Chronicling Bogus PILs in India

Public Interest Litigations are filed mainly to help the weaker sections of society to present their grievances and get justice. However, the usage of PILs have underwent an enormous change in the last two decades. Rather than it being filed for the absolute and probable causes, it is filed on the basis of personal interest, political interest and busines. There has been a huge bogus of PILs in the recent years. The courts have to take appropriate steps so as to prevent or bring a halt to this whole tragic situation which is still on the rise. This article deals with PILs, its misuse, case laws, critical analysis and so on.


Law is the social auditor and its role comes into force only when a person with the actual public interest kindles the jurisdiction. For the purpose of granting or providing social justice to a common man, Public Interest Litigation or PIL is a highly effectual weapon arsenal of law. It is a distinctive occurrence in the Jurisprudence of Indian Constitution which has no other equivalents and has obtained or secured a major significance in the modern legal concerns or issues. This system focuses on the protection of a group of people who are victims who faced denial of their constitutional rights. They end up filing a PIL mainly because they lack the resources or due to their deprived economic position to approach the court for the redressal of their grievance. However, with the advent of time, PILS have been filed with other intentions such as to make a corporate gain or get a political merit or for their own personal interest. This is an unrealistic, undemocratic and desperate attempts which are to restrained or disrupted by the judiciary.

A former chief justice named A.S. Anand warned about the over usage of the Public Interest Litigation and he stated that proper care has to be taken to ensure that the PIL remains for the same purpose and it does not vitiate into a political based PIL. In a number of cases it was held that the court must not allow its process to be hindered by politicians and others which hampers the legitimate political objectives. Justice Krishna Iyer has also stated or declared through his words the change of PILs after about two decades. Misuse of the Public Interest Litigation (PILs), abuse of the procedure, hijacking of this adaptable process by the adversaries of the poor and the underplay of the PILs are all some of the major issues faced nowadays.

Public Interest Litigation

Public interest litigation or a PIL is defined as any litigation made by a public-spirited person for the enforcement or implementation of constitutional and legal rights of those who cannot approach the court of law for certain reasons. This helps mainly in safeguarding the interest of the weaker sections of the society. The ultimate goal or aim of a PIL is to grant justice when the interest of the public in large is infringed. Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution lays down the provisions regarding the filing of a PIL before the Supreme Court or a High court. [1] (Yadav, 2020)

Usually while filing a case in a court, the aggrieved person is supposed to file it but in case of a PIL, any person can file it before a court. The only condition that subsists is that the suit must be one of a public interest. The provision for PIL is such that the court grants the complete power to the public to protect their interest.

Misuse of PIL

One of the major problems regarding the suits of Public Interest Litigation is that they are often misused or abused by the private and public interest of the people. Misuse comes in various forms under the Public Interest Litigation. Publicity, political rivalry, private interest or other implied motives are all forms of misuse. The sad truth is that it slows down the flow of justice delivery system. In the cases of PIL, the most critical question for the court is to measure how serious the petitioner is about the case he represents. The public interest litigation should be filed on behalf of the public’s interest and it should not be on the basis of a coercion, blackmail or other implicit motives.

A displeasing litigation under the color of public interest litigation which is brought before the court for liberating any personal grievances should be rejected at the moment it is brought forth.  It is important to note that the person who comes before the court seeking for a relief to the PIL must come with a clean heart, mind and objective. As a result of the enormous increase in the misuses of PIL, the Law Commission of India has recommended a ‘Code of Conduct’ for the regulation of the cases of PILs in India. [2] (Rajpurohit, 2016)

One such notable abuse can be seen in the case of Janta Dal v. H. S. Chaudhari Janata Dal vs H.S. Chowdhary and Ors, (A.I.R. 1993 S.C. 892). In this case, it can be understood as to how the public interest litigation has been misused on the grounds of political reasons.

In the year 1986, the Government of India had set up orders for the purchase of Bofors Guns. Consequently, on April 17, 1987 some leading newspapers of India published news that the government officials had taken bribe to seal the contract. Whereas, the Bofors denied or refused these allegations which were made by the press. During this time, the new government took charge and the Janta Dal came to power. Based on the substantial evidences and information available to the C.B.I, it registered a criminal case against the accused. For obtaining more information and evidences from the Swiss authority, the CBI moved an application before the special Judge in order to issue the letter of request to Switzerland for the purpose of obtaining necessary support and assistance in carrying out the investigation. It was during this time that H. S. Chowdhari made an application in Public Interest under the Article 51-A before the special judge requesting the court not to issue the letter of request unless the allegation and charges levied on the accused have been substantially proved. The special Judge dismissed the petition. Sri Chawdhari filed a criminal revision before the High Court of Delhi against this order and requested for the dismissal of the First Information Report. For this issue, the High court held that the petitioner has no locus standi and hence the petition was not maintainable. [3] (Mukherjee, 2020)

In a number of judgments Justice Arjith Pasayat has restated that the principles of PIL were not meant to advance political gain and scores under the guise of PIL.  In the case of Ashok kumar v State of W.B., the Court laid down certain conditions which has to be satisfied while maintain a PIL. The following points has to be satisfied:

a) the applicant’s credentials

b) the prima facie or initial nature of the information given by the applicant.

The information given must not be vague and indefinite whereas it should show some gravity and seriousness of the information. The Court has to strike a balance between the two conflicting interest which are as follows:

i) no one should be allowed to indulge in wild and impetuous allegations which dishonors the character of the others;

ii) abstinence of the public mischief as well as avoidance of mischievous petitions seeking to assault, for inexplicit motives, justifiable executive actions.

 However, in such cases, the court cannot afford to be liberal. Although Supreme Court issued guidelines on entertaining PILs and does not resist in imposing penalty on displeasing petitioners, the abuses on PIL Jurisdiction is on a rise. It is peek time to make rules for regulating misuses of PILs. 

In the case of TN Godavarman Thirumaulpad v. Union of India, (no. 202 of 1995) the judgement was based on the the decision of Janata Dal’s case, the learned judges observed that for however genuine a cause a PIL is brought before the court, the credentials of the applicant have to be examined. In this case it was held that the applicant, a man of scarce means, had spent huge sums for litigation purpose and he was lender from whom one lakh rupees were imposed. Such petitions are increasingly being filed in relation to matter of projects of public importance by unsuccessful tenderers, but the use of public interest litigation in such cases needs to be deplored. [4] (Rajpurohit, 2016)

The misuse of public interest litigation will come to a halt only if the courts are vigilant. For every matter that arises, the courts must make sure that the petitioner is bonafide or is in good faith and has to check whether the concern of the petitioner is true or not. When the petitions are based on implicit reasons, the courts must keep a good check on it and impose exemplary charges and costs on them. A PIL should not be brought before the court to satisfy a grudge or enmity. And if such petitions are entertained under Article 32 then it will result in the abuse of the process of court as well as prevents the speedy remedy for genuine petitioners. Personal interest cannot be imposed under article 32 of the Constitution in the form of a Public Interest Litigation through the process of this court. The court has a duty to discourage petitions based on personal interest as they obstruct or pollute the judicial system. Likewise, a petition from a vexatious person brought before the court as a PIL for the purpose of vindicating any personal grievance deserves rejection right from the start or beginning. One important thing to be noted is that once a court has accepted the PIL, withdrawal of it again is not possible without the court’s permission. Thus, the abuse of PILs delays or bars the flow of justice delivery system.

Letters or the Petitions received for PIL’s include bonded labor matters, matter regarding neglected children, matters regarding family pension, petitions from riot-victims, petition involving matters of environmental pollution, petition involving complaints or harassment, etc. All these matters will be initially screened in the Cell and those matters as listed above will be brought before a Judge who will then list it before a bench. Some of the matters which are not entertained as PIL are those of the landlord-tenant matter, service matters relating to pension & gratuity, matters regarding admissions to medical and other institutions. [5] (Mukherjee, 2020)

Misuse of PILs or Bogus cases in India

The Public Interest Litigations which had a positive impact in India are as follows: 

    1)  A PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed against the Ganga water pollution which directed towards the execution of the Ganga Action Plan. 

    2)  In a PIL, the Supreme Court stated about the grant of medical assistance to every injured citizen without waiting for any procedural rules. 

    3)  Classification of criminals on their social status, education or habit of living are not to be done as stated by the court. 

 4)  Section 66A of the Information Technology Act,2006 was stated by the court as null and void by protecting the right to freedom of speech. 

PILs are misused by the people as they file it to settle their personal matters, business matter and political matters. The courts dismiss the PILs when they are filed against 

    •   disposal of a land by public auction

    •    for the rise in price of onion

    •    on the neglected situation of railway stations 

    •    The challenging of Government of India telecommunication policy by a PIL was refused by the court to interfere with the matter stating that it concerned a question of the policy.

The main aim of the legal system and the judiciary is to provide justice to all the people. PIL is one such mode or medium to achieve this goal. It is filed in the court to protect the public interest. No definition has been given regarding this statute and it is based mainly on the interpretation and discretion of the judges. The Public interest litigation (PIL) is filed under Article 32 (Supreme Court) and Article 226 (High Courts) of the Indian Constitution for the protection of the legal or constitutional rights of the deprived people. [6] (Yadav, 2020)

Critical analysis

Public interest litigation is an end result of judicial action. The sole purpose behind filing of a PIL is to make the judicial system more attentive and helpful for the weaker sections of the society who are unable to express their grievances otherwise. The aim is to make the judiciary tend to be more reformative. Public interest litigation is a tool for upholding the fundamental rights and the factor that leads to its growth is its benign approach towards the downtrodden class. The matters which are taken up by the legislature are mostly private and unrelated to the welfare of the public. The growth of public interest litigation is because it is filed with an interest to protect the public or the underprivileged people.

 Public interest litigations have bestowed people with the protection and the enforcement of the rights which were ignored and to prevent the abuse of justice. The concept of Public interest litigation came in as a result to put off the injustice prevailing in the Indian society among the underprivileged and the distressed. Most of the people started using PIL as a harassment tool Many people started using Public interest litigation as a harassment tool and there was a vast increase in the number of frivolous cases. Besides this fact, these litigations or PILs are considered as a progress in the Indian judiciary as it focuses attention on achieving results about issues of the larger public at an inexpensive rate.

But the Indian Public interest litigation throughout these decades shows us that it is crucial to ensure that the Public interest litigation does not become an illusion for the fulfilment of all the private interests, political interest and business purpose. Judiciary in a democratic country should not use the PILs as a device to run the country on a day-to-day basis or undertake the legitimate dominion of the executive and legislature. Thus, the states have to undergo a challenge to strike a balance in permitting the legitimate Public interest litigation cases and discouraging vexatious or fraudulent ones. The sole way to acquire or attain this balance is by bringing in economic incentives in the Public interest litigation and grant it primarily to those cases where access to justice is reduced by some kind of disability. [7] (Rajpurohit, 2020)

Scope for reform

 The scope of reform can be seen in the following aspects.

The activities of PILs often lead to the increase or rise in the issue of asserting rights. For instance, when a court sets out the closure of a contaminating industry, the court may not consider the denial of the occupations of the laborers and their families.

It could give rise to an overburdening of the courts with insignificant or minor Public interest litigations by the parties regarding their personal reasons. Rather than filing for the issues of the weaker sections of the society, PILs are mainly filed for the corporate, political and individual purposes these days. Thus, the main purpose for which a PIL is to be filed has undergone a drastic change resulting in meeting the personal and political interest of the public.

Examples of Judicial Outsmart by the Judiciary can take place through the Public interest litigations during the time spent for solving natural or financial issues

Public interest litigation matters regarding the abused and impeded problems of majority of the public are left unresolved for a longer period of time. The immoderate delay in the removal of the Public Interest Litigation may give rise to many decisions of intellectual value. [8] (Mukherjee, 2020)


Public interest litigation has played a very significant role in enlarging the jurisprudence of human rights in India. With the introduction of PILs, the acknowledgement of human rights is considered as important as education, health, livelihood. Public Interest Litigation is device which has led to broadening of the judicial remedy. Based on a conceptual level, Public interest litigation has helped the Indian Judiciary to gain public support and establish legality in the society. It is a method to enforce the disseminated rights for which either it has become difficult to recognize an aggrieved person, or where the distressed persons have no particular intention or motivation to knock at the doors of the courts.

PIL is thus considered as a mechanism which helps the poor to get justice. The introduction of PILs has proved to be a beneficial one in a developing country like India. The main strategy of filing a PIL is to fight the inhumanity or lawlessness which prevails in our society. PILs should focus on being utilized for meeting the public interest and not the personal needs of people. The courts must keep a check on the cases being filed, the confidentiality of the applicant and the nature of truth in the cause of action stated by him so as to avoid unnecessary litigations. Thus, to conclude, the vexatious and mischievous litigation must be identified and should be struck down so that the objectives of PIL aren’t violated. 


Mukherjee, K. (2020). Misuse of Public Interest Litigation. Knowledge Hub.


Yadav, N., & Singh, H. (2020, May 18). Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Lexlife India; Lexlife India.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

  1. What is a Public Interest Litigation?
  2. What is the main objective of filing a PIL?
  3. What are the various misuses or abuses of PIL?
  4. Which PILs in India resulted in a positive impact?
  5. Name few cases where there has been an abuse of PIL?

[1] Yadav, N., & Singh, H. (2020, May 18). Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Lexlife India; Lexlife India.


[3] Mukherjee, K. (2020). Misuse of Public Interest Litigation. Knowledge Hub.


[5] Mukherjee, K. (2020). Misuse of Public Interest Litigation. Knowledge Hub.

[6] Yadav, N., & Singh, H. (2020, May 18). Public Interest Litigation (PIL). Lexlife India; Lexlife India.


[8] Mukherjee, K. (2020). Misuse of Public Interest Litigation. Knowledge Hub.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *