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Abuse of PIL: Crisis of Justice

Abuse of PIL: Crisis of Justice

By Ashutosh Vasishta

Legal action brought into court which is backed with the interest of society as a whole and when the legal rights of general public is ignored or violated than a single suit is brought on behalf of whole class it is called as public Interest Litigation (PIL).  Justice P.N. Bhagwati elaborated the nature and scope of PIL in India. He is regarded for sowing seeds of PIL in India. At the time when he was introducing a new class of litigation, other professionals tried to make him aware of the repercussions of its abuse, but he made a positive approach towards this issue and remarked Public Interest Litigation as the soul of judiciary.

Initially, rule of locus standi i.e. right to bring action in the court was strictly followed in public interest litigations, but eventually apex court relaxed this traditional rule in PIL’s. In Chairman, Railway Board V. Chandrama Das[1], apex court held that although the rape victim was a Bangladeshi national and the writ petition was filed by an advocate on her behalf was then to maintainable as he filed it in good faith and for the welfare of the community. In this case the railway staff members sexually assaulted a non-citizen, so the apex made a landmark judgment and held that it is immaterial that whether person who brought the suit has suffered from legal injury or not but then to is entitled to file suit, and found that the petition was in the nature of PIL as the interest of vulnerable section of society is concerned.

It was admitted by the Supreme Court that PIL is an exception to the rule of locus standi in Public Union for Civil Liberties V. Union of India[2], and court said that public interest should be the essence of the PIL, and the party bringing suit should not necessarily be the party who has suffered from injuries. Any public spirited citizen bonafidely can file a PIL under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. It is not required either that a petition must be filed in order to derive attention of the Honorable Court towards the issue, a simple letter is enough for being treated as PIL.  

The basic motive to bring a class of litigation called as PIL was to provide access to unprivileged sector of society i.e. illiterate, poor, and marginalized communities in front of court in order to provide them relief for the violation of their fundamental rights about which they are unaware. So, in order to provide the marginalized class of the community a representation in court of law the PIL was introduced in which any public spirited citizen is allowed to file suit on the behalf of community as a whole. The basic intention behind introduction of this class of litigation was this only, to bring cause of sufferers into court through a medium who can be any public spirited citizen. 

Supreme Court has epistolary power in which it can treat a letter as PIL and provide relief to the aggrieved parties who have although not represented themselves in any court of law. For instance Sunil Bhatra V. Delhi Administration[3] is a case in which apex court treated a letter written to it by a prisoner as PIL and provided adequate relief to the aggrieved ones. Through this case prisoner’s rights were safeguarded, it was held that prisoners also have right to live in a clean and hygienic surrounding. Right against inhuman treatment was also provided to prisoners as court interpreted that jail is a place of reformation and in order to reform offenders into civilized human beings certain basic rights should also be provided to them. These are the genuine case for which the petitioners should come up with and raise their voice against gross injustice.

Recently apex court dismissed a politically motivated litigation which was for imposing restriction on the person having more than two children from becoming representatives of the public and from occupying any public office. Court held that the PIL is entirely frivolous and politically motivated and is not at all for the interest of public at large or for common interest of large masses.               

However, this versatile process is really hijacked by some individuals who for the sake of their private or political end who mold this litigation and abuse it abruptly. Petitioners filling PIL are not even considering ordinary principles of litigation and are enjoying this process. Now PIL is the medium through which political and private parties blackmails, exercise coercion over their rivals and use this noble profession for oblique motives.         

It is not like there is a problem in procedure, although PIL is immune from all sought of legal formalities it is done because a large section of society is not able to approach and represent themselves in the court. Procedure is relaxed so that justice is not only done but actually seen to be done. The problem is in the person professing this procedure, although they themselves know that they are utilizing it for filthy purpose, but then too accumulates courage to present it before courts.

However, these days Supreme Court is ensuring this special power is not handicapped by guilty professionals by making it a medium of oblique motives. Court is imposing fine on the petitioners of frivolous PIL’s and directing Bar Council of India to take necessary action against the person involving in such abuse. It is important to do so because the cases of this abuse is so rampant that not they only diverts or waste the precious time of courts, but also deduce the much required attention of the learned professionals from genuine issues.

It is really a point of concern for all the citizens of India and especially for law professionals, that how we are moving this noble profession to a medium of oblique intentions. Formulation of the rules and penalties for abuse of PIL had become need of the hour in order to avoid the crisis of justice in our country. Strict punishment should be imposed on those violating its provisions so that PIL’s are able to solve their real purpose.   



[1] 2000 2 scc 465

[2] air 1982 sc 1473

[3] 1980 AIR 1579, 1980 SCR (2) 557

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