Public Interest Litigation (PIL): Eficacy and Dangers by Chintamani Rout


Public Interest Litigation, Advocacy for public interest and free legal aid, all are for the protection of poor, illiterate and weaker sections of the society. The Constitution of India emphasises on the equal justice to all persons. The Public Interest Litigation in India is comparatively a recent innovation of the judiciary, initiated primarily to provide access to justice and equal justice to the disadvantaged sections of the society who are not possessed of adequate means or sufficient awareness to enforce their fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution. Till 1960 and seventies, the concept of litigation in India was still in rudimentary form and was seen as a private pursuit for the vindication of private vested interests. Litigation in those days consisted mainly of some action initiated and continued by certain individuals, usually, addressing their own grievances or problems. Thus, the initiation and continuance of litigation was the prerogative of the injured person or the aggrieved party. Even this was greatly limited by the resources available with those individuals. There were very little organised efforts or attempts to take up wider issues that affected classes of consumers or the general public at large. This form of the judicial process also relaxed the rule of locus standi to enable a social activist, individual or group of persons to bring to the Supreme Court any issue of public interest wherein violation of any fundamental right is alleged, for its protection by resort to constitutional remedy under article 32 of the constitution. This is the underlying principle in Article 39A of the constitution. The procedure for PIL is extension of the principle on Order 1 Rule 8 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 for representative action.

Meaning and Object:

Public Interest Litigation popularly known as PIL and can be broadly defined as litigation in the interest of that nebulous entity: the public in general. Prior to 1980s’ only the aggrieved party could personally knock the doors of justice as a proxy for the victim or the aggrieved party. In other words, only the affected parties had the locus standi (standing required in law) to file a case and continue the litigation and the non affected persons had no locus standi to do so. And as a result, there was hardly any link between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Indian Union and the laws made by the legislature on the one hand and the vast majority of illiterate citizens on the other.

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