The court process was based on the Anglo-Saxon system of jurisprudence at the time of independence. The majority of residents were uninformed of their legal rights and much less able to exercise them. As a result, there was no connection between the rights provided by the Indian Union’s Constitution and legislative legislation on the one hand, and the great majority of illiterate individuals on the other.
This situation began to change as the post-emergency Supreme Court addressed the issue of people’s access to justice by making significant adjustments and alterations to the standards of locus standi and party aggrieved.
Prior to the 1980s, only the aggrieved party could personally knock on the doors of justice to seek redress for his grievance, and no one else could do so as a proxy for the victim or the aggrieved party. The development of Public Interest Litigation in recent years has marked a substantial divergence from regular court processes.
The court is today viewed as an institution capable of not just providing relief to citizens but also formulating policies that the state must follow.
The outstanding efforts of Justice P N Bhagwati and Justice V R Krishna Iyer were important in transforming India’s highest court into a Supreme Court for all Indians throughout the 1980s.
PIL (Public Interest Litigation) has shown to be a beneficial new legal remedy. For at least certain sectors of our oppressed and downtrodden humanity, it has turned the rhetoric of fundamental rights into a living reality.
Inmates of asylums and care institutions living in deplorable circumstances, minors working in dangerous jobs, and other disadvantaged groups are being held in custody for inordinately lengthy periods of time.
Downsides of PIL
However, the country’s growth of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has just lately shown its own dangers and downsides.
1.Genuine public-interest causes and cases have faded into the background, and irresponsible PIL activists across the country have begun to play a significant, but non-constructive role in the litigation arena.
In a recent example, the court, while rejecting an apparent PIL opposing the sale of a block of land by public auction, found that the matter had been brought to express a private grievance rather than in the public interest.
PIL misuse has grown more common than its usage, and legitimate causes have either faded into the background or have been tarnished by bogus causes promoted by privately driven interests masquerading as so-called public interests. Every item of public interest, such as a rise in the price of onions or railway fares, the decrepit state of railway stations or the Red Fort, or trains not operating on time, cannot be the subject of a PIL.
PIL has morphed into Private Interest Litigation, Political Interest Litigation, and, most notably, Publicity Interest Litigation throughout the years. Judges, attorneys, and litigants all suffer from a lack of public awareness.
2.The Indian constitution’s architects envisioned a system of checks and balances rather than a rigid theory of separation of powers. The executive and legislative branches are traditionally seen as having sole authority over policymaking and implementation. The court’s power of judicial review cannot be used to usurp or abdicate the authority of other bodies.
In reality, however, PIL tends to blur the lines between the duties of various government entities, which has sparked debate. The boundary between law and policy has been blurred by the court at times.
Cases and Analysis
Vishaka v State of Rajasthan, a PIL concerns sexual harassment of women at work, erased the gap between law and policy.
The courts’ willingness to intervene where the legislature had failed was a key aspect of this judgment. The court stated that the rules set down by the court would be effective until the legislature passed legislation compatible with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to which India was a signatory.
1. However, in the case of Delhi Science Forum v Union of India, where a PIL challenged the government of India’s telecommunication policy, the court declined to intervene on the grounds that it was a policy question. PILs seeking a ban on the sale of liquor, recognition of a specific language as the national language, or the creation of a standard civil code have all been dismissed as policy issues. If the court determines that the concerns stated are beyond the judicial ambit or capability, it may decline to hear the PIL.
2. In policy concerns, the court asks whether the policy’s execution or non-application results in a breach of basic rights. The court in M.N Mehta v Union of India showed how, notwithstanding the 1986 adoption of the Environment (Protection) Act, the condition of the environment had deteriorated significantly.
As a result, any additional delay in the central government’s execution of its duties cannot be tolerated.
The court, on the other hand, ordered the central government to explain what actions it had done so far and to provide the national policy for environmental preservation.
3.The procedural flexibility that is a hallmark of PIL has resulted in a new set of issues. It allows opposing parties to determine the exact charge and reply to specific concerns.
The PIL about forest cover reduction is a case in point. In its original form, the appeal was over the indiscriminate destruction of Khair trees in Jammu and Kashmir.
The court has now broadened the scope of the PIL to include all forests in India. As a result, individual states will be unable to respond to the initial petition since it may not pertain to them at all.
The reports of court-appointed commissioners raise questions about their admissibility. No court can make a conclusion based on facts unless they are proven legally. This means that an adversary has the right to put them to the test through cross-examination or, at the very least, counter-affidavits.
In such cases, the parties involved may have reservations about the court’s involvement.
4.The argument about the boundaries of judicial activism, particularly in the sphere of public interest litigation, has been heated in the political arena as well. Political circles are concerned about the judiciary’s desire to enter the realm of policymaking and policy execution through PILs.
In the Rajya Sabha, a private members bill named Public Interest Litigation (Regulation) Bill, 1996 was introduced. It said that the PIL was being abused to its full extent. Furthermore, PIL claims were given precedence over other matters that had been languishing in court for years.
It was suggested that if a PIL petition failed or was shown to be false, the petitioner should be imprisoned and compensated.
Despite the fact that the bill did not pass, the debate in parliament highlighted some of the criticism and distrust that PIL had begun to get.
Criticism that the judiciary is overstepping its jurisdictional bounds and is unable to monitor the proper implementation of its rulings has harmed the credibility of the PIL process. People pushing for private grievances in the name of public interest and seeking attention, rather than advocating for a public cause, are increasingly feeling that PIL is being abused. The judiciary has acknowledged and expressed these concerns on several occasions.
Another issue is that as the court becomes more involved in policymaking, it will have to devise new remedies and processes to ensure that its orders are carried out effectively.
There is no greater loss of confidence for a court system than the impression that its orders may be disobeyed with impunity.
Whatever the basic right or the good reason, this court must avoid from making orders that cannot be implemented. It’s pointless to issue a high-profile mandamus or pronouncement that will only exist on paper.
Although the Supreme Court generally issues interim relief orders very once, a final decision is rarely issued, and in most cases, the follow-up is inadequate.
Ontario Law Reform Commission
According to the 1989 Ontario Law Reform Commission Report on the Law of Standing, any individual should be entitled to initiate an action unless a party can convince the Court that there are considerations against proceeding that exceed the factors in favor of proceeding.
Public Interest Litigants fear that implementing these recommendations will put the people-friendly idea of PIL to rest. PIL activists, on the other hand, must be held responsible and accountable.
It’s also worth noting that the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 has been modified to offer compensation to opposing parties in the event of consumer complaints that are baseless.
PIL requires reconsideration and reorganization. PIL will become useless if it is overused and abused.
For at least some sectors of our impoverished and downtrodden humanity, PIL has transformed the language of fundamental rights into actual reality. Inmates of asylums and care institutions living in deplorable circumstances, minors working in dangerous jobs, and other disadvantaged groups are being held in custody for inordinately lengthy periods of time.