Rajya Sabha TV The Big Picture: PIL under scrutiny
(TOPIC COVERED: GENERAL STUDIES II – STRUCTURE, ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONING OF THE EXECUTIVE AND THE JUDICIARY)
The Supreme Court of India on 10th September 2018 stated that Public Interest Litigation are there for people who cannot afford to approach the courts and dismissed a PIL filed by former Navy Chief Admiral Ramdas. Justice Ranjan Gogoi reportedly said that the Supreme Court is there to address everyone’s fears but PILs are for the poor. The filed PIL was stated to be a case for Vigilance Commissioner by a bench of three judges.
- Public Interest Litigation is a part of Judicial Activism. It was started by the Supreme Court in 1980. Its main architects in the Indian Judiciary are Justice P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer.
- Judicial Activism is required so that the duties and functions of Executive and Legislature are kept under a check if required in public interests. But the Judicial Activism shall not become a ‘overreach’.
- The earliest cases relating to PIL were “Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar” (which led to the release of more than 40,000 undertrial prisioners in Bihar) and “S.P. Gupta vs Union of India”. Thereafter, many cases relating to PIL have followed.
- PIL is directly filed by an individual/ group of people in the Supreme Court of India, High Courts of India and judicial magistrate whose interests are felt to be undermined due to economic issues.
- The concept of PIL is in consonance with the principles given in Article 39 A of the Indian Constitution. Article 39A is related to the Directives Principles of State Policy which directs the state to provide Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid.
- If some particular Rights of a person are being violated, he can also simply write a letter to the Court for PIL. It can be registered as a Writ petition for violation of the Fundamental Rights by the Supreme Court (under Article 32) or by the High Court for other Rights (mentioned under Article 226). PIL can also be filed under Article 133 in the Court of Magistrate.
- Under ‘Locus Standi’ only the persons whose rights had been affected could file a case in the court. But, in PIL a person not directly affected by the case can also file a suit in the interest of public at large. If the Court feels that the rights are being violated, it can intervene and give a direction to the State authority to see that the law is followed and the rights are not violated.
- PIL aims at serving larger public interests. For example, making mandatory state transport buses to use CNG as a clean fuel was a result of a PIL. It looked at health issues of a large section of society.
- But, starting from the 1980s, in the later decades instances of frivolous PILs for pecuniary interests has increased. The Court needs to keep a check over it and fines may be imposed by the Court if set of guidelines provided for filing a PIL are violated.
- Apart from PIL, the large number of pending cases, mainly in the lower courts also need to be looked upon and the higher courts shall try to fill the required vacancies in these courts.
Public Interest Litigations are needed for cases involving larger public interests or when certain human/ fundamental rights are being violated. But they shall not be misused by the persons filing the petitions and guidelines provided by Court shall be followed. The Court needs to keep a check so that the real interests of opening the doors of Courts through PIL are met.