PIL is a legal action initiated in a court of law for the enforcement of public or general interests.

PIL helps in the following ways in securing justice to the needy:

1. By democratization of access to justice as in SP Gupta case, the SC relaxed the principle of locus standi in case of PIL

2. PIL can be directly filed in SC under art 32 or in HC under Art 226 for enforcement of rights under the writ jurisdiction of courts

3. Categories like bonded labour matters, the welfare of children, nonpayment of minimum wages, condition of prisoners etc have been explicitly given in guidelines by SC under which PIL may be filed

4. PIL has led to awarding of new kinds of reliefs like interim compensation to the victims etc.

5. It provides for judicial monitoring of state institutions like jails, women homes etc.

6. Use of investigative litigations as in many cases court has appointed its own socio-legal commissions of inquiry or has deputed its own office for investigation.

7. The working of PIL is in harmony with the principles enshrined in Article 39A which seeks to protect and deliver prompt social justice with the help of law
As PN Bhagwati, father of PIL said, “Purpose of PIL is to provide justice to persons who by reasons of poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position are unable to approach the courts”.

The PIL has led to many successful judgements like:

1.Prevention of custodial violence against women in Sheela Basra case

2.Inclusion of Right to live with human dignity under Art 21 and freedom from exploitation in Bandhu Mukti Morcha case

3.Welfare and protection of children working in factories under MC Mehta vs State of TN case

4.Free legal aid and right to speedy justice in Hussainara Khatoon case.

Despite the advantage PIL has had it has had the following demerits:

1. Many people have used PIL as a tool for harassment by filing frivolous cases due to lower court fee of PIL wrt private litigation

2. There have been claims of judiciary overstepping its jurisdiction while ensuring social justice

3. Ineffectiveness of judiciary in implementation of its orders has been seen in many cases

4.Misuse of PIL for private grievances and for seeking publicity in the garb of public interest.

5.No system for the protection of persons filing PIL.

Way forward:

1. The existing PIL cell for a screening of PILs must be strengthened.

2. Caution must be exercised by the judiciary that while reprimanding the executive it does not transgress into its jurisdiction.

3. False and frivolous PILs must be subject to fines.

4. Protection to activists in sensitive cases must be provided.

5. Strict adherence to cases given in SC guidelines must be followed.

PIL though an important instrument of social change must be used with great care and circumspection to ensure that it is not misused and it serves its intended purpose.

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