Daily News Analysis

Public Interest Litigation

1st January, 1970 Polity

Figure 2: No Copyright Infringement Intended


  • The Supreme Court (SC) scolded a petitioner for filing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) without adequate research.


  • Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is the use of the law to advance human rights and equality, or raise issues of broad public concern.
  • The concept of "Public Interest Litigation" has been borrowed from the American Jurisprudence.
  • In Indian law, PIL means litigation for the protection of Public Interest. It is Litigation introduced in a court of Law, not by the aggrieved party but by the court itself or by any other private party.
  • It is the power given to the public by courts through Judicial activism.
  • It can be filed only in the Supreme Court or the High Court.
  • It is different from Writ Petition, which is filed by individuals or institutions for their own benefit, whereas PI L is filed for the benefit of the general public.
  • The concept of PIL is suited to the Principles enshrined in Article 39 A of the Constitution of India to protect and deliver prompt Social Justice with the help of Law.
  • Areas where PIL can be filed: Pollution, Terrorism, Road safety, Constructional hazards etc.


  • PIL is an important instrument of social change and for maintaining the Rule of law and accelerating the balance between law and justice.
  • The original purpose of PlLs have been to make justice accessible to the poor and the marginalised. It democratises the access of justice to all.
  • It helps in judicial monitoring of state institutions like prisons, asylums, protective homes, etc.
  • It is an important tool for implementing the concept of judicial review.



  • The number of cases pending in courts is already high, and the misuse of PlLs is increasing.
  • In 2010, the S Chad expressed considerable displeasure over PlLs involving personal or irrelevant cases and issued certain guidelines to the courts for accepting PlLs.


 Conundrum of Competing Rights:

  • PlL actions may sometimes 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.


  • PlL matters concerning the exploited and disadvantaged groups are pending for many years.
  • Inordinate delays in the disposal of PlL cases may render many leading judgments merely of academic value.
    Judicial Overreach:
  • Cases of Judicial Overreach by the Judiciary in the process of solving socio economic or environmental problems can take place through the PlLs.

Way Forward
 Former Attorney General Soli Sorabji opinions 3 basic rules for regulating abuse of PIL:

  • Reject dubious PIL at the threshold and in appropriate cases with exemplary costs.
  • In cases where important project or socioeconomic regulations are challenged after gross delay, such petitions should be thrown out the very threshold on the ground of latches.
  • Just because a petition is termed as PIL does not mean that ordinary principles applicable to litigation will not apply.
  • PIL petitioners should be in strict terms such as providing indemnity or giving an adequate undertaking to the court to make good the damage, if PIL is ultimately dismissed.