Criticism of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India

In this article, we will discuss why public interest litigation in India is criticized even after producing such good results. Read on to know!

Public interest litigation (PIL) refers to legal action taken in a court of law to safeguard “Public Interest,” which includes issues like pollution, terrorism, road safety, construction dangers, etc. Any issue where the interests of the general public are impacted can be resolved by filing a “public interest litigation” in a court of law. 

It plays a crucial role in the civil justice system because it can accomplish goals that are difficult or impossible to obtain through conventional private litigation. PIL, for instance, gives the underprivileged in society a path to justice, gives a way to enforce rights that have been diluted or dispersed and allows civil society to not only raise awareness of human rights but also to participate in governmental decision-making. 

A PIL can improve governance by holding the government responsible. Public interest litigation in India has long been an innovative judicial procedure for advancing the social and economic rights of underprivileged and marginalized groups. However, several criticisms of public interest litigation have emerged recently, such

In this article, we will discuss all about Public interest litigation and also about its criticisms.

Criticisms of Public Interest Litigation

Criticisms of Public Interest Litigation are as follows,

  • Despite giving several important judgments, PIL still has a few flaws. these criticisms are as follows
  • PIL has become a tool for harassment as a result of the large number of insignificant cases that are filed by people with the minimal court fee.
  • Numerous false PILs have been filed to obtain publicity for unworthy causes.
  • Even some intellectuals criticize the judiciary for overreaching through public interest litigation.
  • The burden on the judiciary, which is already too heavy, is increased by this measure. Sometimes, this results in time loss. 

Procedure for filing PIL

Any responsible individual or group in India has the right to petition a court on behalf of the public interest. High Courts and the Apex Court may consider the plea (under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution) ( PIL under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution).

In such cases, the court may even consider a letter to be a writ petition and proceed accordingly. The court must, however, be convinced that the petition is being made on behalf of individuals who cannot access the judicial system and that there is no private gain to be had.

The complete “modus operandi” for submitting a PIL is divided into two sections:

  • Filing: 

Both the Supreme Court and the High Courts accept PIL petitions. Two copies must be submitted if it is filed in the High Court, however five sets of copies must be submitted if it is filed in the Apex Court.

 It is also important to give respondents a copy of the petition at the same time. The petition must also mention providing a copy in the same way. 

  • Procedure: 

The method involves a minimal court cost. A fee of Rs. 50 each responder must be attached to the petition. The hearing is conducted in the same manner as it is in other matters. 

The presiding judge has the authority to designate a Court commissioner to look into the situation if necessary while the case is being heard. The court hears all sides before making a ruling, as usual.

It first came  in India, in 1979 when a lawyer by the name of Kapila Hingorani petitioned the Supreme Court before a panel presided over by Justice PN Bhagwati. 

The appeal was successful in securing the release of nearly 40,000 convicts awaiting trial from Patna Jail. The Hussainara Khatoon Case is the name given to this incident. Hingorani became the “Mother of Public Interest Litigation” in India as a result of this petition’s victory.

If you want to file a PIL but are confused about how to do so, contact Vakilsearch, and they will assist you.

Landmark Cases of PIL 

The significance of public interest litigation can be determined by looking at how many important cases it has resulted in. The following section discusses a few of the most significant cases that were resolved through public interest litigation.

  1. Hussainara Khatoon and Ors v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, Patna: 

This case is regarded as one of India’s earliest public interest litigation cases. The court’s concern about the deplorable conditions of detainees awaiting trial in Patna Jail was raised by this case. 

Along with ordering the release of almost 40,000 convicts, the court in this case went on to make the right to a prompt trial the central problem.

  1. Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan: 

One of the most famous PILs to be filed in Indian history. Lawyer Naina Kapur filed a petition to protest workplace sexual harassment. 

In the end, this petition resulted in the publication of some crucial recommendations about workplace sexual harassment. As a result, a number of concerns pertaining to women’s rights gained attention.

  1. Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra:

In a letter to the Supreme Court, journalist Sheela Barse expressed her concern over the treatment of female inmates while they are housed in police cells. A letter was treated as a writ petition, and as a result, an order establishing separate jails for female offenders was made. 

  1. M.C. Mehta v. Union of India:

 Environmentalist and attorney MC Mehta filed a petition against various industries and cities that discharge hazardous effluents and rubbish to the Ganga. 

The court issued a number of rulings requiring various industries to build wastewater treatment facilities. Numerous industries were also forced to relocate. One of the largest environmental lawsuits the nation has ever seen involved this issue.

  1. S.P. Gupta v. Union of India

This case is infamously known as the “case of the three judges.”

Significance of PILs

Public Interest Litigation in india are very important because,

  • The main goal of PIL is to grant justice to those who lack it through those who have access to it.
  • It is a great tool for judicial review and has demonstrated how crucial it is in a number of situations.
  • It completely democratizes everyone’s ability to access justice. As those who can afford it can represent those who cannot afford justice.
  • It has also served as a judiciary monitoring tool.
  • It is an extremely useful tool for granting each citizen their human rights. The same has been seen in numerous famous examples.


With the information provided above, we hope one has a better understanding of why Public Interest Litigation in India is sometimes criticized despite producing such astounding results.

Degraded bonded labourers, women prisoners, humiliated inmates of protective women’s homes, blinded prisoners, exploited children, beggars, and many others have been given relief through judicial intervention.

You can contact Vakilsearch for further clarification; their legal professionals will solve all of your questions and help you through every step of the PIL filing procedure.

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