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The Public Interest Litigation Concept was first proposed by the unflappable Justices P.N. Bhagwati and Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. Prior to PIL, there was the idea of locus standi, under which only the party who was harmed or offended had the right to submit a writ petition. However, the emergence of the PIL notion altered this idea. The term Public Interest Litigation” was taken from American law, In the USA during the 1960s; the PIL was created. Public Interest Litigation was a result of judicial activism in India. It is important to name the lawyer Pushpa Kapila Hingorani before elaborating on the concept of a PIL. In 1979, she filed a Habeas Corpus petition on behalf of Bihar inmates who were awaiting trial. She was often referred to as the “Mother of Public Interest Litigation.”[1] In India, PIL was still in its infancy. P.N. Bhagwati then analyzed the Sections in 11 pages in 1981, and the entire verdict took up 488 pages in S.P Gupta v. Union of India,[2] “The court has to innovate new methods and strategies to provide access to justice to large masses of people who are denied basic human rights, to whom freedom and liberty have no meaning.”[3] The word Public Interest Litigation was defined by the Supreme Court of India within the Indian context. PIL then gained prominence in Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar[4], Many have considered this case to be the earliest and most well-known PIL case in India or the first of all Public Interest Litigation Cases. In this PIL case, the court’s attention was brought to the extraordinary circumstance of Bihar defendants awaiting trial who had been held for durations considerably in excess of the maximum term for the offenses they were accused of. In addition to moving forward with making the right to a quick trial the case’s main issue, the court also issued an order for the general release of over 40,000 people who were still awaiting trial but had been held in custody for longer than the allowed amount of time.


The phrases “Public Interest” and “Litigation” are combined to form the term “Public Interest Litigation” (PIL).

The words ‘Public Interest’ means “an expression which indicates something in which the general public or the community at large has some pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.” The word ‘litigation’ on the other hand means “a legal action, including all legal proceedings initiated in a Court of Law with the purpose of enforcing a right or seeking a remedy.” [5]

The provision of justice for all is one of the goals of the Indian legal system. Public interest litigation is a mechanism that society uses to accomplish this objective. The Indian Constitution’s Preamble calls for social, economic, and political fairness. Public Interest Litigation was created as a result of judicial activism in order to accomplish this Preface Goal of Justice. Any public-spirited individual may launch a court case called a “public interest litigation” to represent the interests of the wider public. In this case, the party bringing the lawsuit could not actually be the one that is wronged. The words “public interest” and “litigation” are combined to form the term “public interest litigation.” The expression ‘Public Interest’ means an act beneficial to the general public. It means an action necessarily taken for public purpose. However, requirements of public interest may vary from case to case.

The PIL can be submitted by any Indian citizen;

The remedy is to file a PIL as a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India, according to Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.[6]

The remedy provided by Article 226 of the Indian Constitution is the ability for an individual or group of individuals to bring Public Interest Litigation or writ petitions before the High Court.[7]

In the magistrate’s court, Section 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code might be used by the individual to file the PIL before the magistrate court.

These Indian Courts are the ones with the authority to hear the PIL and provide the orders required to address the issue at hand.[8]


Only habeas corpus-related petitions were initially accepted as PIL subject matter. PIL now covers a wide range of important public problems, including:

  • Child abuse and child labor
  • Cases of neglected children
  • Bonded labor cases
  • Atrocities against women, rape cases, kidnapping, and murder
  • Refusal to pay minimum wages to workmen
  • Persecution of the socially and economically backward sections of society – especially children and women
  • Complaints against police
  • Cases relating to environmental protection.


A quote from Cunningham would be acceptable to use as a conclusion, “Indian PIL might rather be a Phoenix: a whole new creative arising out of the ashes of the old order.”[10] PIL is the first attempt by a common law country in development to reject centuries-old legal imperialism. Public Interest Litigation is a key element of judicial activism in litigation. It makes the court stronger so that it can protect its citizens. Therefore, it is important that the idea is applied carefully and is not misused to further one’s own interests. There have been instances of such PIL misuse and exploitation in recent years, which ought to act as a deterrent to stop future occurrences of this nature. PIL has the potential to benefit the populace if applied correctly and for the right reasons. PIL is also a way for the poor to get access to justice in court and the heart of constitutional writs.

Author’s Name: Archana K Chandran (Advocate)

[1] (last visited Nov 1,2022)

[2] AIR 1982 SC 149

[3] (last visited Nov 1,2022)

[4] AIR 1979 SC 1360

[5] According to Black’s Law Dictionary/7th Edition states

[6] (last visited Nov 2, 2022)

[7] Ibid.

[8] (last visited Nov 2, 2022)

[9] (last visited Nov 2, 2022)

[10] Ibid

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