Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
In simple words PIL can be explained as the litigation which can be carried out by any person to secure public interest and also to demonstrate the availability of justice to socially disadvantaged people. In other words it is litigation filed in a court of law, for the protection of “Public Interest”, such as pollution, terrorism, road safety, constructional hazards etc.
It is the power given to the public by courts through judicial activism PIL is not defined in any statute or in any act rather it has been interpreted by judges to consider the intent of public at large. Justice V.Krishna Iyer and Justice Bhagwati opened up new vistas in PIL in India.
The concept of public interest litigation (PIL) is suited to the principles enshrined in Article 339A of the Constitution of India to protect and deliver social justice with the help of law. The PIL can be filed before Supreme Court under Article 32 and before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
Justice Bhagwati has been referred to as the father of public interest litigation (PIL) in India. He imparted idealism and simplicity to the highest court in the county wherein even a petition filed on a postcard was taken into consideration. The PIL tradition initiated by him is an Indian contribution to the practice of law and the process of justice delivery. It is admired by other democracies and other legal systems.
The seeds of the concept of public interest litigation were initially sown in India by Justice Krishna Iyer, in 1976 in Mumbai Kamagar Sabha v. Abdul Thai and the first reported case of PIL was Hussainra Khaton v. State of Bihar (1979) that focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners that led to the release of more than 40,000 under trial prisoners.
A PIL can be filed against a state/central government/municipal authorities and not any private party.
Weaknesses of PIL
PIL could lead to overburdening of courts with frivolous PILs by parties with vested interests, many PILs is for corporate, political and personal gains. Today the PIL is no more limited to problems of the poor and the oppressed. Many PIL matters concerning the exploited and disadvantaged groups are pending for many years.
Sometimes PIL actions may give rise to the problem of competing rights. For instance, when a court orders the closure of a polluting industry, the interests of the workmen and their families who are deprived of their livelihood may not be taken into account by the court.