PIL that is the “Public Interest Litigation” is directly filed by an individual or group of people in the Supreme Court of India and High Courts of India and judicial magistrate. It was felt that their interests are undermined by the government.In such a situation, the court directly accepts the public good. It is a new legal horizon in which court of law can initiate and enforce action to serve and secure significant Public Interest.
It was in the case of SP Gupta vs Union of India that the Supreme Court of India defined the term “public interest litigation” in the Indian Context.
The concept of public interest litigation (PIL) is in consonance with the principles enshrined in Article 39A of the Constitution of India to protect and deliver prompt social justice with the help of law. Before the 1980s, only the aggrieved party could approach the courts for justice. After the emergency era the high court reached out to the people, devising a means for any person of the public (or an NGO) to approach the court seeking legal remedy in cases where the public interest is at stake. Justice P. N. Bhagwati and Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer were among the first judges to admit PILs in court.
l Filing a PIL is not as cumbersome as a usual legal case; there have been instances when letters and telegrams addressed to the court have been taken up as PILs and heard.
l A PIL is a petition that an individual or a non-government organisation or citizen groups, can file in the court seeking justice in an issue that has a larger public interest. It aims at giving common people an access to the judiciary to obtain legal redress for a greater cause.
l PIL is not defined in any statute. It is the outcome of judicial activism to take cognisance of a cause at the instance of any person even if it does not affect him personally, but affects the public at large.
Difference between a writ and a PIL..??
Writ is an order made by the court in the name of a person
involved to either perform a particular action or abstain him from doing it.
Whereas, PIL (Public Interest Litigation) is a form of writ where an action or law is framed for public convenience. It directly joins public with the judiciary. In PIL, the court has given public the right to file a suit.
Writs are filed by institutions or individuals for benefit in their own cases, whereas, PIL is an application that is filed by any citizen for easing out any undue botheration or inconvenience faced by the public at large.
Public interest litigation is not defined in any statute or any act. It has been interpreted by a judge to consider the intent of public at large. Following are the various areas where a PIL can be filed against State/Central Govt./Municipal authorities or any private party.
(a) If there’s abuse of elementary human rights of the underprivileged.
(b) If there’s inappropriate content or conduct of government policy.
(c) To force municipal authorities to accomplish a public duty.
(d) If there’s violation of religious rights or any basic fundamental rights.
Writs are issued by the Supreme Court of India under Article 32 and Article 139. Writs can be issued by High Court of the States under Articles 226.
PIL’s are applications/writs that are filed by any citizen for easing out inconvenience faced by the public at large and they are not defined in any Statute.
Filing of PIL under article 32, 226 or 133
The court must be satisfied that the Writ petition fulfils some basic needs for PIL as the letter is addressed by the aggrieved person, public spirited individual and a social action group for the enforcement of legal or Constitutional rights to any person who are not able to approach the court for redress. Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition:
· Under Art 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme court.
· Under Art 226 of the Indian Constitution, in the High court.
· Under sec. 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in the court of Magistrate.
How to file a PIL in Supreme Court of India
The name PIL has not been defined in the Constitution and is a more popular name for a Writ issued by the Supreme Court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution of India which is considered to be highly prerogative.
The following steps describe in brief the process how to file a PIL in Supreme Court of India.
Firstly check about the subject on which one is thinking to file the PIL and read all the details of the provisions of the law and the violations of the law if any being done by the State or any statutory body. PIL can only be filed against any existing legal right or violation of the legal right by the Government.
Secondly to make a detailed representation regarding the violations being made by the department concerned or the concerned authorities to take the remedial steps in this regard. If possible a reminder to the same may also be given.
Thirdly to check any arbitrary law, irregularity in the enforcement of law and the class of people being affected by such law or the inactivity of the department concerned.
Fourthly to collect all the relevant material, press reportings, documents etc in this regard and arrange them chronologically.
Fifthly to draft a Writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India citing the violations of the law, inactivity of the state and all other grounds. The format for PIL is given below which may be used. It is important to take the assistance or services of a trained legal hand for the purpose.
Sixthly to prepare and file the PIL in Supreme Court of India before the Registry of the Supreme Court of India and get the matter listed before the court after due scrutiny. The matter is thereafter listed before the Court of hearing and orders accordingly.
WRITS WHICH CAN BE ISSUED:
Writ of Mandamus can be issued against inaction, inactivity of the State or any statutory body or any Government body in any manner.
Writ of Certiorari can be issued for quashing of any judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings or any other irregular proceedings being conducted by any wing of the State.
Writ of Prohibition can be issued against any wing of the State or any statutory body if it is exercising its powers beyond its jurisdiction i.e. beyond the legal powers vested in it.
Writ of Quo Waranto can be issued against any wing of State or any statutory body if it does not enjoy the legal authority to act, or his appointment to the post is illegal or is irregular.
Writ of Habeas Corpus can be issued for producing the body of a missing person. This is the only writ which can be issued by a private body or individual also.
A writ can be by way of a writ, order or direction normally. It can be in form of any other form of order issued by the Court.
Important documents to be enclosed along with a PIL in Supreme Court of India:
(i) Affidavit of the Petitioner.
(ii) Annexures as referred to in the Writ Petitioner, with court fees of Rs.2/- per annexure is to be filed.
(iii) 1+5 copies of the Writ Petition duly bound is to be filed.
(iv) Court fee of Rs.50/- per petitioner for civil matters, for criminal matters, no fees is required.
(v) Index of the papers.
(vi) Cover page.
(vii) Application for interim relief, stay, exemption etc .
(viii) Memo of appearance, Rs. 5/- Court fee.
PILs have achieved a place of great importance in our legal system. In India, the first PIL was filed in the year 1976 – Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. M/s Abdulbhai Faizullabhai and others [1976 (3) SCC 832]. The seed of the PIL was sown by Justice Krishna Iyer through this landmark judgement.
l Some of the Landmark PILs of the Supreme Court
Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
This case was against sexual harassment at work place, brought by Bhanwari Devi to stop the marriage of a one year old girl in rural Rajasthan. Five men raped her. She faced numerous problems when she attempted to seek justice. Naina Kapoor decided to initiate a PIL to challenge sexual harassment at work place, in this supreme court.
The judgement of the case recognized sexual harassment as a violation of the fundamental constitutional rights of Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21. The guidelines also directed for sexual harassment prevention.
M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
In this case, the court passed three landmark judgements and several orders against polluting industries which were more than 50,000 in the Ganga basin. The court shut down numerous industries and allowing them to reopen only after controlled pollution. At the end, millions of people escaped air and water pollution in the Ganga basin, including eight states in India.
Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar
Many have regarded this case as the first PIL in India as well. In this case, the attention of the Court focussed on the incredible situation of under-trials in Bihar who had been in detention pending trial for periods far in excess of the maximum sentence for their offences. The Court not only proceeded to make the right to a speedy trial the central issue of the case, but passed the order of general release of close to 40,000 under-trials who had undergone detention beyond such maximum period.
l Issues that cannot be filed under PIL?
The Supreme Court has issued a set of PIL guidelines according to which the following matters will not be allowed as PILs:
- · Landlord-tenant matters
- · Service matters
- · Matters pertaining to pension and gratuity
- · Complaints against Central and State government departments and Local Bodies except those relating to items 1 to 10 mentioned in the list of guidelines
- · Admission to medical and other educational institutions
- · Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Court or subordinate court.
In 2010, the Supreme Court came down heavily on frivolous public interest litigation petitions for personal or extraneous reasons, and eventually laid down certain guidelines to be followed by courts in entertaining PILs.
The filing of indiscriminate petitions “creates unnecessary strain on the judicial system and consequently leads to inordinate delay in disposal of genuine and bona fide cases,” said a Bench consisting of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Mukundakam.
PIL now does require a complete rethink and restructuring. Anyway, 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.