Public Interest Litigation (P.I.L.): A glorified step of Indian Judiciary & Twin-Forked effect on Justice Delivery System in India

Establishment of the Indian Judicial System traces its’ path form the late 20th and early 21st century. The year of 1947 bought us the glorious event of independence from the authoritative rule of the Britishers and their hegemonic attitude. But it was the year of 1979 when we liberated our mindset, as well as a rigid, practice under the Indian Legal System which connotes to the relaxation of the rule of LOCUS-STANDI and acceptance of the pro-bono policy of Public Interest Litigation.

Locus-Standi can be easily understood as the capacity of an aggrieved person to bring an action of grievance. It has its’ origin from the Latin language meaning “place to stand”. This general rule was for the first time relaxed and brought just close to the line of dissolution in the landmark case of Hussainara Khatoon v/s. State of Bihar[i], where the bench consisting of the two distinguished activist judges of the Hon’ble Apex Court of India permitted in the present case, that a Pro-Bono activist can bring an action on behalf of the aggrieved under-trial prisoners, who were brutally tortured and pending their litigation in perpetuity, taking away their inherent Fundamental Rights, as enshrined in the Grundnorm of our very Nation, “The Constitution of India”. Justice Krishna Iyer and Justice P.N. Bhagwati propounding this very concept in various cases ranging from Kamgar Union Case[ii] to the Bandhua Mukti Morcha[iii] and having its’ distinct presence in almost all the Enviro-Legal cases (bought by Mr. M.C. Mehta) have become an indispensable part of the present judicial as well as legal system of the largest democracy.  

Analysing the present situation of this concept, I believe that it has been using in an adverse way than for which it was incorporated. The enforcement of the Part III rights can be bought by filing a PIL to bring the enforcement proceedings into motion by way of approaching the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under article 32 and Hon’ble High Courts of the desired states under article 226 of the Indian Constitution.  

Currently, to quote PIL, I would like to use Public Interest Lawyering in place of Public Interest Litigation, because if we note the present situation it has now become a profession for the lawyers to get themselves highlighted and has become a tool to grab hefty fees (similar to the concept of Ambulance Chasers) in the ordinary cases on the basis of the reputation and image professed by arguing in Pro-Bono litigations as well as 90% of the PIL are filed by the lawyers itself and no other person from the society. Moreover, it has been noticed that a bundle of PIL’s have been filed with a view to making money out of the compromise which is reached just to hide the misconduct of the alleged.

Furthermore, to cite that a lawyer is barred from advertising his services in any way as having been contemplated by the Advocates Act of 1961. But it has become a general trend now, that these forms of prohibited action are performed under the guise of PIL, because by taking up, filing and arguing in Public Interest Litigations, an advocate highlights him on every news channel and newspaper, thus resulting in advertising for himself. And, the best example of this is Mr M.C. Mehta.  

Though this concept has made good to the society in establishing a wide interpretation of Article 21, including second & third generation rights to the whole community and ranging itself to include personal rights also, as have been decided in the landmark case of Shayara Bano v/s. Union of India [iv](popularly known as “Triple-Talak Case”), this remains an unexplored portion in relation to dodge its’ misuse and lack of perfect codification in respect for the same.   

Therefore, in the concluding remarks, I would like to quote Adam Smith (The father of Economics) who precisely pointed out the problem of PIL in just a sentence and says,

“He is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”


  • [i] Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar, 1979 AIR 1369 (India).
  • [ii] Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar v. Union of Indian & Ors, 1981 AIR 344 (India).
  • [iii] Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India & Ors, 1984 AIR 802 (India).
  • [iv] Shayara Bano v. Union of India, (2017) 9 SCC 1 (India).


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