letter
as a writ petition, and, while issuing various directions, opined that:

"...technicalities and legal niceties are no impediment to the court entertaining even an
informal communication as a proceeding for habeas corpus if the basic facts are found".
In Municipal Council, Ratlam v. Vardichand27 the Court recognized the locus standi of a
group of citizens who sought directions against the local Municipal Council for removal of open

23
Upendra Baxi (Dr) v. State of U.P., (1983) 2 SCC 308.
24
Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra, (1983) 2 SCC 96.
25
Address by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India, Growth of Public Interest
Litigation In India available at:
http://www.supremecourtofindia.nic.in/speeches/speeches_2008/8%5B1%5D.
26
(1978) 4 SCC 494.
27
(1980) 4 SCC 162.

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drains that caused stench as well as diseases. The Court, recognizing the right of the group of
citizens, asserted that if the:

"...centre of gravity of justice is to shift as indeed the Preamble to the Constitution


mandates, from the traditional individualism of locus standi to the community orientation of
public interest litigation, the court must consider the issues as there is need to focus on the
ordinary men."

In Parmanand Katara v. Union of India28 the Supreme Court accepted an application by an


advocate that highlighted a news item titled "Law Helps the Injured to Die" published in a
national daily, The Hindustan Times. The petitioner brought to light the difficulties faced by
persons injured in road and other accidents in availing urgent and life-saving medical treatment,
since many hospitals and doctors refused to treat them unless certain procedural formalities were
completed in these medico-legal cases. The Supreme Court directed medical establishments to
provide instant medical aid to such injured people, notwithstanding the formalities to be followed
under the procedural criminal law29.
In many other instances, the Supreme Court has risen to the changing needs of society and taken
proactive steps to address these needs. It was therefore the extensive liberalization of the rule of
locus standi which gave birth to a flexible public interest litigation system. A powerful thrust to
public interest litigation was given by a seven-judge bench in the case of S.P. Gupta v. Union of
India30.The judgment recognized the locus standi of bar associations to file writs by way of public
interest litigation. In this particular case, it was accepted that they had a legitimate interest in
questioning the executive's policy of arbitrarily transferring High Court judges, which threatened
the independence of the judiciary. Explaining the liberalization of the concept of locus standi, the
court opined:
"It must now be regarded as well-settled law where a person who has suffered a legal wrong or a
legal injury or whose legal right or legally protected interest is violated, is unable to approach the
court on account of some disability or it is not practicable for him to move the court for some
other sufficient reasons, such as his socially or economically disadvantaged position, some other
person can invoke the assistance of the court for the purpose of providing judicial redress to the
28
(1989) 4 SCC 286.
29
Ibid
30
(1981) Supp. SCC 87.

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person wronged or injured, so that the legal wrong or injury caused to such person does not go
unredressed and justice is done to him."
Among other interventions, one can refer to the Shriram Food & Fertilizer31 Court through
Public Interest Litigation directed the Co. Manufacturing hazardous & lethal chemical and gases
posing danger to life and health of workmen & to take all necessary safety measures before re-
opening the plant.
It is also through the vehicle of PIL, that the Indian Courts have come to adopt the strategy of
awarding monetary compensation for constitutional wrongs such as unlawful detention, custodial
torture and extra-judicial killings by state agencies.
In the realm of environmental protection, many of the leading decisions have been given in
actions brought by renowned environmentalist M.C. Mehta. He has been a tireless campaigner in
this area and his petitions have resulted in orders placing strict liability for the leak of Oleum gas
from a factory in New Delhi32 directions to check pollution in and around the Ganges river33,the
relocation of hazardous industries from the municipal limits of Delhi, directions to state agencies
to check pollution in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal and several forestation measures. A major
decision was made in a petition that raised the problem of extensive vehicular air pollution in
Delhi.
7. CONCLUSION

PIL in India has produced astounding results which were unthinkable three decades ago.
The greatest contribution of it has been enhancing the accountability of governments towards
human rights of underprivileged. Judges alone cannot provide effective responses to governmental
lawlessness but they can surely a culture formation where political power becomes increasingly
sensitive to human rights.
But, public interest litigants, all over the country, have not taken very humanely to such court
decisions. They do fear that this will sound the death-knell of the people- friendly concept of PIL.
However, bona fide litigants of India have nothing to fear.
Only those activists who prefer to file frivolous complaints will have to pay compensation to the
opposite parties. It is actually a welcome move because no one in the country can deny that even
PIL activists should be responsible and accountable. It is also notable here that even the

31
AIR 1982 SC 1473.
32
M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, (1987) 1 SCC 395.
33
Ibid.

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Consumers Protection Act, 1986 has been amended to provide compensation to opposite parties in
cases of frivolous complaints made by consumers. In any way, it now does require a complete
rethink and restructuring. It is however, obvious that overuse and abuse of PIL can only make it
stale and ineffective. Since it is an extraordinary remedy available at a cheaper cost to all citizens
of the country, it ought not to be used by all litigants as a substitute for ordinary ones or as a
means to file frivolous complaints.
The power of the Court to entertain any circumstance that may hinder societal growth, or may
cause hardship to a class of individuals is not unconstrained. It is carefully regulated with tight
reins, and cases of public interest are taken up only after scrupulous scrutiny.
Similarly there may be cases where the PIL may affect the right of persons not before the court,
and therefore in shaping the relief the court must invariably take into account its impact on those
interests and the court must exercise greatest caution and adopt procedure ensuring sufficient
notice to all interests likely to be affected.
At present, the court can treat a letter as a writ petition and take action upon it. But, it is not every
letter, which may be treated as a writ petition by the court. The court would be justified in treating
the letter as a writ petition only in the following cases:

(i) It is only where the letter is addressed by an aggrieved person or


(ii) A public spirited individual or
(iii) A social action group for the enforcement of the constitutional or the legal rights of a
person in custody or of a class or group of persons who by reason of poverty, disability or socially
or economically disadvantaged position find it difficult to approach the court for redress.
Even though it is very much essential to curb the misuse and abuse of PIL, any move by the
government to regulate the PIL results in widespread protests from those who are not aware of its
abuse and equate any form of regulation with erosion of their fundamental rights. Under these
circumstances the Supreme Court of India is required to step in by incorporating safe guards
provided by the civil procedure code in matters of stay orders /injunctions in the arena of PIL.

However shedding all the doubts and abuses against misuse of PIL, it must be accepted that is
working as an important instrument of social change. It is working for the welfare of every section
of society. It is 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. BIBLIOGRAPHY

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8. BIBLIOGRAPHY

BOOKS

1. Jain and Jain, Principles of Administrative Law, (6th Ed., Wadhwa Buttersworth,
Lexis Nexis, Nagpur, 2012).
2. I.P. Messy, Administrative Law, (7th Ed., Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 2008).
3. S.P. Sathe, Administrative Law, (7th Ed., Wadhwa Buttersworth, Lexis Nexis,
Nagpur, 2010).
4. De Smith, S.A., Judicial Review of Administrative Actions, 1959.
5. Mamta Rao, Public Interest Litigation in India - a Renaissance in Social Justice,
2nd edn. (Lucknow: Eastern Book Company, 2004)
6. M.P. Singh (ed.), V.N. Shukla's Constitution of India, 11th edn. (Lucknow: Eastern
Book Company, 2008)

WEBSITES

1. http://vishwabhushan.blogspot.in/2011/09/judicial-review-concept-origin-and.html
2. http://www.library.unt.edu/gpo/acir/Reports/information/m-159.pdf

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