Public Interest Litigation has the primary objective of providing access to justice for the marginalized and poorer sections of the society, especially those who are unable to afford or hire a lawyer or approach the courts because of financial constraints. Further PILs has overtime helped in addressing various issues pertaining to violations of human rights, degradation of environment, and various other social issues affecting the marginalized and poorer sections of the society.
One of the other primary advantage of PILs is that they provide a platform to citizens in order to participate in the legal system and thereby engage with issues that are of significant importance to them. PIL has further encouraged the public to participate in the legal system in order to seek justice and thus raise awareness among the people about their rights.
The significant role in establishing the concept of PIL in India has been played by the Supreme court. Many landmark judgments passed by the Supreme Court over the years were in cases initiated by way of Public Interest Litigation, thereby widening the scope of PIL in India. The Supreme court has further introduced the “continuing mandamus” concept, under which the court can ask the government to act on any particular issue and the court will monitor the progress of the same till the issue has been resolved.
PILs have been used in various different areas for initiating of cases. Discussed below are few areas where PIL has had major impact.
- Role of PIL in environment protection
A significant role has been played PIL in protection of environment in India. Several landmark judgments have been passed by the Supreme Court in cases pertaining to environmental protection. Some of the classic examples of cases of PIL being used in protection of environment are Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India and the MC Mehta v. Union of India cases.
In the case of Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum, the Supreme Court directed the closing of several industrial units which were causing environmental pollution in the state of Tami Nadu by its judgment. On the other hand, in the case of MC Mehta the Apex Court passed the judgment to direct the closing of various industries causing pollution in Delhi and also ordered the government to control the vehicular pollution.
PIL has played an instrumental role in raising awareness among the public on issues relating to environment and has also encouraged the government to take measures for protection of environment. An important role has been played by PIL in the development of environmental jurisprudence in the country.
- Role of PIL in protection of Fundamental Rights
Fundamental Rights have been guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution of India. PIL has played an important role in the protection of fundamental rights of the citizens. One of the landmark judgments was passed by the Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, wherein the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of a newspaper report which highlighted the increasing rates of malnutrition amongst children in the state of Rajasthan.
- Role of PIL in protection of Rights of Women
PIL has been a powerful tool in protecting the rights of women in India. In several cases, PIL has been used to provide justice to women who have been subjected to violence or discrimination. The Vishaka Guidelines, which provide guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of women in the workplace, were the result of a PIL filed in the Supreme Court.
In conclusion, Public Interest Litigation has proven to be an effective tool for the protection of the rights and interests of Indian citizens. The Indian legal system has put in place various provisions and acts that enable citizens to use PILs effectively. It is important that citizens who believe their rights have been infringed upon or who wish to protect the greater public interest understand these provisions and seek legal recourse. Ultimately, this will ensure that the rule of law prevails and ensure the protection of all citizens. Thus, public interest litigation has played a significant role in bringing social justice and legal reform to India.
Written By- Vartika Chahal