How to File a PIL…the Idiot’s Guide
One of my friends was asking me about public interest litigations recently. Now most of us don’t know much about PIL (like me) except for what we read in the daily newspapers where they are reported to be instrumental in dealing with all the ills of governance. So I approached the legal brains at home for a short update on PIL’s and was submitted to a two hour lecture on what PIL is. Here I will share just the highlights of what little I remember hearing, before dropping off into sleep at the end of the mandatory ten minutes of every lecture.
What I learnt was the public interest litigation is a case filed by any concerned citizen in a High Court or Supreme Court. There is no LOCUS STANDI involved- that is the court does not ask why are you filing this case and are you personally affected? Anyone can file a case on others behalf- the others include those who may or may not be aware of the injustice they are suffering- like child workers, illiterates etc. as these cases are filed for public good they are called public interest litigation.
The most famous of the public interest litigation was the cases involving environmental issues including the pavement dwellers cases and the Asiad workers colony cases. Both of these cases were filed by NGO’s which demanded from the Supreme Court relief for injustice done to common people. In the first case it was argued that pavement dwellers with no other place to go to sleep should not be evicted from sleeping on pavements suddenly by the Mumbai Corporation unless alternate arrangements were made for them to sleep.
In the second case, the Delhi Asiad games case, the contractors were paying a very small pittance as wages for the contract workers- illiterates from Bihar- who were involved in the construction of the stadiums for the games. The Supreme Court ordered that the workers should be paid at least the minimum wages which will help them survive in Delhi’s cost of living. And of course the most famous PIL case was the Bhopal gas tragedy case.
But enough about this history- I only mentioned it to show that anyone can take a piece of white paper or even a postcard and write a complaint on it about a issue of public interest and post it the court which will consider it as a PIL and give judgment on the case. Now let’s see an example of how to file a proper PIL.
Filing a proper PIL in the court involves two separate pieces of paper – two statement called Affidavit and Plaint. In yesterdays The Hindu paper there was a news story about hotels reusing to supply ordinary drinking water by forcing customers to buy packaged drinking water. Let’s see how a PIL can be filed in this case
I,_________, S/0__________, residing at__________________ am the petitioner herein and filing a writ petition as a public interest litigation. I humbly submit to the Honorable High Court/Supreme Court that there was a newspaper report in the Hindu paper regarding the refusal of certain restaurants to supply ordinary drinking water to their customers and insisting on paying for packaged drinking water only. I further submit that packaged drinking water stored in plastic bottles which contain pthalates have been found hazardous to health. As a large number of people are affected by this, I am filing this writ petition as a Public Interest Litigation. As this affects the constitutional right of the ordinary citizen under Art.21 of the Constitution which guarantees life and liberty including the access to safe drinking water free from any contaminations, I pray that this honorable court may take notice of this blatant breach of the ordinary citizen’s constitutional rights by such hotels and to give such directions to them to ensure the supply of water safe to drink.
Writ Petition under Art.226 of Constitution of India
For the reasons stated in the accompanying affidavit, it is prayed that this Honorable Court may please to issue Writ of Mandamus directing the respondents to ensure supply of safe drinking water to the consumers who visit the respondents hotel and any other suitable remedy as this honorable court may deem fit in the circumstances of the case.
(To file the same case at the Supreme Court change the above wordings to U/S 32).
Now either mail it to the court or better yet go to the court to hand it over in person and then you are done. The case is filed and you can expect your name in the papers pretty soon as the champion of the public rights. That’s all there is to it Mr. Public Conscience. Now go for it.