top of page



The Public Interest Litigation means a legal action initiated in a court of Law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or a class of the community has pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected .

The concept of Public Interest Litigation has its roots in " public interest " which finds place in the Constitution of India and in many enactments . This expression in considered by the Supreme Court in various decisions .

Guidelines on PIL

In State of Uttaranchal v . Balwant Singh Chaufal , 2010 AIR SCW 1029 the Supreme Court considered the evolution of the Public Interest Litigation in India and in order to preserve the purity and sanctity of the PIL laid down the following guidelines :

( 1 ) The Courts must encourage genuine and bona fide PIL and effectively discourage and crush the PIL filed for extraneous considerations .

( 2 ) Instead of every individual Judge devising his own procedure for dealing with the PIL , it would be appropriate for each High Court to properly formulate rules for encouraging and discouraging the PIL filed with oblique motives . Consequently , the Supreme Court requests the High Courts which have not framed the rules , should frame the rules within three months . The Registrar General of each High Court is directed to ensure that a copy of the Rules prepared by the High Court is sent to the Secretary - General of the Supreme Court immediately thereafter .

( 3 ) The Courts should prima facie verify the credentials of the petitions before entertaining a PIL

( 4 ) The Courts should be prima facie satisfied regarding the correctness of the contents of the petition before entertaining a PIL .

( 5 ) The Courts should be fully satisfied that substantial public interest is involved before entertaining the petition .

( 6 ) The Courts should ensure that the petition which involves larger public interest , gravity and urgency must be given priority over other petitions .

( 7 ) The Courts before entertaining the PIL should ensure that the PIL is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury . The Courts should also ensure that there is no personal gain , private motive or oblique motive behind filing the PIL ..

( 8 ) The Courts should also ensure that the petitions filed by busy bodies for extraneous and ulterior motives must be discouraged by imposing exemplary costs or by adopting similar novel methods to curb frivolous petitions and the petitions filed for extraneous considerations .

Important Definitions

" Public interest " means an act beneficial to the general public . It means action necessarily taken for public purpose . It is intended to bring justice within the reach of the poor masses .

" Locus Standi " is the right of a party to appear and be heard on the question before any tribunal , frequently disputed in private bill legislation .

Social Justice and PIL

Law derives legitimacy from justice and its sanction from the community . The people make law and obey it , if provision of our Constitution . Although the social justice was sworn to be given to the People of India when the Constitution was framed , but the masses of have - nots , the handicapped and many others have not been given even a fraction of this social justice . They do not enjoy the same basic human rights enjoyed by the fortunate f be equal access to law to the poor and deprived sections of the society unhindered by technical rules of procedure are not denied to any citizen by reasons of any economic or other disabilities .

Article 39A of the Constitution imposes a duty on the State to ensure that opportunities for securing pat Strict rules of pleading may not apply in PIL , but there must be sufficient material in the petition on the b The PIL litigant has to lay a factual foundation for his averments on the basis of which such a person claim or the traditional concept of the judiciary .

Analysis of the Court

  • stric rule of pleading may not applyin PIL ,but there must be sufficient material in the petition on the basis of which the court may proceed .

  • Information furnished by him should not be vague and indefinite .

  • Proper pleadings are necessary to meet the requirements of the principles of natural justice .

  • Even in PIL the litigant cannot approach the Court to have a fishing or roving enquiry .

  • He cannot claim to have a chance to establish his claim . .

  • However , the technicalities of the rules of pleading cannot be made applicable vigorously .

  • Pleadings prepared by a layman must be construed generally as he lacks standard of accuracy and precision particularly when a legal wrong is caused to a determinate class .

Admitting a PIL

In admitting PILs the Court must strike a balance between two conflicting interests :

( 1 ) nobody should indulge in wild and reckless allegation besmirching the character of others - properly and strictly regulated , PIL becomes a tool in unscrupulous hands to release vendetta and w vengeance .

There may be cases where appointments made to public office are challenged to malign not only an incumbent to be in office but dedemoralize aeven agreeingnd deter reasonable or sensible and prudent people evenagreeing to accept highly sensitive and responsible offices for fear of being brought into disrepute with baseless allegations ; and

( ii ) avoidance of pubic mischief and to avoid mischievous petitions filed for oblique motives , justifiable executive actions . The Court should not be liberal in such cases and it should be extremely careful to see that under the guise of redressing a public grievance , it should not encroach upon the sphere reserved by the Constitution to the Executive and the Legislature .

Before admitting a PIL , the Court must be satisfied about the following :

( a ) the credentials of the applicant ;

( b ) the prima facie correctness or nature of information given by him ; and

( c ) the information being not vague and indefinite ;

( d ) the information should show gravity and seriousness involved ;

( e ) there must be real and genuine interest involved in the litigation concrete or credible basis for maintaining a cause before Court and not merely an adventure born out of wishful thinking of anf unscrupulous person ; moiting

( f ) the credibility of such claims or litigations should be adjudged on the creditworthiness of the material averred and not on the credentials claimed of the person moving the courts in such cases ;

( g ) too much authenticity or credibility should not be given to any information or fact merely because it was published in a newspaper or journal or magazine or any other form of communication . The newspaper reports per se do not constitute legally acceptable evidence

( h ) in PILs generally official documents are being attached without even indicating as to

how the petitioner petitions in such cases but should also impose exemplary costs due to the following reasons : came to possess them . Frivolous pleas are given to explain possession . The Court not only dismiss the

( i ) it prima facie gives impression about oblique motives involved ; and

( ii ) in most cases it shows proxy litigation .

(i) where the petitioner does not have even a remote link with the issues involved , the Court must lift the veil and uncover the real purpose of the petition and the real person behind it ;

the rule has been restated by the Supreme Court as under :

( i ) A person acting bona fide and having sufficient interest in the proceedings of PIL alone have a locus standi and can approach the court :

( a ) to wipe - out violation of fundamental rights ; and

( b ) genuine infraction of statutory provisions , but not for :

( a ) personal gain ; or

( b ) private profit ; or

( c ) political motive ; or

( d ) any oblique consideration .

( ii ) A writ - petitioner who comes to the Court for relief in public interest must come not only with clean hands like any other writ - petitioner but also with a clean heart , clean mind and clean objective .

( iii ) The Court must not allow its process to be abused for oblique considerations by masked phantoms who monitor at times from behind .

( iv ) Some people with vested interest indulge in the pastime of meddling with judicial process either by force of habit or from improper motives and try to bargain for a good as well to enrich themselves . They are often actuated by a desire to win notoriety or cheap popularity . The Court must throw out the petitions of such busy bodies at the threshold . In appropriate cases , the exemplary costs should also be imposed .

To keep a check on frivolous letters / petitions some guidelines have been evolved and circulated by the Supreme Court , in the light of which a cell has been constituted which scrutinises the letters or the petitions ceived as to whether they fall in the category of PIL or not . If the cell comes to the conclusion that the subject matter is not covered by the guidelines it will then not be entertained as PIL .

The guidelines as provided are given below : Matters which can be entertained as PIL :

( 1 ) Bonded Labour matters ;

( 2 ) Neglected children ;

( 3 ) Non - payment of minimum wages to workers and exploitation of casual workers and complaints of violation of labour laws ( Except in individual cases ) ;

( 4 ) Petitions from jails complaining of harassment , for premature release and seeking release after having completed 14 years in jail , death in jail , released on personal bond , speedy trial as a right ;

( 5 ) Petitions against police for refusing to register a case , harassment by police and death in police custody ;

( 6 ) Petitions against atrocities on women , in particular harassment of bride , bride burning , rape , murder , kidnapping , etc .;

(7) Petitions complaining of harassment or torture of villagers by co - villagers or by police from persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and economically backward classes ;

(8) Petitions pertaining to environmental pollution , disturbance of ecological balance , drugs , food adulteration , maintenance of heritage and culture , antiques , forest and wildlife and other matters of public importance ;

(9) Petitions from riot - victims ;

(10) Family pension . " Matters which are not to be entertained as PIL :

( 1 ) Landlord - tenant matters ;

( 2 ) Service matter and those pertaining to Pension and Gratuity ;

( 3 ) Complaints against Central / State Government Departments and Local Bodies except those relat Item Nos . 1 to 10 above ;

( 4 ) Administration of medical and other educational institutions ;

( 5 ) Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Court and Subordinate Courts " .


bottom of page