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In What Conditions the Public Interest Litigation can be Filed Through?

Public Interest Litigation is an important part of India's legal system. Read the article to know in what conditions can a PIL be filed.

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The term ‘Public Interest Litigation’ was first used by Justice P.N. Bhagwati in his judgment in the case of S.P. Gupta v. Union of India. It has been defined as “any litigation which is designed to bring about a change in the law or the enforcement of a legal right or to prevent the misuse of a legal wrong”. 

A PIL is a legal proceeding filed by an individual or group of individuals to seek redress for grievances, the violation of their rights and interests. The petitioners usually do this in the form of a lawsuit, but can also file it as a public interest litigation (PIL).

Read on to learn under what conditions the public interest litigation can be filed in India!

Public Interest Litigation in India 

In India, Public Interest Litigation (PIL full form) is a legal tool available to anyone who wants to file a case concerning a matter of public interest. It is a means by which issues of general public importance can be brought before the courts for adjudication. 

PIL was first introduced in the country in the late 1970s by the Supreme Court of India. Since then, it has been used to file cases on a range of issues, such as environmental damage, forced evictions, caste discrimination, and corruption. 

PIL has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in India. It has been used to tackle some of the country’s most pressing problems and has helped to improve the lives of millions of people.

Provisions And Acts Included

Public interest litigation (PIL) emerges as a powerful instrument within the Indian legal framework, designed to safeguard the rights of the public. Various provisions and acts are integral to the filing and execution of PILs, empowering citizens to seek justice against government actions and other entities violating their rights.

Constitution of India: Safeguarding Fundamental Rights

Under Part III of the Constitution, dedicated to Fundamental Rights, citizens can file PILs leveraging rights such as the right to life, equality, and freedom of speech. These constitutional provisions ensure a robust foundation for individuals seeking legal recourse against infringements on their fundamental rights.

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908: Facilitating Representative Suits

The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, plays a pivotal role in PILs through ‘representative suits’ under Section 12. This allows individuals to file suits on behalf of others, ensuring diverse interests are represented. The court’s discretion is exercised to prevent frivolous suits, maintaining the integrity of the legal process.

Public Interest Litigation Techniques Act, 1986: Enhancing Effectiveness

Enacted to bolster PILs, this Act allows non-parties to express opinions and participate in proceedings. Cost limitations ensure accessibility, preventing financial barriers to justice. The Act aims to broaden the scope and impact of PILs, fostering a more inclusive and effective legal system.

Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987: Ensuring Legal Aid Accessibility

This legislation establishes Legal Aid Committees, providing free legal aid to marginalised sections. It ensures that financial constraints do not impede access to justice, aligning with the broader goal of making legal remedies available to all, irrespective of their financial standing.

Indian Environmental Laws: Protecting the Ecosystem

Acts such as the Water Act (1974), Air Act (1981), and Environment Act (1986) empower citizens to file PILs against environmental violators. These laws impose penalties for breaches, reinforcing the nation’s commitment to environmental protection through the active involvement of its citizens.

Consumer Protection Act, 1986: Empowering Consumers

In the realm of consumer rights, the Consumer Protection Act (1986) enables consumers to file PILs against entities selling defective or unsafe goods and services. The act ensures swift penalties for violators and facilitates compensation for consumers adversely affected by substandard products or services.

Who Can File a Pil And In What Situations?

In India, public interest litigation is filed in the form of a writ petition under Article 32 or/and Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It is a mechanism available to the people of India to ensure that their fundamental rights are not breached and that the government is held accountable for its actions.

An individual citizen of India or an organization is allowed to file a PIL to protect the rights of a group of people or a section of society. PIL can also be filed to enforce the execution of government policies and public duties by authorities. 

The following are the conditions under which a PIL can be filed:

  • In case of human rights violation. 
  • If fundamental rights of a group of people are being violated. 
  • If government authorities or municipal authorities fail to perform their public duties. 
  • If a government policy is not being executed, citizens have the right to file a PIL to ensure its execution. 
  • In case of exploitation of poor and weaker sections of society.

If you want to know the details about each condition, you can contact vakilsearch. They will answer all your questions online or via call. They have a well qualified team of lawyers who can help you with the filing of PIL. 

Benefits of Filing a Public Interest Litigation 

Public Interest Litigation is beneficial for society. Some of its advantages are mentioned below. 

  • It allows the weaker group of people to fight for their rights. 
  • It ensures that government authorities do their tasks. 
  • It creates social awareness among People and they raise their voices against violation of fundamental rights. 
  • It protects vulnerable people and their problems are solved.

Where Can You File a PIL?

A public interest litigation (PIL) is allowed in any court of law. The petition must be presented before the High Court or the Supreme Court. A PIL fullform can also be filed in a lower court, but it will not have any effect on its decision. However, if you file a PIL in a higher court and lose your case, you may appeal to the Supreme Court within 30 days of that order. If you win your case at first instance, then you cannot appeal to the Supreme Court unless there is an error on record by mistake or omission.

The PIL is filed at the court where you reside. If you are a resident of India, then your PIL must be filed in the Supreme Court of India (SCI). However, if you are a non-resident Indian (NRI), then your PIL can be filed in any High Court or the Supreme Court of India

A person who wishes to file a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution may do so by writing an application to that effect addressed to “The Chief Justice of India” and signed by him/herself or his/her lawyer. 

Documents Required for Filing a Public Interest Litigation 

Filing a Public Interest Litigation is a work of responsibility and a proper procedure is supposed to be followed that abides by the rules mentioned by the Constitution. Certain important documents are required to be submitted while filing a PIL. Here’s a checklist of the documents that you need to gather.

  • Information about the people who are aggrieved is to be submitted in the court. 
  • Information about the officials from whom the relief is required. 
  • The incidents that violated the rights of people should be mentioned in detail. 
  • Documents like title deeds, identity proof, address proof and other documents relevant to the incident need to be submitted.  
  • The applicant must also mention what relief they hope to get from the court. 

The PIL proceedings carry on like normal case hearings in the court. In some situations , the judge can appoint a Commissioner to investigate the case. 

You Cannot File A PIL For

  • Service-related issues, encompassing gratuity, pension, and salary concerns.
  • Disputes between landlords and tenants.
  • Complaints lodged against central and state government departments and local bodies, excluding those outlined in the Supreme Court guidelines.
  • Concerns linked to admissions in educational institutions.
  • Petitions advocating expedited hearings in both the High Court and subordinate courts.

Landmark Case Laws

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India has been defined and refined through several landmark case laws that have left an indelible mark on the legal landscape. These cases not only set precedents but also established guidelines for the proper utilisation of PIL as a tool for justice and societal welfare.

Fertiliser Corporation Kamgar Union v. Union of India (1981)

In a pivotal moment for PIL, the Supreme Court, in this case, validated its significance. The Fertiliser Corporation Kamgar Union filed a PIL against the government, highlighting inadequate measures to prevent pollution caused by a fertiliser plant. The court’s ruling underscored citizens’ right to approach the court under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution when issues of public interest are at stake.

S. P. Gupta v. Union of India (1981)

This case clarified the role of PIL by emphasising that it should complement, not replace, existing legal procedures. The Supreme Court highlighted that PIL is a recourse when traditional legal avenues fall short. Importantly, the court cautioned against the misuse of PIL for personal or political gains, reinforcing its intended purpose.

Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India (1984)

Expanding the scope of PIL, this case allowed any person or organisation to file PIL for the protection of public interest. The Bandhua Mukti Morcha, an organisation combating bonded labour, utilised PIL to address the government’s inadequate efforts in eradicating bonded labour. The court’s ruling relaxed the concept of ‘locus standi’ for PIL, making it a potent instrument for societal causes.

Centre for Public Interest Litigation v. Union of India (2002)

Highlighting the limitations of PIL, this case emphasised that it shouldn’t be wielded to settle private disputes. The petitioner filed a PIL against the alleged scam in the purchase of coffins for the Indian army. The court ruled against the petitioner, stating that the issue lacked public interest, reinforcing the importance of using PIL judiciously.

Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of U.P. (1985)

This case emphasised PIL’s role in environmental protection. An organisation working for the rights of the poor and the environment filed a PIL against a mining company causing environmental damage. The court affirmed the public interest nature of the issue, setting a precedent for using PIL to safeguard the environment and the rights of vulnerable populations.


(PIL fullform) Public interest litigation (PIL) refers to any type of legal action that seeks to protect the welfare and interests of the general public. It is used when there are issues that affect many people and should be addressed by all concerned citizens. A PIL may be filed against government officials who have failed to perform their public duties. 

Expert legal professionals from Vakilsearch can help you through the entire process of filing a PIL. So make sure to get in touch with us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a specific criterion for determining the 'public interest' aspect in PIL cases?

Yes, determining the 'public interest' aspect in PIL cases involves assessing whether the issue affects a significant portion of the public or a marginalised group. Courts consider the potential impact on the collective welfare or rights of citizens when determining the public interest criterion.

Can PIL be filed by any citizen, or are there restrictions on who can initiate such legal proceedings?

Generally, any citizen can file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), acting as a 'litigant in public interest.' However, some jurisdictions may have specific rules or restrictions to prevent misuse, ensuring that the petitioner has a genuine concern for public welfare.

What types of issues or matters qualify as suitable for filing a Public Interest Litigation?

Public Interest Litigation is suitable for issues affecting the public at large, such as environmental concerns, human rights violations, corruption, and matters impacting social justice. The key criterion is the potential positive impact on public welfare.

Are there limitations on the nature of cases that can be taken up through PIL, such as environmental concerns, human rights violations, or corruption?

While PIL often addresses environmental concerns, human rights violations, and corruption, there may be limitations based on jurisdiction and specific laws. Some issues may be better suited for other legal avenues, and courts assess the nature of the case to determine its suitability for PIL.

How does the concept of 'standing' or locus standi apply in the context of Public Interest Litigation?

In PIL, the concept of 'standing' or locus standi is relaxed. Courts are more lenient, allowing individuals or organisations without direct personal interest to file on behalf of the public. The emphasis is on the larger public interest rather than individual standing.

What steps should individuals or organisations take before filing a PIL to ensure its legitimacy and chances of success?

Before filing a PIL, individuals or organisations should thoroughly research and gather evidence, ensuring the issue genuinely pertains to public interest. Consulting legal experts, complying with procedural requirements, and presenting a strong case contribute to the legitimacy and success of the PIL.

Can PIL be filed against private entities, or does it primarily address issues involving government actions or policies?

While PIL traditionally addresses issues related to government actions, policies, or public bodies, it can also be filed against private entities if the matter significantly impacts public welfare. Courts assess the broader implications of the case to determine its eligibility for PIL.

What remedies or outcomes can be expected from a successful Public Interest Litigation, and how is the relief determined?

Successful PILs can lead to remedies such as policy changes, enforcement of existing laws, or compensation for victims. The relief is determined based on the specific circumstances of the case and the court's assessment of the public interest involved.

Are there any specific courts or forums where Public Interest Litigation should be filed, and how is the choice of venue determined?

Public Interest Litigation can be filed in various courts, including the Supreme Court or High Courts, depending on the nature and scope of the issue. The choice of venue is determined by the geographic jurisdiction, legal nuances, and the level of the court's authority.

Can individuals file Public Interest Litigation anonymously, or is disclosure of identity mandatory during the legal proceedings?

Generally, individuals filing PIL are required to disclose their identity. Anonymity is uncommon, as the court may need to assess the petitioner's credibility and the genuine concern for public interest. Transparency in legal proceedings is a fundamental aspect of the PIL process.

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