What is a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)?


PIL is a concept devised by the Supreme Court as means of redressal of grievances of person or group of persons, who are not in a position to approach the Court because of any disability such as poverty, illiteracy etc.  Some of the salient points arising out of Judgments of higher Judiciary are as follows:-


1.    PIL should be general in nature and not specific to the Petition or Petitioners.

2.    In PIL no cause of action should arise to the Petitioner personally but the PIL is filed on behalf of person or group of persons challenging some provision of law or executive action affecting the fundamental rights of the affected person or persons or any other right.

3.    The bonafide and reputation of the Petitioner should be beyond doubt and the Petitioner should not be intermeddler or person having secret benefit for himself or for some parties who are not the really affected parties.

4.    PIL should be filed under the provisions of Act 226, of the Constitution if it is filed before a High Court or under Act 32, if it is directly filed in her Supreme Court.

5.    If the Court finds that the PIL was not bonafide it can inflict heavy cost for wasting time of the Court as a deterrent for persons, who wish to file malafide PIL.

The Person or NGO filing PIL must have proper infrastructure to undertake such a venture.  There has to be a band of dedicated persons behind the Petitioner, who have done proper research and are equipped to deal with the unscrupulous elements, who will be affected by any orders passed in the PIL.


The Petitioner and his team should be ready with cameras, tape recorders, information obtained from inquiries under Right to Information Act etc.  At times the Activists, who take on powerful mafia, tainted politicians and bureaucrats have to face danger to their life and limb.


PIL has now become a dangerous game and police protection is given to the activists only with the intervention of Court and not in ordinary course.


This article has been written by Rajan Jayakar, Advocate and Solicitor, and Trustee, VCAN.