Discuss the extent, cause and measures taken against the frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India.

PILs have brought a sort of revolution in justice dispensation in the country but at the same time have become a major headache also. The PIL activists started to play a major but not a very constructive role in litigation. Many of them tried and still try to utilize this extraordinary remedy, available at a cheaper cost, as a substitute for ordinary one. PILs also became a tool of harassment since frivolous cases could be filed without heavy court fees.
Extent
Though exact data on frivolous PILs is not available, a report Daksh State of Indian Judiciary says that the delays in court processes costs the country 0.5% of its GDP in lost man-hours, cost of litigation, etc. and frivolous litigation is a leading cause of this loss.
Causes
Generally, PILs are misused for private grievances in the grab of public interest by seeking publicity / vested interest rather than supporting the public cause.
Measures taken:
With the view to regulate the abuse of PIL the apex court has framed certain guidelines to govern the management and disposal of PILs. They are:

  • Encourage genuine and bonafide PIL and discourage and curb those filed for extraneous considerations.
  • Instead of every individual judge devising his own procedure for dealing with public interest litigation, it would be appropriate for each HC to properly formulate rules for encouraging genuine PILs and discouraging PILs filed with oblique motives. HCs should frame rules in this regard within three months.
  • Verify credentials of petitioner before entertaining a PIL
  • Ascertain correctness of facts mentioned in PIL
  • Check whether substantial public interest is involved
  • Give priority to PILs involving larger public interest
  • Ensure that the PIL seeks redressal of a genuine public harm or injury and that there is no personal gain, private motive or oblique motive behind it
  • Impose exemplary cost on busybodies and frivolous PILs.

In recent times, Supreme Court and high courts have dealt with PILs with harsh measures and have imposed penalties on such PILs. The courts have also stopped entertaining any PIL that are related to Landlord-tenant matters;  Service matters; Matters pertaining to pension and gratuity; complaints against Central and State government departments and Local Bodies except those relating to some specific items mentioned in SC guidelines; admission to medical and other educational institutions; petitions for early hearing of cases pending in High Court or subordinate courts.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Discuss the extent, cause and measures taken against the frivolous Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India.

Published: September 24, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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