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By Ruchika Verma

  • Public Interest Litigation or PIL are filed for public interest
  • With time, PIL has become one of the most important parts of Indian judiciary system
  • There have been several iconic PILs in India which has made Indians grateful for their existence

Public interest litigation or PIL is a litigation filed for any concern of public interest. Public interest litigation can be filed in any court of law by any person for the protection of public interest.


PILs have become very important for Indian Judiciary System. Wikimedia Commons
PILs have become very important for Indian Judiciary System. Wikimedia Commons

PIL through years has achieved great importance in our legal system. India’s the first PIL was filed 1976, the case was Mumbai Kamgar Sabha vs M/s Abdulbhai Faizullabhai and others. After this landmark PIL, the whole concept evolved and now has become a very important part of Indian judiciary system.

Here is the list of 5 most iconic PILs which changed the face of Indian judiciary system:

Vishaka vs the State of Rajasthan

Bhanwari Devi, a social worker, was gang-raped in a village in Rajasthan in 1992. The gang rape was a result of her trying to discourage a family’s efforts of marrying their one year daughter. She filed a complaint with police and many NGOs came out in her support. Despite several efforts, when no justice was served to her, a PIL was filed.

Also Read: Website to educate Women about their Legal Rights launched in India

The PIL in Supreme Court was filed by Naina Kapur in 1992. She was a lawyer who had attended Bhanwari Devi’s criminal trials. Her decision to file a PIL in Supreme Court challenged the sexual harassment in the workplace. It was filed against the State of Rajasthan, its Women & Child Welfare Department, Department of Social Welfare, and the Union of India.

PILs have been used to change legal system in India since a very long time.
PILs have been used to change legal system in India for a very long time.

The judgement later came to be known as Vishakha judgement and it recognized sexual harassment as a criminal offence. Many important guidelines were then released and many women’s rights also saw the light of the day after this judgement. It was definitely one of the most iconic PILs ever filed.

Javed vs the State of Haryana

This was another landmark PIL which changed India. As per, Haryana Provision “a person having more than two living children” was disqualified from holding any offices in the panchayats.The objective as to promote family planning.

The petitioners and appellants in the Javed case were those individuals who had been disqualified holding an office in panchayat because they had more than two children.

The court upheld the Haryana Provision, calling it a provision which was in public interest. The PIL indirectly promoted family planning in India, though the judgement definitely didn’t do anything to critically evaluate it.

PILs are filed to bring out the issues of public interest.
PILs are filed to bring out the issues of public interest.

Parmanand Katara vs Union of India

Parmanand Katara who was a human rights activist filed a PIL in the Supreme Court. He filed this landmark PIL because of the irresponsible hospitals and staffs who do not use to handle medico-legal cases immediately. This PIL results in the judgement which imposed that: Preservation of human life should be of utmost importance; Every doctor, be it in a public hospital or private, has the professional obligation to protect lives first. The first priority should always be saving lives and it is binding not only on doctors but also citizens, police and everyone else.

M.C. Mehta vs Union of India

Another one of the most iconic PILs ever filed in India, this was against the authorities which allowed untreated sewage from Kanpur’s industries to make its way into the river Ganga.

This PIL filed by MC Mehta resulted in three judgments and a number of orders against more than 50,000 polluting industries which were harming the river, Ganga.

Most PILs are against state governments and their policies. Wikimedia Commons
Most PILs are against state governments and their policies. Wikimedia Commons

This PIL became the basis for the court to close down several tanneries and industries to protect the environment, specifically, the river Ganga.

Hussainara Khatoon vs the State of Bihar

Many people also regard this as the first PIL in India. This case was about the situation of people under-trial in Bihar. It was about those convicts who were in detention pending trial for periods far more than the maximum sentence period for their offences.

Also Read: Himachal Pradesh State Legal Services Authority (HPSLSA) deploys Paralegals as Volunteers to help in Currency Exchange from Banks

This PIL resulted in Court not only making the ‘right to speedy trials’ a central issue, but also passed orders facilitating it. It also passes orders to free the 40,000 people under-trials who had undergone detention beyond the maximum period for their offences.


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