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  • Public interest litigation (PIL) is a petition which is filed by any member of public, concerning issue of public interest, for redress of public wrong or injury. This legal action is a way of using the discipline of law for effective social change.
  • It is also important to note that there is no statute related to filing of PIL, which differentiates it from writ petition. This action was a result of judicial activism which promoted recognizing of causes of a person which may not affect them directly.


Any individual, non-government organization or citizen groups can file the petition to seek justice for a greater cause. There are circumstances where even the Court can recognize a matter as one of public importance and then appoint an advocate to handle the case.

Matters of private nature which include land lord tenant dispute, service matters, matters to seek police protection etc. cannot be brought through PIL.

You can file a PIL against a State/ Central government, Municipal Authorities but not against a private party. Filing petition against government requires issuing a notice to the concerned officer department at least two months before the suit is filed.


Before filing a PIL must make an informed decision to do so as litigation can be both costly and time consuming and once filed, it cannot be withdrawn. A letter, post card or report from newspaper can also be accepted as petition.

A PIL can only be filed by a registered organization, so if it is unregistered petition has to be filed in name of an office member in their personal capacity.

A PIL can be filed in either High Court or Supreme Court.

Instructions To File In High Court:

Once the PIL copy is final for filing in High Court, 2 copies have to be submitted. A copy of the same has to be given to each respondent in advance. Proof of this has to be attached in petition.

Instructions To File In Supreme Court:

In case of PIL is to be submitted to SC, 5 copies are to be filed before court. The copy of same is provided to respondent after issuance of notice from court.

Court fee of fifty rupees, per respondent also has to be affixed on petition.


  • First step is to approach a public interest lawyer or organization for filing of case.
  • Important documents have to be collected, these include; title deeds, residence proof, identity proof
  • List of names and addresses of aggrieved parties who are approaching court
  • List of names and addresses of agencies from which you are seeking relief
  • The facts regarding violation of fundamental rights have to be listed
  • Mention the dates if necessary (regarding details of case)
  • The 'prayer' has to be clearly stated

Other procedure is same as writ petition.


Mumbai Kamgar Sabha vs. M/s Abdulbhai Faizaullabhai and others was the first PIL was filed in 1976. Justice Krishna Iyer gave out a landmark judgment in this case, and Justice Bhagwati helped in development of the concept. The judgment was regarding industrial disputes and industrial law.

In the case of ShivajiraoNilangekar Patil vs Mahesh Madhav Gosavi, a private plea was placed before the court, but Supreme Court laid that the matter was of public interest. The case was filed against Dr. Mahesh Madhav Gosavi and Others but later was extended against Bombay High Court.

IIn the case of D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal, the court accepted a letter as a petition. The letter informed the repeated occasions of custodial deaths in West Bengal. The Court in this case held that when a person is detained, their relative must be informed about the same in time.


Ashwini Upadhyay, the PIL man of India has filed approximately fifty PILs. The most famous being triple talaq case. Talaq-e Biddat was rendered unconstitutional by a five Judge bench. There was a 3:2 majority.

Mr. M.C. Mehta, a lawyer has obtained about forty landmark judgments against environment offenders. He has filed the infamous PIL of the Oleum Gas Leak Case. This established the principle of absolute liability which means that there are no exceptions to provide relaxation to defendant. His efforts have also lead to introduction of lead-free gasoline in India.


Thus, PIL does not only ensures that public bodies make appropriate decisions, they also help clarify the law.

It helps provide a voice to people who are suffering and encourage public debate. Even if sometimes a PIL does not lead to a favorable decision, but it does lead to increased awareness regarding same issue.

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