How To File A Public Interest Litigation (PIL)?

To understand how to file Public interest litigation (PIL) one has to understand the meaning and the purpose of a PIL. A PIL is an appeal that an individual or a non-government association or any citizen or a group of citizen is entitled to, it can be presented before the court of law while looking for equity in an issue that has a bigger open intrigue. It is provided under Article 32 and  Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It targets giving every citizen an entrance to the legal executive to acquire legitimate change for a more noteworthy reason.

PIL isn’t characterized in any rule. It is the result of legal activism to take cognisance of a reason at the case of any individual regardless of whether it doesn’t influence him by and by, yet influences people in general on the loose.

Public interest litigation has been extensively examined in the context of the Indian constitutional and legal system, time and again and it is safe to mention that this phenomenon has acquired renewed significance in the recent day’s context.

The seeds of the concept of public interest litigation were initially sown in India by Justice Krishna Iyer, in 1976 in Mumbai Kamagar Sabha vs. Abdul Thai.

The first reported case of PIL was Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar (1979) that focused on the inhuman conditions of prisons and under trial prisoners that led to the release of more than 40,000 under trial prisoners.

So now that we are clear with the purpose and object of PIL the next question that arises is that who can file a PIL?

Who can file a PIL?

Any Indian citizen can move to the court with a PIL, the primary condition being that it should not be covered with private interest, but should serve a bigger purpose. If an issue is of great public importance, many times the court takes suo motu cognizance in such a case and appoints a lawyer to handle the matter.

Hence we can say that a PIL can be filed by

  1. Any citizen of India including but not limited to NGOs and individual or,
  2. The court can take suo motu cognizance.

When should one file a PIL is there any hard and fast rule that should be followed while filing a PIL?

No there is no straight jacket rule that exists for filling a PIL however a couple of things should be kept in mind, Prior to filing a PIL, the applicant should ideally altogether examine the related issues, facts and circumstances. If the PIL concerns numerous individuals, then the applicant ought to consult all the persons. When an individual has chosen to file a PIL, he should gather all important data and reports to reinforce his case. The individual filing the PIL can either file it himself or hire a legal counselor. For the most part, regardless, it is beneficial, advisable and suitable to hire a  legal counselor before file and present a PIL. Now the next question is where to file a PIL.

There are two places where a PIL can be filed

Where to file a PIL?

1. High Court

2. Supreme Court

In the High Court:

If a PIL is filed in a High court, then the person needs to file two copies of the petition. Also, an advance copy of the petition has to be served on each respondent, i.e. opposite party, and this proof of service has to be affixed on the petition.

In Supreme Court:

If a PIL is filed in the Supreme Court, then five sets of the petition have to be filed opposite party is served, the copy only when notice is issued.

It is pertinent to mention here that while filing a matter before these two courts it has to be kept in mind that litigation before a Supreme Court can only be filed when there is a violation of fundamental rights and a petition can be filed before the High Court whenever there is an infringement of any fundamental or legal right. It should be very critically examined as to where a petition should be filed. Further, the Supreme Court has also issued a list in a manner of guidelines that will be adhered to while ordinarily admitting a claim under PIL.

The Procedure:

The procedures on account of PIL begin and carry on in a similar way, as happens in other normal cases. The judge has the power to appoint an official to review charges like contamination being caused, trees being cut, sewer issues, and so on between the procedures. Once the PIL is admitted and if it is established that the issue is in hand is of utmost importance and holds extreme significance relating to lives of people, human rights infringement and so forth, the court generally would take up the case quickly, conduct the hearing and dispose of the issue as expeditiously as possible. Be that as it may, in general, because of accumulating of PILs in courts, the hearing and closure of the case is tedious, very often it takes years. However, during the pendency of the hearings, the court may give directions to the specialists to appropriate authorities or officials to carry out specific activities as and when required and directed by the court.

It’s only after the final hearing of both parties that judgment is given.


A new era of the PIL movement was heralded by Justice P.N. Bhagawati in the case of S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India. Today Public interest litigation has become the paramount power to protect the rights of the most disadvantaged members of the Indian society.

Public interest litigation allows the judiciary to protect the fundamental right of the individual. It is a wand in the hands of citizen and another social welfare worker to help those who are economically and socially challenged. The reason behind keeping the procedure of PIL so simple and so economical is because the intent of the judiciary is to provide justice to all.

This article is authored by Preksha Manot, Fourth-Year, B.Com, LL.B (Hons.) student at Amity University Kolkata

Also Read – Types of Writs under Constitution of India

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