The full form of PIL is Public Interest Litigation. It refers to the law action or use of legislation to encourage or increase the question of public concern for equality and human rights. It is often a government-interest legal action or other act for the public’s good. Judicial proceedings shall be brought before a court of law to exercise the interests of the public or general welfare or where an individual’s legal rights or liabilities are affected. A PIL may be filed by any person or a group of individuals.
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Functions of PIL
- PIL is implemented as a procedure that reflects on the country’s people and encourages the public to engage in regulatory action judicial review to enable the judicial system to be more democratic.
- Its main goal is to protect the nation’s citizens by pursuing legal action for their advantage and to lift the cause of minorities and marginalised individuals or groups.
- Instead of impacting a specific individual, it gives average citizens access to the law to seek legal redress for a more serious concern that has a broader public interest or affects the population at large.
- It will take the burden and nominate a lawyer to battle the case if the court feels that the PIL has public importance. So, we may claim that in India, the judiciary enables a person or group of individuals to start litigation only by presenting a letter to a judge.
- It is necessary to file a PIL directly before the Supreme Court or the High Court.
- It is a privilege to advocate for a public cause by requesting judicial relief from public injury or interest in public concerns such as road safety, hazardous conditions, building risks, and so on.
- Approach a lawyer to file a case
- Collect necessary documents
- Collect the names and addresses of affected persons
- Collect the names and addresses of government organizations against which the case is filed.
- Mention facts supporting the violation of common rights
- Mention dates and duration of action occurred
- Mention the kind of relief required.
Origins and Development of PIL
The origin of public interest litigation (PIL) is based on the idea of using the legal process to solve social problems and promote justice. The emergence of PIL in the mid-20th century, especially in countries like India and the US was aimed at providing access to justice for marginalized or underrepresented groups who may not have the money or resources to seek legal action
In India, PIL was introduced in the 1970s as a way to address injustice and promote civil rights. The special case of Hussainra Khatun v. Govt. State of Bihar (1979) was revolutionary by drawing attention to the plight of undertrial prisoners and recommending their speedy trial This case paved the way for the use of PIL as a tool to deal with systemic issues affecting the masses the solution
Global Perspective on PIL
- Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has transcended national boundaries and garnered significant attention on the global stage as a powerful tool for promoting social justice and addressing systemic issues.
- In the United States, where PIL has historical roots in the civil rights movement, it is a cornerstone of legal practice. Cases such as Roe v Wade (1973) on abortion rights and Obergefell v Hodges (2015) on same-sex marriage are examples of how PIL can reshape social norms through judicial intervention. American PIL typically focuses on civil liberties, individual rights, and issues of marginalized communities.
- In India, PIL has made substantial strides in promoting transparency and accountability in governance. Pioneered by the Supreme Court, PIL has transformed the Indian legal landscape. Cases like Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) highlighted the importance of addressing workplace sexual harassment, leading to the formulation of guidelines for the workplace.
- PIL has also found resonance in South Africa, where it played a pivotal role in dismantling apartheid and establishing a democratic order. The Grootboom case (2000) emphasized the state’s obligation to provide adequate housing for the poor, underscoring how PIL can enforce socioeconomic rights. South African PIL has contributed to shaping a post-apartheid society that prioritizes inclusivity and equality.
Future of Public Interest Litigation
The future of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) holds promise as a dynamic force for advancing justice and social change across the globe. As legal systems evolve and societal challenges grow more complex, PIL is likely to continue playing a pivotal role in shaping the course of law and governance.
In the digital age, technology will play a transformative role in PIL. Online platforms and social media will facilitate the mobilization of concerned citizens, enabling them to raise their voices on pressing issues with unprecedented speed and reach. This will democratize access to justice, allowing even more individuals to participate actively in PIL efforts.
Courts are incredibly careful to ensure that PILs are not abused, as abuse of PILs would destroy the very purpose for which they were conceived, namely to come to the aid of the poor and oppressed. Courts have repeatedly emphasised this point, as in the case of Kushum Lata v. Union of India. Courts have held, however, that even if the petitioner had approached the court for his own private interest due to personal grievances, the court may consider it necessary to inquire into the subject of the litigation and its state of affairs in continuation of public interest.
FAQs About PIL
PIL can be filed by any person, whether an individual, a group, a non-governmental organization (NGO), or any entity acting in the public interest. The focus is on addressing broader societal concerns rather than personal grievances.
PIL covers a wide range of issues such as environmental protection, human rights, corruption, healthcare, education, discrimination, and more. The primary criterion is that the issue must affect a significant section of the public.
Regular litigation involves parties with a direct legal interest in the case, while PIL involves a broader segment of the society without a direct personal stake. PIL aims to serve the public interest rather than individual gain.