How to file a Public Interest Litigation in India? – A guide

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PIL or Public interest litigation is a petition that is filed by any person from the general public for any matter concerning public interest at large to provide justice to the common public. In general, Public Interest Litigation cases are not defined in any statute or in any act, but it was interpreted by judges to consider the intent of large public interest.

Introduction to PIL

Public interest litigation meaning is quite simple. Originally, the term ‘Public Interest Litigation’ was borrowed from the American Jurisprudence, in which it was used to provide legal representation to previously unrepresented categories like the poor, minorities, environmentalists, social workers, etc.

Public interest litigation is the power which is given to the common public by courts through judicial activism. However, anyone filing a PIL in the court must satisfy the court that the petition is being filed for the public interest and not for any personal benefit.

Let us see some matters that are allowed for PIL by courts

  • Non-Payment of wages to workers
  • Exploitation of workers
  • Exploitation of women
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Maintenance of cultural heritage
  • Neglected children
  • Bonded Labour Matters

Difference between Writ Petition and PIL

Generally, people, especially students commonly gets confused between a PIL and a Writ Petition. The basic difference between both is, Writs are filed by individuals or institutions for their personal benefits and not for a public interest, whereas PILs are filed for a larger good.

Also Read: A detailed overview of the types of writs in India

Eligibility to file a PIL

Any Indian citizen can file a PIL, the only condition is that it should not be filed for personal benefit, but for the larger public interest. Sometimes even the Court takes cognizance of a matter if it is of public importance and appoints an advocate to handle the case. LEX Solutions has the best team of experienced advocates who are best at handling PIL cases very effectively.  Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition:

  • Under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court.
  • Under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution, in the High Court.
  • Under section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in the Court of Magistrate.

Also Read: Lex Solutions –  Your One-stop destination for all things legal

Where can we file PILs

Any Indian Citizen can file PILs either in the High Court or in the Supreme court.

Procedure for filling a PIL

For filing a PIL, one has to do thorough research and collect all facts. You may also take advice or suggestions from advocates having certain experiences.

  • Before filing PIL, collect all the relevant information and documents to back your case.
  • Collect necessary documents such as title deeds, proof of residence, identity proof, notice, resettlement policy if any and photographs.
  • You can argue in person or appoint an advocate or an organisation to fight the case. In any case, it is advisable to consult an advocate before filing a PIL>
  • List names and addresses of all parties approaching the court.
  • List facts giving rise to a violation of Fundamental Rights.
  • List dates indicating the whole incident.
  • Clearly mention the ‘prayers’ or the relief being sought from the court.
  • If you are filing PIL in the High Court, submit two copies of the petition to the court. Also, a copy of the petition has to be served to each respondent in advance.
  • If you are filing a PIL in the Supreme Court, then you need to submit five copies of a petition before the court. Also, each respondent is to be served with a copy of the petition only when the court issues a notice.

Cost to bear while filing a PIL

As a PIL is for the public good, it is very cheap compared to other court cases. One needs to pay a court fee of Rs 50 for each respondent and affix it to the petition. But, the expense to fight the case depends on the advocate, and the petitioner chooses to fight the case.

Issues that are not eligible to be filed under PIL

As we already know, matters concerning personal interest are not entertained under PIL. The Supreme Court has also issued a set of guidelines according to which the following matters are not allowed under PILs:

  • Service matters
  • Admission to educational institutes
  • Petitions for early hearing of pending cases in Courts.
  • Landlord-tenant matters
  • Matters pertaining to pension and gratuity
  • Matters pertaining to salary
  • Complaints against Central and State government departments and Local Bodies except those relating to items 1 to 10 mentioned in the list of guidelines.

Time taken for closure of a PIL

Time taken for the closure of PILs certainly depends on the case. If the matter argued is of utmost importance pertaining to the lives of humans, human rights violations etc., the court would take up the case immediately, conduct the hearing and dispose of the matter. But generally due to the filing of lots of PILs in the courts, the hearing and closure of the case is a lot time-consuming, and in many cases, it may take years. However, in between the hearings, the court may issue directions to the authorities to perform certain actions as and when needed. Also, in many cases, both parties approach settlements after long hearings. It’s only after the final hearing of both parties that a judgement is given.

As we see, the main aim of PIL is to give the common people access to courts to obtain legal redress. So irrespective of the time taken, people must pursue justice as the courts favour the PILs.

Some remarkable judgements in PILs

  • The Supreme Court in Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay & Ors. vs. M/s Devkala Consultancy Service and Ors held:- “In an appropriate case, where the petitioner might have moved a court in her private interest and for redressal of the personal grievance, the court in furtherance of Public Interest may treat it a necessity to enquire into the state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice.” Thus, a private interest case can also be treated as a public interest case.
  • M.C Mehta vs. Union of India: In a Public Interest Litigation act brought against Ganga water pollution so as to prevent any further pollution of Ganga water. The Supreme Court held that petitioner, although not a riparian owner, is entitled to move the court for the enforcement of statutory provisions, as he is the person interested in protecting the lives of the people who make use of Ganga water.
  • Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan: 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 the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Conclusion

Public interest litigation bare act or  Public interest litigation (PIL) refers to litigation undertaken to secure public interest and demonstrates the availability of justice to socially-disadvantaged parties and was introduced by Justice P. N. Bhagwati. It is a relaxation of the traditional rule of locus standi.