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Social Change and Public Interest Litigation in India

Posted by rtiact2005 on October 13, 2006

Social Change and Public Interest Litigation in India

Social change is the necessity of any society. In India it is done through Public Interest Litigation. In this article an attempt was made to assess the impact of PIL over Indian Society. The jurisprudence of PIL is necessary to understand the nature of PIL in India.

Jasper Vikas George, Advocate, Delhi High Court
Jasper Vikas George, Advocate, Delhi High Court

Social Change and Public Interest Litigation in India

Such is the disillusionment with the state formal legal system that it is no longer demanded by law to do justice, if justice perchance is done, we congratulate ourselves for being fortunate. In these circumstances one of the best things that have happened in the country in recent years is the process of social reform through Public Interest Litigation or Social Action Litigation.

By
*Jasper Vikas George

Late 1970s marked discernible shift from legal centralism. Legal pluralism was very apparent now. It was realized that social conduct was regulated by the interaction of normative orders, notion of popular justice, community justice, and distributive justice were sought to be institutionalised, though outside the sphere of the formal legal system and in opposition to it.

Necessity of informal justice

Necessity of informal justice, whether as an alternative to state law or as to its agent to find its identity in opposition to state law stems from the nature of Anglo-Saxon law prescribing legal formalism and due to the failure of formal legal system to deliver justice that forced informal justice to take on a separate identity from state law.

The British rule bequeathed to India a colonial legal heritage. The Anglo-Saxon model of adjudication insisted upon observance of procedural technicalities such as locus standi and adherence to adversarial system of litigation. The result was that the courts were accessible only to the rich and the influential people. The marginalized and disadvantaged groups continued to be exploited and denied basic human rights.

Public Interest Litigation as exists today

PIL today offers such a paradigm which locates the content of informal justice without the formal legal system. Non Anglo-Saxon jurisdiction directs courts to transcend the traditional judicial function of adjudication and provide remedies for social wrongs. PIL had already molded the state in to the instrument of socio-economic change. Social justice is the byproduct of this transcends from the formal legal system.

Evolution of Public Interest Litigation

The Indian PIL is the improved version of PIL of U.S.A. According to “Ford Foundation” of U.S.A., “Public interest law is the name that has recently been given to efforts that provide legal representation to previously unrepresented groups and interests. Such efforts have been undertaken in the recognition that ordinary marketplace for legal services fails to provide such services to significant segments of the population and to significant interests. Such groups and interests include the proper environmentalists, consumers, racial and ethnic minorities and others”. The emergency period (1975-1977) witnessed colonial nature of the Indian legal system. During emergency state repression and governmental lawlessness was widespread. Thousands of innocent people including political opponents were sent to jails and there was complete deprivation of civil and political rights. The post emergency period provided an occasion for the judges of the Supreme Court to openly disregard the impediments of Anglo-Saxon procedure in providing access to justice to the poor. Notably two justices of the Supreme Court, Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer and P. N. Bhagwati recognised the possibility of providing access to justice to the poor and the exploited people by relaxing the rules of standing. In the post-emergency period when the political situations had changed, investigative journalism also began to expose gory scenes of governmental lawlessness, repression, custodial violence, drawing attention of lawyers, judges, and social activists. PIL emerged as a result of an informal nexus of pro-active judges, media persons and social activists. This trend shows starke difference between the traditional justice delivery system and the modern informal justice system where the judiciary is performing administrative judicial role. PIL is necessary rejection of laissez faire notions of traditional jurisprudence.

The first reported case of PIL in 1979 focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners. In Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar, AIR 1979 SC 1360, the PIL was filed by an advocate on the basis of the news item published in the Indian Express, highlighting the plight of thousands of undertrial prisoners languishing in various jails in Bihar. These proceeding led to the release of more than 40, 000 undertrial prisoners. Right to speedy justice emerged as a basic fundamental right which had been denied to these prisoners. The same set pattern was adopted in subsequent cases.

In 1981 the case of Anil Yadav v. State of Bihar, AIR 1982 SC 1008, exposed the brutalities of the Police. News paper report revealed that about 33 suspected criminals were blinded by the police in Bihar by putting the acid into their eyes. Through interim orders S. C. directed the State government to bring the blinded men to Delhi for medical treatment. It also ordered speedy prosecution of the guilty policemen. The court also read right to free legal aid as a fundamental right of every accused. Anil Yadav signalled the growth of social activism and investigative litigation.

In (Citizen for Democracy v. State of Assam, (1995) 3SCC 743), the S. C. declared that the handcuffs and other fetters shall not be forced upon a prisoner while lodged in jail or while in transport or transit from one jail to another or to the court or back.

Concept of PIL

According to the jurisprudence of Article 32 of the Constitution of India, “The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this part is guaranteed”. Ordinarily, only the aggrieved party has the right to seek redress under Article 32.
In 1981 Justice P. N. Bhagwati in .S. P. Gupta v. Union of India, 1981 (Supp) SCC 87, articulated the concept of PIL as follows, “Where a legal wrong or a legal injury is caused to a person or to a determinate class of persons by reason of violation of any constitutional or legal right or any burden is imposed in contravention of any constitutional or legal provision or without authority of law or any such legal wrong or legal injury or illegal burden is threatened and such person or determinate class of persons by reasons of poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position unable to approach the court for relief, any member of public can maintain an application for an appropriate direction, order or writ in the High Court under Article 226 and in case any breach of fundamental rights of such persons or determinate class of persons, in this court under Article 32 seeking judicial redress for the legal wrong or legal injury caused to such person or determinate class of persons.”

The rule of locus standi have been relaxed and a person acting bonafide and having sufficient interest in the proceeding of Public Interest Litigation will alone have a locus standi and can approach the court to wipe out violation of fundamental rights and genuine infraction of statutory provisions, but not for personal gain or private profit or political motive or any oblique consideration (Ashok Kumar Pandey v. State of W. B., (2004) 3 SCC 349).

Supreme Court in Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay and ors v. M/s Devkala Consultancy Service and Ors., J. T. 2004 (4) SC 587, held that “In an appropriate case, where the petitioner might have moved a court in her private interest and for redressal of the personal grievance, the court in furtherance of Public Interest may treat it a necessity to enquire into the state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice. Thus a private interest case can also be treated as public interest case”.

In Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Commit. And Anr. Vs. C.K. Rajan and Ors, J.T. 2003 (7) S.C. 312, S.C. held, “The Courts exercising their power of judicial review found to its dismay that the poorest of the poor, depraved, the illiterate, the urban and rural unorganized labour sector, women, children, handicapped by ‘ignorance, indigence and illiteracy’ and other down trodden have either no access to justice or had been denied justice. A new branch of proceedings known as ‘Social Interest Litigation’ or ‘Public Interest Litigation’ was evolved with a view to render complete justice to the aforementioned classes of persona. It expanded its wings in course of time. The Courts in pro bono publico granted relief to the inmates of the prisons, provided legal aid, directed speedy trial, maintenance of human dignity and covered several other areas. Representative actions, pro bono publico and test litigations were entertained in keeping with the current accent on justice to the common man and a necessary disincentive to those who wish to by pass the, real issues on the merits by suspect reliance on peripheral procedural shortcomings… Pro bono publico constituted a significant state in the present day judicial system. They, however, provided the dockets with much greater responsibility for rendering the concept of justice available to the disadvantaged sections of the society. Public interest litigation has come to stay and its necessity cannot be overemphasized. The courts evolved a jurisprudence of compassion. Procedural propriety was to move over giving place to substantive concerns of the deprivation of rights. The rule of locus standi was diluted. The Court in place of disinterested and dispassionate adjudicator became active participant in the dispensation of justice”.

Aspects of PIL  ….

for more Info read this article here,
http://india.indymedia.org/en/2005/03/210205.shtml

6 Responses to “Social Change and Public Interest Litigation in India”

  1. Flousicsoadia said

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    • Sir,
      I am a social activist and public spirited citizen. I filed a PIL in AP High court in W.P.no.27227/09 for an enquiry by ACB in to disproportionate assets of Mr.D.S.Murthy a retired IAS officer who illegally acquired more than Rs 100 crores of assets.D.S.Murthy being 9th respondent respondent filed counter affidavit alleging the close relationship with me. He falsely attributes malafides to me to divert the attention of the court. I have been pursuing the corrupt for the last 3 decades. And he is one of them and he happened to be my close relative. I showed the inaction of the ACB very effectively by filing my representations in material papers sent to ACB who is second respondent. But 2nd respondent badly undervalued the properties and showing marginal disproportionate assets of Mr.D.S.Murthy in their counter.D.S.Murthy retired IAS is trying to get the court prejudiced by questioning my locus standi by mentioning irrelevant matters in his counter. There are very specific details with documentary evidence in my PIL.The subject matter and contents of PIL are more important than the fact that who the petitioner is.
      The matter is posted after 8 from 11–08-2010 weeks. This is case of corruption. I would to see that PIL is perused completely by the AP High court before disposing. Kindly advise me in the matter
      OSURI DEVENDRA PHANIKAR
      S V NILAYAM
      OSURI MANSION
      NARSAPUR-534275
      AP
      CELL-09346610749

  2. Sir,
    I am a sicial activist and pulic spirited citizen. I filed a PIL in AP High court in W.P.no.27227/09 for an enuiry by ACB in to disproportinate assets of Mr.D.S.Murthy a retire IAS officer who illegally acuired more than Rs 100 crores of assets.D.S.Murthy being 9th respondent respondent filed couter affidavit alleging the close relationship with me. He falsely attributing malafides to me to divert the attention of the court.I have been pusuing the corrupt for the last 3 deacdes.And he is one of them and he happened to be my close relative.I showed the the inaction of the ACB very effectively by filing my representations in meterial papers sent to ACB who is second respondent.But 2nd respondent badly undervalued the properties and showing marginal disproportinate assets of Mr.D.S.Murthy in thier counter.D.S.Murthy retired IAS is trying to get the court prejudiced bynquestioning my locus standi by metioning illevant matters in his counter.There are very specific details with documentary evidence in my PIL.The suject matter and cotents of PIL are more important than the fact that who the petioner is.
    The matter is posted after 8 from 11–08-2010 weeks.This is case of corruption.I would to see that PIL is perused completely by the AP High court before disposing.Kindly advise me in the matter
    OSURI DEVENDRA PHANIKAR
    S V NILAYAM
    OSURI MANSION
    NARSAPUR-534275
    AP
    CELL-09346610749

  3. sumit said

    kya koi hai jo mere dwara taiyaar PILs ko nihswaarth roop me file kare? sumit(23M) Bhopal 09425605432

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  5. bangladesh said

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    […]Social Change and Public Interest Litigation in India « Right2Information[…]…

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