Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

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Published On: 20th May, 2024

Authored By: Pawni Singh
Asian Law College


Public interest Litigation (PIL) has emerged as a powerful tool for ensuring justice and protecting the rights of citizens in India. This article aims to provide an overview of PIL, its significance, and key case laws that have shaped its evolution.

What is PIL?

Public Interest Litigation {PIL) is a legal mechanism that allows individuals or organizations to approach the courts for the protection of public interest. It enables citizens to seek judicial intervention in matters that affect the public at large, even if the petitioner(s) themselves are not directly affected by the issue. PIL cases often involve issues related to social justice, human rights violations, environmental concerns, corruption, and administrative arbitrariness. The aim of PIL is to ensure that the rights and interests of the public are safeguarded and that governmental authorities act in accordance with the law and constitutional principles.

Significance of PIL

1)Access to Justice: PIL ensures that marginalized sections of society, who may not have the resources or means to approach the court, can seek legal remedies.

2) Judicial Activism: PIL has been instrumental in promoting judicial activism, where the judiciary activity engages in addressing societal issues and upholding constitutional values.

3) Accountability and Transparency: PIL cases often lead to greater accountability and transparency in governance by scrutinizing the actions of the government and public

4) Social Change: Many landmark judgments in PIL cases have brought about significant social change, such as the Right to Education, Environmental Protection, and Prison Reforms.

Key Case Laws

  1. S.P. Gupta Union of India (1981): This case, also known as the Judges Transfer case, is considered a milestone in the evolution of PIL in India. The Supreme Court held that any member of the public could approach the court seeking enforcement of a public duty or legal rights, even if they were not directly affected by the violation.
  2. M.C.. Mehta v. Union of India (1986): In this case, the Supreme Court issued several directions to control vehicular pollution in Delhi, leading to the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as a cleaner fuel and the phasing out of old commercial vehicles. This case highlighted the court’s proactive role in environmental protection through PILI
  3. Vishaka State of Rajasthan (1997): This landmark judgment laid down guidelines to pr,event sexual harassment: of women in the worikplace and recognized sexual harassment as a violation of fundamental! rights. It exemplifies how PIil can be used to address issues, of gender equality and women’s rights.
  4. Bandhua Mukti Morena v. Unrion of India (1984): In this case,,the Supreme Court addressed the issue of bonded labo:rrand directed the government to take measures for the rehabilirtation of bonded labo:rer The judgment reaffirmed the judiciary’s commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerralble sections of society.
  5. Commorn Cause v. Union of India (2017): This case pertruned to the appointment process of the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Supreme Court issued directives to ensure transparency and independence in the appointment process, highlightingIthe role of PIL in ensuring1accountability in public institution.


In conclusion, Public Interest Litigation has played a significant role in promoting social justice., protecting human rights, and ensuring accountability in governance. Through landmark judgments and progressive interpretations of law, the judiciary has demonstrated its commitment to upholding the principles of justice and equality through PIL.

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