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What is Public Interest Litigation (PIL) under Article 32 in India? Who can file PIL in India? Guidelines to file PIL? What are the conditions? How to file Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of Indian Constitution? Which are the cases cannot be filed as PIL?

What is Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India?

Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of Indian Constitution means litigation for the protection of the public interest. PIL is litigation introduced in a court of law, not by the aggrieved party but by the court itself or by any other private party. It is not necessary to file Public Interest Litigation by the aggrieved person who is a victim of violation of his or her right personally. PIL is the power give to the public by courts through judicial activism. However, the petitions should not be a frivolous litigation by a busy body, the person filing the petition must prove to the satisfaction of the court that the petition is being filed for a public interest. There are situations in which the victim does not have the necessary resources to commence litigation or his freedom to move court has been suppressed or encroached upon. In such cases the court can itself take cognizance of the matter and proceed suo motu or cases can commence on the petition of any public-spirited individual.



Who can Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 with the Supreme Court of India?

PIL can be filed by any person not for his personal benefit or pecuniary gain but for the benefit of the public at large.


What are the guidelines to file PIL in India?

Hon'ble Supreme Court of India published circular regarding guideline for filing Public Interest Litigation under Article 32. The following are the guideline for filing PIL in India. Based on full Court decision dated 1.12.1988 and subsequent modifications the guide lines are: 

No petition involving individual/ personal matter shall be entertained as a PIL matter except as indicated hereinafter.

Letter-petitions falling under the following categories alone will ordinarily be entertained as Public Interest Litigation:-

1. Bonded Labour matters

2. Neglected Children.

3. Non-payment of minimum wages to workers and exploitation of casual workers and complaints of violation of Labour Laws (except in individual cases). 

4. Petitions from jails complaining of harassment, for (pre-mature release) and seeking release after having completed 14 years in jail, death in jail, transfer, release on personal bond, speedy trial as a fundamental right. 

Note-Petitions for premature release, parole etc. are not matters which deserve to be treated as petitions u/Article 32 as they can effectively be dealt with by the concerned High Court. To save time Registry may simultaneously call for remarks of the jail Superintendent and ask him to forward the same to High Court. The main petition may be forwarded to the concerned High Court for disposal in accordance with law. Even in regard to petitions containing allegations against Jail Authorities there is no reason why it cannot be dealt with by the High Court. But petitions complaining of torture, custody death and the like may be entertained by this Court directly if the allegations are of a serious nature.


5. Petitions against police for refusing to register a case, harassment by police and death in police custody.

6. Petitions against atrocities on women, in particular harassment of bride, bride burning,rape, murder, kidnapping etc.

Note- In such cases where office calls for police report if letter petitioner asks for copy the same may be supplied, only after obtaining permission of the Hon'ble Judge nominated by the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India for PIL matters.

7. Petitions complaining of harassment or torture of villagers by co- villagers or by police from persons belonging to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and economically backward classes.

8. Petitions pertaining to environmental pollution, disturbance of ecological balance, drugs, food adulteration, maintenance of heritage and culture, antiques, forest and wild life and other matters of public importance.

9. Petitions from riot -victims.

10. Family Pension.
All letter-petitions received in the PIL Cell will first be screened in the Cell and only such petitions as are covered by the above mentioned categories will be placed before a Judge to be nominated by Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India for directions after which the case will be listed before the Bench concerned.

If a letter-petition is to be lodged, the orders to that effect should be passed by Registrar (Judicial) (or any Registrar nominated by the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India), instead of Additional Registrar, or any junior officer.

To begin with only one Hon'ble Judge may be assigned this work and number increased to two or three later depending on the workload.


Cases falling under the following categories will not be entertained as Public Interest Litigation and these may be returned to the petitioners or filed in the PIL Cell, as the case may be:

(1) Landlord-Tenant matters.

(2) Service matter and those pertaining to Pension and Gratuity.

(3) Complaints against Central/ State Government Departments and Local Bodies except those relating to item Nos. (1) to (10) above.

(4) Admission to medical and other educational institution.

(5) Petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Courts and Subordinate Courts.

In regard to the petitions concerning maintenance of wife, children and parents, the petitioners may be asked to file a Petition under sec. 125 of Cr. P.C. Or a Suit

in the Court of competent jurisdiction and for that purpose to approach the nearest Legal Aid Committee for legal aid and advice.

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