In terms of Indian Law Public Interest Litigations it is the legal action to protect the Public Interest of the General Public. It is a legal action taken by individual or group of people in High Court sometimes directly in the Supreme Court which in the interest of the large public and it must not be in private interest of the person or group filing the case. Generally the court directly accepts the case, if it seems that any rights of the public are restricted by the government.

It was first introduced in December, 1979  where Kapila Hingorani has filed a petition  regarding the condition of the prisoners detained in the Bihar jail, whose suits were pending in the court. The special thing about this petition was that it was not filed by any single prisoner, rather it was filed by various prisoners of the Bihar jail. The case was filed in the Supreme Court before the bench headed by Justice P.N.Bhagwati. This petition was filed by the name of the prisoner, Hussainara Khatoon, hence the petition came to be known as Hussainara Khatoon Vs State of Bihar. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld that the prisoners should get benefit of free legal aid and fast hearing. Because of this case 40,000 prisoners, whose suits were pending in the court, were released from the jail. There after many cases like this have registered in the Supreme Court. It was in the case of SP Gupta vs Union of India that the Supreme Court of India defined the term “public interest litigation” in the Indian Context.

(Source: Wikipedia)

In the Artile 39A of the Constitution of India the concept of Public interest Litigation has been introduced for the General Public of India who were suffering for the unreasonable cause and should get relief from the restrictions made by the Government. According to this Article not only the person suffering (aggrieved party) can file petition to get relief but any person also including NGO who can file petition in the court for the public interest and the case must not be in favour of any individual to seek legal remedy.  As per the rule of law court has power to take decision which is protecting human rights or for the public at large, but the court will not entertain any Frivolous litigation for the pecuiniary gain.

Interesting fact about PILs is that it can be filed only against the Govt. and not against any individuals. Here government may mean any Govt., i.e. Central Govt, State Govt., municipal authority but not any private party. Private party in PIL can be the litigant or the respondent.

Importance of PIL

  • Public interest litigation gives a wider description to the right to equality, life and personality which is guaranteed under part III of the Constitution of India.
  • It has introduced some kinds of reliefs or remedies under the writ jurisdiction.
  • It also functions as an effective instrument for changes in the society or social welfare.
  • Through public interest litigation, any public or person can seek remedy on behalf of the oppressed class by introducing a PIL.[5]


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