What is Public interest litigation in India?

Legislature, Executive and Judiciary are the three organs of Indian Government. It is the Judiciary that upholds the pillar of equality in Justice. Earlier, the cases where a person’s rights were violated had to approach the court himself/herself. With the instrument of Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Locus Standi was relaxed and any person can stand for the violation of Fundamental Rights for a group of marginalized and weaker sections of society.

  • Historical Background − The concept of Public Interest Litigation and promoting judicial activism started from the year 1979. The foundation of PIL is credited to Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer and Justice Y.V.Chandrachud. In the S.P.Gupta v/s Union of India case (1981), Justice P N Bhagwati gave a comprehension to this concept. The horizon of Public Interest Litigation expanded due to the spirit and courage of these judges who set their benchmarks in Indian Judiciary.

  • Issues covered in PILs − The various areas that have been covered in Judicial activism are exposing scams, protection of the environment, atrocities against working women, inhuman treatment of jail inmates, preventing the people behind the bars from contesting elections, etc.

  • Important PILs in Indian Judiciary − Some of the important PILs which are considered to be significant change-makers in India have been the Sheela Barse Case that demanded separate lock-ups for women for their protection. It was only through Public Interest Litigation that the greatest of all, 2G scam was exposed. Prof. Pratibha Naitthani from St.Xavier’s College, Mumbai, had filed a PIL to stop vulgarity and violence on TV programs.

  • Criticism − The major criticism in regards to Public Interest Litigation is that it has been overburdening the Judiciary which already is facing the scantiness of an appropriate number of judges to handle the existing cases. Each organ of our democracy should perform its functions in an appropriate manner but PIL is creating an imbalance to a great extent.