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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ills, pills and PILs

Pills come in two varieties – the sweet and the bitter. Most of the bitter ones are sugar coated for X-tra special Zing. Then there are the sleeping pills and the morning-after pills apart from pills that one pops into ones mouth as a matter of routine to improve the functions of the various human organs.

PILs, on the other hand, are a means to eradicate the ills that affect our society. It is a term that is gaining popularity – the full form is Public Interest Litigation. As the name implies, it is all about Social Justice. Any citizen has the power to demand justice and approach the Honorable Court to decide in favor of whatever is right if he feels that a wrong has been done. The person who does so need not necessarily be affected as such, as a citizen of a free democratic country, he can take up cudgels on behalf of a group of persons or a community. In this connection, the following can be referred – ‘…..In 1982, the Supreme Court conceded that unusual measures were warranted to enable people the full realization of not merely their civil and political rights, but the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights, and in its far- reaching decision in the case of PUDR [People's Union for Democratic Rights] vs. Union of India [1982 (2) S.C.C. 253], it recognized that a third party could directly petition, whether through a letter or other means, the Court and seek its intervention in a matter where another party's fundamental rights were being violated…..’

"Public interest Litigation", in simple words, means, litigation filed in a court of law, for the protection of "Public Interest", such as pollution, Terrorism, Road safety, constructional hazards etc.

PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION is not defined in any statute or in any act. It has been interpreted by judges to consider the intent of public at large. Although, the main and only focus of such litigation is only "Public Interest" there are various areas where a PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION can be filed. For e.g.
- Violation of basic human rights of the poor
- Content or conduct of government policy
- Compel municipal authorities to perform a public duty.
- Violation of religious rights or other basic fundamental rights.
Public Interest Litigation popularly termed PIL has attained much significance than anticipated as against the traditional and conventional litigations. It is a strategic arm of the legal aid movement which is intended to bring justice within the reach of poor masses who constitute the law visibility area of humanity, and, is a totally different kind of litigation from the ordinary litigation, which is essentially of an adverse character, having dispute between two litigating parties; one making claim or seeking relief against the other opposing such claim or resisting such relief.

WPSI initially filed a Public Interest Petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in April 1998, requesting the State Government to ban the manufacture and sale of shahtoosh shawls and to abide by national and international laws and conventions.

One of the best examples is the one by Naveen Jindal Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL), the man who fought and won for every Indian citizen the right to fly the national flag.

The latest in this list will probably be the one planned by the film industry bigwigs against the Government of Maharastra on its inept handling of the flood situation that is reportedly the worst in the history of the last 100 years.


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