While Public Interest Litigation (PIL) may be a familiar term, many people are not so familiar with the procedure for initiating a PIL seeking Writ remedies. Further, it may be interesting for the readers to learn that courts can even act “Suo Motu” (by itself) to register a PIL based on a complaint or request (even a post card will do).
A PIL seeking writ can be registered under article 226 of the Constitution of India in any High Court in the country. It is also possible to approach Supreme Court directly for a writ under Article 32 of the Constitution.
Filing a PIL in High Court or Supreme Court
A PIL in High Court or Supreme Court is filed in the same manner in which a writ petition is filed. If it is filed in the High Court, two copies of the petitions need to be filed (5 sets if filed in Supreme Court). Also, advance copy of the same has to be served to each respondent, and this proof of service need to be attached to the petition filed in the court, and a nominal court fee (multiplied per respondent) has to be affixed on the petition. The proceedings in the PIL, carries on in the same manner as in other cases.
However, it should be kept in mind that a PIL can only be filed against a State/Central government, Municipal Authorities, and not against any Private party. But, a ‘private party’ can be included as a Respondent after making the concerned state authority a Party. For example, if there is a private factory in the outskirts of Chennai causing lots of pollution, the people living nearby or simply any person can file a PIL against the Government of Tamil Nadu, State Pollution Control Board, with the Private factory owner as a respondent. That is, a PIL can’t be filed against the private factory alone.
Regarding arguing the case, one does not need an advocate to draft or argue the PIL, as long as the petitioner can think, write, and argue straight. Since section 32 of the Advocates Act empowers anyone to represent anyone else in need, one could argue the case for oneself, and there is no need to employ an advocate for the same. Sometimes the court may ask the “locus standi” to be explained, and the petitioner could do it by coolly quoting Article 51A of the Constitution of India, which underlines Fundamental Duties of a Citizen. In short, it is just about telling the court what you stand for, and why you filed the PIL.