Public Interest Litigation , which has been started from the middle 70's , a harmone called judicial activism was injected to the judicial stream, suddenly brought a Revolutionary change in the outlook of the Indian judiciary. In this process of judicial activism the concept of Public Interest Litigation was born...
Generally only a person who is adversely affected injured by action or omission of Administration can activize the judicial process. The wronged or injured person only can initiate legal proceeding against the wrongdoer either against individual or the state as the case may be. This rule is called :locus standi' moreover such person has to follow the regular procedure lail down in Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, as the case may be involving number of stages including payment of court stamp fee etc. The aggrieved person has to prove that he has suffered some loss or injury. In case of alleged violation of right, he must in addition to prove that he has the right. But to this rule of locus standi , Public Interest Litigation is an exception based on the principle of Universal or General standi.
Meaning of Public Interest Litigation
The expression ' litigation' means a legal action including all proceedings therein, initiated in a court of law with the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy, The word 'Public Interest' means an act beneficial to public in general It connotes action necessarily taken for public interest.
Definition of Public Interest Litigation -
Public Interest Litigation is not defined in statute or in any act. It has been interpreted by judges to consider the intent of public at large. In general parlance the expression Public Interest Litigation means something in which some interest of people in general or their rights and liabilities are affected. Public Interest Litigation may be taken to mean a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of the public interest or general intrest in which the public or a class of the community has pecuniary interest or have some interest because it will affect their legal right or liabilities.
Black in his LAW dictionary define the word 'Public Interest' as something in which the public or the community at large has some pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.
Stroud's judicial dictionary -
Public Interest is defined as " A matter of public or general interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or a love of information or amusement ; but that in which class of the community have a pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected .
In the report of the Council of public interest law set up by the Ford foundation in USA, 'public interest' has been defined as follows -
Public Interest Law is the name that has recently been given to efforts that provide legal representation to previously un-representative groups and interests , such efforts have been undertaken in recognition of the fact that the ordinary Marketplace for legal services fails to provide such services to significant segment of the population and to significant interest. Such groups and interest include the poor environmentalists , consumers racial and ethical minorities and others ."
Grounds for Public Interest ( PIL)
A recent development of the great consequence in the Indian law is sanctioning of public interest litigation by Supreme Court. Such litigations envisages.
1) A Court action by an individual or group of individual belonging to a community or an indeterminate class, against an administrative wrong, affecting the members of that community or class.
2) A Court action by public spirituated citizen or a body of devoted to the Public Cause to vindicate the right of the individual, groups or even the public at large against the administrative wrong, though the person or body undertaking the court action may not have suffered any injury.
There are number of reasons Justifying Public Interest Litigation. It provides a means to redress public wrongs, which remained unremedied under the traditional rule of locus standi even though the individual had the will and the capacity to approach Court. The individual or groups suffering from adverse administrative action may not themselves be in the position to undertake litigation to vindicate (protect) their interest because of poverty, ignorance fear etc.
The following two propositions concerning Public Interest Litigation may be stated in the words of justice Bhagwati.
1.Whenever there is a public wrong or public injury caused by an act or omission of the state or public authority, which is contrary to the constitution or the law, any member of public acting Bonafide and having sufficient interest can maintain an action for the redressal of such wrong or public utility.
2. Where the person or class of Person to whom the legal injury is caused or legal wrong is done by reason of poverty, disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position not able to approach to the court for Judicial redress, any member of the public acting bonafide and not for any other extraneous (unconnected) motivation may move to the court for Judicial redressal of legal injury or wrong suffered by such person for class of Person ,
Public Interest Litigation is not a litigation of an adversary character Undertaken for the purpose of holding State Government or it's officers for responsible for preperation but to maintain an action for the redressal of Sucha wrong or public utility. Thus the person approaching the Court for redressal of public wrong or public injury has sufficient interest in the preceding and is acting in bona fide and not for Personal gain or private profit or political motivation.
It is ultimately for the Court to decide whether petitioner fulfills that qualifications
. The court Will Seek to exclude such petition as maybe motivated by political or selfish motives or seeks to delay legitimate administrative actions.
Importance of PIL
Thus in number of cases the Supreme Court of India and various High Court of states entertained PIL Petition, complaining violation of fundamental rights of individual or class of persons and thereby to vindicate their rights and provided adequate relief from the State acts.
The concept of public interest litigation can be justified on the ground that as a power of Bureaucracy is expanding so it is inevitable that corresponding judicial power should also expand.
In this kind of litigation the petitioner seeks to enforce or prevent a breach of general public law. Public interest litigation is thus of grade social relevance to the modern society. There are however safeguard necessary subject to which alone such as system can function. In Public Interest Litigation the Court scrutinize whether there is sufficient Public Interest which needs to be protected, and whether the petitioner is motivated privately or politically and what is sufficient interest to be determine by the court in each individual case.
Public Interest Litigation must not make as a rule but rather an exception.
The court at the same time has to bear in mind, that there is a vital destinction between locus standi and justifiability. It is now very default on the part of the state or public authority that is justifiable. The Court Must take Care to see that it does not over step the limit of judicial function and trespass into the area which are reserved to the executive and legislature by the constitution.
J. Bhagwati , a great social thinker, J. Krishna Iyer, J. Pathak , J.Tuljapurkar are some of the prominent and eminent judges who had contributed, supported to the development of public interest litigation in India.
Limitation on public interest litigation
In run of time the judges realised their limitation and there was declined to Public Interest Litigation for number reasons.
1) The court has to rely upon their report of Commissioner, which are likely to be manipulated and hence no clear and true aspect of the thing possible.
2) The Court has no independent investigating machinery, to find out correct picture of the case.
3) The Court has no effective to machinery to enforce its order and moreover such orders are against the government and administrative authority and not against the individual.
4) The government has limited resources and numbers of needs to be fulfilled. These resources are to be utilised for the plan development of the country, government has its own problems and the Orders of the court cannot be given fully effect of,for example Olga Tellis case of pavement dwellers of Bombay.
5) It is difficult to find out whether the petitioner is privately or politically motivated.
6) Because of judicial activism number of public interest litigation petitions were being filed before the court and the court concentrated on them, thereby wasting of lot of time and energy on them ignoring there traditional function resulting into more pendency of ordinary litigations before it.
7) For Vexatious baceless petition no penalty, hence the Parliament of India intending to take proper and adequate amount by way of security towards PIL to give relief in proper cases
The contribution of PIL towards administration of justice cannot be ignored. Public Interest Litigation is of great social relevance to the modern society. There are however few safeguard necessary then only the system can function effectively. The Court must take Care to see that it does not overstep the limits of judicial function and trespass into the area which are reserved to Executive and legislative authorities by the constitution. Hence Public Interest Litigation must not be made a rule but rather an exception. May Public Interest Litigation live forever may justice be available to everyone.