Judicial Reforms

Issues with Frivolous PIL Petitions


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PIL

Mains level: Issues with PIL

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitioner in the Supreme Court barely escaped having to pay ₹18 lakh for indulging in a “luxury litigation”.

What is the news?

  • A Supreme Court Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Hima Kohli initially asked the litigant to pay ₹18 lakh, that is, ₹1 lakh for every one of the 18 minutes the case took up.
  • However, the court later, in its order, slashed the amount to ₹2 lakh on the request of the litigant’s counsel.

Why did the apex court got disgusted?

  • The bench criticized the highly derogatory practice of filing frivolous petitions encroaching valuable judicial time.
  • This time can otherwise be utilised for addressing genuine concerns.

What is Public Interest Litigation (PIL)?

  • PIL refers to litigation undertaken to secure public interest and demonstrates the availability of justice to socially-disadvantaged parties.
  • It was introduced by Justice P. N. Bhagwati in 1979.
  • It is the chief instrument through which judicial activism has flourished in India.
  • It is suited to the principles enshrined in Article 39A[a] of the Constitution to protect and deliver prompt social justice with the help of law.

How was it introduced?

  • PIL is a relaxation on the traditional rule of locus standi.
  • Before 1980s the judiciary and the Supreme Court of India entertained litigation only from parties affected directly or indirectly by the defendant.
  • It heard and decided cases only under its original and appellate jurisdictions.
  • However, the Supreme Court began permitting cases on the grounds of PIL, which means that even people who are not directly involved in the case may bring matters of public interest to the court.
  • It is the court’s privilege to entertain the application for the PIL.

Filing a PIL

Any citizen can file a public case by filing a petition:

  • Under Art 32 of the Indian Constitution, in the Supreme Court
  • Under Art 226 of the Indian Constitution, in the High Court
  • Under 133 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in a Magistrate’s Court

Parties against whom PILs can be filed

  • A PIL may be filed against state government, central government, municipal authority, private party.
  • Also, private person may be included in PIL as ‘Respondent’, after concerned of state authority.
  • g. a private factory in Mumbai which is causing pollution then PIL can be filed against the government of Mumbai, state pollution central board including that private factory of Mumbai.

Importance of PIL

  • PIL gives a wider description to the fundamental rights to equality, life and personality, which is guaranteed under part III of the Constitution of India.
  • It also functions as an effective instrument for changes in the society or social welfare.
  • Through PIL, any public or person can seek remedy on behalf of the oppressed class by introducing a PIL.

Issues with PIL

  • Off late, PILs have become a tool for publicity.
  • People file frivolous petitions which result in the wastage of time of the courts.
  • People have used them with a political agenda as well.
  • They unnecessarily burden the judiciary.
  • Even if the petition is eventually dismissed, the courts spend time and effort on them before dismissing them.

How do frivolous petitions waste time?

  • At present, only judges have the power to dismiss a petition.
  • The Registry of the SC or HC only ensures that the technical requirements of filing a petition are fulfilled.
  • As a result of which petitions are admitted to the court irrespective of the merits of the case.

Way forward: Preventing frivolous PILs

The Supreme Court had issued eight directions in its Balwant Singh Chaufal Judgment to help constitutional courts separate genuine PIL petitions from the barmy ones:

  • It had asked every High Court to frame its own rules to encourage bona fide PIL petitions and curb the motivated ones
  • Verifying the credentials of the petitioner before entertaining the plea
  • Checking the correctness of the contents
  • Ensuring the petition involves issues of “larger public interest, gravity and urgency” which requires priority
  • Ensuring there is no personal gain, or oblique motive behind the PIL
  • Ensuring that it is aimed at redressal of genuine public harm or public injury


  • PIL petitions have had a beneficial effect on the Indian jurisprudence and has alleviated the conditions of the citizens in general.
  • Such petitions bring justice to people who are handicapped by ignorance, indigence, illiteracy.



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