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Report No. 189

Public Interest Litigation

We shall next refer to the system of 'public interest litigation' that has come to stay in our Constitutional Courts. The trend of bringing public interest litigation in the Supreme Court and in the various High Courts by social action groups, the legal aid societies, university teachers, advocates, voluntary organizations and public-spirited citizens has risen in the country. This has helped to ameliorate the miseries of thousands of persons, arising from repression, governmental omissions or excesses, administrative lethargy or arbitrariness or the non-enforcement of beneficial legislation.

Cases of undertrials as well convicted prisoners, women in protective homes, unorganized labourers, untouchables, miseries of scheduled castes and tribes, landless agricultural labourers, slum-dwellers etc. are taken up in PIL cases. The concepts of locus standi have been expanded to meet the problems created by damage to environment or environmental pollution. Public interest cases have also come to be filed seeking directions against the Police or State for taking action against corrupt individuals. The result is that the strict rules of 'locus standi' which were applicable in the writ jurisdiction of our Constitutional Courts has, practically vanished.

In Fertiliser Corporation Kamgar Union v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 344, Krishna Iyer J stated:

"In simple terms, locus standi must be liberalized to meet the challenges of the time. Ubi Jus ibi remedium must be enlarged to embrace all interests of public minded citizens or organizations with serious concerns for conservation of public resources and the direction and correction of public power so as to promote justice in trinity facets."

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