It was vehemently contended that this would not be regarded as public interest litigation and, the petitioners had no locus standi to file the present petitions. We are unable to agree to this submission. Environment, more than any thing else, is and should be a concern for all. It is one thing which is available free for all the inhabitants of an area and it is essential that this environment is maintained for the purposes of ensuring a healthy life. This issue is no longer res integra. The Supreme Court in Subhash Kumar v State of Bihar,*
“……………….Right to live is a fundamental right under article 21 of the constitution and it includes the right of enjoyment of pollution - free water and air for full enjoyment of life. If anything endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws, a citizen has a right to have a recourse to Article 32 of constitution of India for removing the pollution of water or air which may be detrimental to quality of life ……..”
Judiciary, being the sentinel of constitutional statutory rights of citizens has a special role to play in the constitutional scheme. It can review legislation and administrative actions or decisions on the anvil of constitutional law. For the enforcement of fundamental rights one has to move the Supreme Court or the High Courts directly by invoking Writ Jurisdiction of these courts. But the high cost and complicated procedure involved in litigation, however, makes equal access to jurisdiction in mere slogan in respect of millions of destitute and underprivileged masses stricken by poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. The Supreme Court of India, pioneered the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) thereby throwing upon the portals of courts to the common man.
Till 1960s and seventies, the concept of litigation in India was still in its rudimentary form and was seen as a private pursuit for the vindication of private vested interests. Litigation in those days consisted mainly of some action initiated and continued by certain individuals, usually, addressing their own grievances/problems. Thus, the initiation and continuance of litigation was the prerogative of the injured person or the aggrieved party. Even this was greatly limited by the resources available with those individuals. There was very little organized efforts or attempts to take up wider issues that affected classes of consumers or the general public at large. However, all these scenario changed during Eighties with the Supreme Court of India led the concept of public interest litigation (PIL). The Supreme Court of India gave all individuals in the country and the newly formed consumer groups or social action groups, an easier access to the law and introduced in their work a broad public interest perspective.
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Tags :Constitutional Law