Sunday, July 20, 2014

Concept of Public Interest Litigation in India

The concept of Public Interest Litigation in India was propounded by the Supreme Court in an important judgement in the Judge's transfer case. Since then, it has become one of the most important and powerful weapons in the hands of higher Judiciary to enforce the legal and constitutional obligations of executive and legislature towards the interest of the public at large. The basic aim of Public Interest Litigation is to render justice and help in the promotion of the well being of the people. It is basically intended to protect the group interest and not the interest of the individual (for which the Constitution provides a separate chapter on Fundamental Rights).

The concept of Public Interest Litigation has emanated from the power of Judicial Review enjoyed by the higher courts in India. The right to entertain Public Interest Litigation cases is available to both Supreme Court and High Courts. The Supreme Court through its various decisions has evolved rules relating to the Public Interest Litigation. A Public Interest Litigation can be filed by any publicly spirited individual or organization on behalf of the aggrieved and afflicted persons (particularly when the person or group of persons is economically very weak to approach either the Supreme Court or High Court). Even a post card can be treated as a writ petition. Usually the relief provided by the court is in the form of direction or order to the State including compensation to the affected parties. The immediate cognizance taken by the Supreme Court and High Courts in case of Public Interest Litigation has in fact provided a new dimension to their role.
The Public Interest Litigation has served some of the important purposes which justify the utility of its existence. These are -

1. It has aroused awareness among the masses about their fundamental rights and the availability of institutional arrangement in the form of Judiciary to get their rights redressed and implemented.

2. Through Public Interest Litigation, Supreme Court has vastly expanded the scope of Fundamental Rights by liberally interpreting Article 32 and Article 226.

3. By taking earnest cognizance of the Public Interest Litigation cases, the Supreme Court has in fact forced the executive and legislature to, discharge their constitutional obligations towards the people.

4. It has made an attempt to provide corruption free administration and survivable environment to the public.


However, the Public Interest Litigation has also attracted criticism from many quarters. It is generally alleged that it has interfered with the normal judicial functions of the Courts. It has also led to the frivolous litigations filed merely to get certain things delayed.

Despite the criticism, there should be no legislative interference in the Public Interest Litigation to regulate it. Instead, the Judiciary should evolve its own code of ethics while dealing with the Public Interest Litigation.

# A screening committee may be appointed by the Judiciary to study the various Public Interest Litigation and submit a report in order to save time.

# The Judiciary may also impose some fines for filling frivolous Public Interest Litigation.

# The Court may also make liberal use of amicus curie (friend of the court) in disposing the Public Interest Litigation more effectively.

# The litigants should be made to provide the proof of allegation made in the petition.

The Supreme Court on March 12, 1997, in an oral observation, said that the Public Interest Litigation should be supported by an affidavit sworn by one who has personal knowledge of the facts mentioned in the petition, while entertaining Public Interest Litigation petition made against the (then) proposed Yanni Concert at the Taj Mahal.

Thus, the Public Interest Litigation nowadays has become one of the important means of securing justice and safeguarding the fundamental rights of the poor and deprived people at large with the initiative taken by the enlightened and concerned citizens on behalf of the poor masses.

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