Public Interest Litigation

Public interest litigation: A boon or bane for India?

The development of Public Interest Litigation or PIL in India has very recently uncovered its own drawbacks and pitfalls. The authentic causes and the cases of public interest have in fact retreated to the background and the reckless PIL activists all over the nation have commenced playing a vital but not yet a constructive role in the litigation arena. They make an attempt to utilise this outstanding remedy, available at an affordable cost as a substitute for the ordinary ones.

Till the 1960s and 70s, the concept of litigation in the nation was still in its elementary form and was approached as a private chase for the justification of private vested interests. The litigation in that time comprised mainly of specific action initiated and continued by few individuals, commonly, addressing their own problems and grievances. Thus, the initiation, as well as the continuation of the litigation, was the privilege of the aggrieved party of the injured person. Even this too was greatly restricted by the resources available to those people. There was very little systematized attempt or efforts to take up the graver problems that affected the classes of the consumers or the general public on a large scale.

However, all those scenarios altered during the 1980s with the Supreme Court of India when it led the concept of Public Interest Litigation or PIL. The Supreme Court of India provided all the individuals in the country as well as the newly formed social action and consumer groups simpler and easier access to the law and also introduced in their work a broad public interest viewpoint.

At present, the court can consider a letter as a writ petition and take the required action upon it. However, it is not every letter that might get treated as the writ petition by the court. The court will be defensible in considering the letter as the writ petition under the following circumstances:

  • When the letter is written by the aggrieved person.
  • A public-spirited individual,
  • A social action group.

Even though it is vital to curb the misuse as well as the abuse of Public Interest Litigation, any move by the government to regulate it will result in widespread protests from the ones who are aware of its abuse and equate any form of regulation with the erosion of the fundamental rights.

The sense in which PIL is a boon is:

  • In PIL, the heedful citizens of the nation can search for an economical legal solution because there is only an affordable court fee involved in this process.
  • The litigants can centre their attention to achieve the outcomes pertaining to wider public problems, specifically in the fields of consumer welfare, environment, and human rights.

In conclusion

Public Interest Litigation, all over the nation, has not taken kindly to the decisions of the court. Since it is a unique remedy available at a reasonable cost to all the citizens of India; it ought not to be used by all the litigants as a substitute for the ordinary ones or as a mean to file frivolous complaints.


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