Public Interest Litigation (PIL)

What is it?

It is a lawsuit that has been brought before the court to advocate for a public cause and seek compensation for public harm.”

Creation of the PIL
  • In the middle of the 1980s, the word PIL was first used in the United States. Public interest law, a component of the legal aid movement, had developed in that nation since the eighteenth century as a result of numerous campaigns. In New York, the first legal assistance agency was founded in 1876.
  • It was first made available in India in the early 1980s. The PIL concept was invented by Justices P N Bhagwati and V R Krishna Iyer. PIL had started in India towards the tail end of the 1970s and reached its zenith in the 1980s.
  • Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar (1979) was the first PIL case to be publicly known; it focused on the inhumane treatment of prisoners and those awaiting trial and resulted in the release of more than 40,000 such prisoners.
Who may submit a PIL?

By submitting a petition, any citizen may bring a public case:

  • In the Court of Magistrate, in accordance with Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • The letter is addressed by the harmed party, a public-spirited individual, and a social action group for the enforcement of legal or constitutional rights to any person who is unable to approach the court for redress. Nevertheless, the court must be convinced that the Writ petition satisfies some basic requirements for PIL.
  • An action for public interest may be brought against the State or Central Government, municipal authorities, but not a private individual.The definition of a “state” is the same as that in Article 12 of the Constitution, and it covers the Indian Government, the Indian Parliament, the governments and legislatures of each of the States, as well as any local or other authorities operating on Indian territory or under the control of the Indian Government.
Where do you file a PIL?
  • PILs are Writ Jurisdiction extensions. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India may receive PILs pursuant to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution, or any High Court pursuant to Article 226 of the Indian Constitution.
Method for submitting a PIL
Supreme CourtHigh Court
Number of copies of the PIL to be filed  5 2
Service of copy upon Respondent(s) / Opposite Party(ies) To be served in advanceTo be served only when the Hon’ble Court issues notice regarding the same.
Court Fees to be affixed on the Petition Rs.50/- per Respondent / Opposite PartyRs.50/- per Respondent / Opposite Party

A PIL is a crucial legal weapon, particularly for the defense of the rights of individuals unable to personally approach the courts. They are one of the types of litigation that is most frequently utilized, particularly in environmental disputes. In an effort to prevent people from filing PILs in the public interest or on behalf of the underprivileged, disabled, or poor, the courts have made an effort to simplify the rules governing PILs.


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