What is a PIL – What every citizen needs to know

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An individual or a group of individuals can file a PIL directly in the Supreme Court of India if they feel that the government has undermined their interests. When such a situation arises, the Supreme Court upholds public good. A PIL is available to the people for securing public good. There is no statutory definition for a PIL but if left upon the judiciary to interpret.

The importance of Public Interest Litigation can be understood under four heads:
  • It goes on to be a part of Art. 21 of the Indian Constitution which enshrines the right to life and personal liberty.
  • Some reliefs under writs have been introduced due to it.
  • It works towards the effective implementation of public welfare.
  • The oppressed or suppressed classes could be uplifted as anyone can seek relief on their behalf.
Who can you file a PIL against?

It is important to note that a PIL can only be filed against the state, i.e, the union or the central government, the state government, or a municipal authority. A PIL cannot be filed against private parties. But, a private party can be included as a respondent after the concerned state authority.

Relevant Provisions under which you can file a PIL:
  • 32 of the Indian Constitution in the Supreme Court and Art. 226 of the Indian Constitution in the High Court
  • 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the Court of the Magistrate

How do you differentiate between a PIL and a writ petition?

Both PILs and petitions are forms of writs but they differ on the point that petitions are concerned with private interest while a PIL is concerned with general public welfare at large. Also, all PILs and petitions are writs, but all writs are not PILs or WP.

Misuse of PIL

A PIL cannot be filed with an intention of pecuniary gain and as a frivolous litigation. The court should be satisfied that the same is filed for the public good. That substantial fines for frivolous litigations would be imposed has been stated by Former CJI, S. H. Kapadia.

Difference between a PIL and a Private Litigation

The main point of difference is the purpose of litigation. In a PIL, it is for a public good, while in the case of private litigation, it is attached to a specific person. In case of private litigation, the locus standi preceeds (i.e is retrospective) the litigation while in case of a PIL the locus standi is preceded (i.e is perspective) by the litigation. The right claimed or the remedy to be obtained does not depend on the person who files a PIL while in case of private interest litigation, it depends upon the person who files such petition. Private interest litigation is comparatively expensive and complicated as to PIL.

Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan and MC Mehta v. Union of India are some examples of PILs which lead to a landmark decision by the court.

To conclude, the concept of PIL has been introduced with the main purpose of public welfare. It is a tool in the hands of the citizens which facilitates them to exercise their rights and interests to the fullest. PIL contains the essence of national interest and is an excellent judicial element.

Written by Maahi Mayuri

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