Public Interest Litigation, in Indian law, means litigation for the protection of public interest. It 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, for the exercise of the court’s jurisdiction, that the person who is the victim of the violation of his or her right should personally approach the court. Public Interest Litigation is the power given to the public by courts through judicial activism. Such cases may occur when the victim does not have the necessary resources to commence litigation or his freedom to move court has been suppressed or encroached upon. The court can itself take cognizance of the matter and precede suo motu or cases can commence on the petition of any public-spirited individual.
PIL had begun in India towards the end of 1970s and came into full bloom in the 80s. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice PM. Bhagwati, honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of India. They delivered some landmark judgements which opened up new vistas in PIL. According to Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, PIL is a process, of obtaining justice for the people, of voicing people’s grievances through the legal process. The aim of PIL is to give to the common people of this country access to the courts to obtain legal redress under Art 32 & Art 226 of the Constitution. According to Justice Bhagwati :
“PIL is not in the nature of adversary litigation but it is a challenge and an opportunity to the Government and its officers to make basic human rights meaningful to the deprived and vulnerable sections of the community and to assure them social and economic justice which is the significant tune of our Constitution.… when the court entertains PIL, it does not do so in a cavilling spirit or in a confrontational mood or with a view to tilting at executive authority or seeking to usurp it, but its attempt is only to ensure observance of social and economic rescue programmes, legislative as well as executive, framed for the benefit of the have-nots and the handicapped and to protect them against violation of their basic human rights, which is also the constitutional obligation of the executive. The court is thus merely assisting in the realization of the constitutional objective,” (AIR 1984 SC 802)