In India, the Supreme Court took the lead by allowing volunteer social activists- to request the interests of the poor in judicial proceedings by expanding the doctrine of the locus standi in filling the petition and creating epistolary jurisdiction that enabled to treat a letter written on behalf of a disadvantaged person as a petition and examine the merits of the grievances.
In India judicial activism was made possible by PIL (Public Interest Litigation). It has in a way democratized the judicial process. Furthermore, the PIL has contributed to the rise of a form of a judicial scrutiny of each and every governmental institution ranging from hospitals, prisons, manufacturing units covering issues of health, environment, safety, security, privacy and welfare etc.
Its credit goes to the justice P. N. Bhagwati who has introduced the tradition of hearing on PIL even on a post card. Justice Bhagwati clearly stated, ‘The supreme court has adopted a pro active approach for the last two years. Particularly, having regards to the peculiar socio-economic conditions prevailing in the country’. Thus, judicial activism is developed in each and every aspect of life, including social, economic, political, religious, educational etc. Undoubtedly, it has strengthened the faith of masses in the judiciary of the country.
What are its objectives?
• To safeguard the Public Interest, Human Rights and to protect Constitutional and Legal rights of the disadvantaged and weaker section of the society. (For e.g. environmental, labour and prisoners etc.)
• To ensure, observance of the provisions of the constitution and other laws. It is essentially a co-operative or collaborative effort on the part of petitioner, the state, public authority and the court to secure observance of the constitutional or legal rights, benefits and privileges conferred upon the weaker section of the society.
• Public Interest Litigation is a device by filing a PIL are entitled to and seek enforcement of public duty and observance of the constitutional law or legal provisions. Such litigation only for redressal of a public injury, enforcement of a public duty or vindicating interest o the public nature and it is necessary that the petition is not field for personal gain or private motive or for other extraneous consideration and is field bona fide in public interest.
• Intervention of the court may be sought by way of PIL in cases where the existing rules and standards are not complied with due to indifference towards a particular group, unjustly denying them any legal entitlements or resulting in unfair and hostile treatment. Public Interest Litigation provides the platform for projecting social values for those who do not have a formal access or voice in the policy-making process.
• A PIL can be filed against a state or central government, municipal authorities, but not any private party. However, a ‘Private Party’ can be included in the PIL as ‘Respondent’, after making concerned state authority, a party.
What are the matters generally includes in the PIL?
• Bonded labours matters.
• Matters of neglected children
• Exploitation of casual labourers and non-payment of wages of them ( except in individual cases)
• Mattes of harassment or torture of persons belonging to schedule castes, schedule tribes and economically backward classes, either by co-villagers or by police.
• Matters relating to environmental pollution disturbance of ecological balance, drugs food adulteration, maintenance of heritage and culture, antiques, forest and wild life.
• Petitions from riot victims
• Other matters of public importance.
State the methods of filing the PIL:
A PIL can be filed in any High Court or directly in the Supreme Court. The conventional method of moving a court is by filing a plaint containing a detailed list of facts that are necessary for deciding the case.
However, now the PIL has jumped over this structural barrier. The Supreme Court has held that, a PIL is neither rejected merely on the fact that, it is of in the structural form of a plaint nor it is made in the manner of a formal plaint. The court can initiate a PIL even on receiving a letter addressed to the court whether with or without an affidavit.
Once a PIL has been filed it cannot be subsequently withdra2wn. The court may also proceed ‘suo motto’. This was laid down y the Supreme Court to ensure that there is no vested interest of the people who initiate proceedings and that the cause for which the PIL was initiated does not suffer.
The Indian judiciary adopted the technique of public interest litigation for the cause of environmental protection in many cases. The Supreme Court and high courts shaded the inhibition against refusing strangers to present the petitions on behalf of poor and ignorant individuals. The basic ideology behind adopting PIL is that access to justice ought to be denied to the needy for the lack of knowledge or finances
Indian judiciary has used the tool of PIL quite effectively for the cause of environmental protection. But the judiciary has shown wisdom in denying false petitions seeking to advanced private interests through PIL as, evident from the decision of the Supreme Court. Hence, PIL has proved to be a great weapon in the hands of higher courts for protection of environment and judiciary utilized this weapon of PIL in best possible manner.
However, PIL does require a complete rethink and restructuring as the overuse and abuse of PIL can only make it state and ineffective. There is a need for some strong measures to promote and protect the actual purpose for which the PIL came into being, i.e. the enforcement and other legal rights of the people who are poor, weak, ignorant of legal redressal system or otherwise in a disadvantageous position, due to the social and economic background.