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Public Interest Litigation PIL

PILs protect public interest...

Public interest litigation (PIL) is litigation filed in any High Court or the Supreme Court for the protection of public interest. This means fighting on issues like pollution, terrorism, road safety, constructional hazards, malpractices in education and so on. Thanks to the PIL concept, courts have been able to hear out public grievances and deliver justice on key social issues.

To file a PIL, it is not necessary that the litigant is directly affected. He or she can file the PIL as a third party so long as general public is affected. Sometimes, even if no person or organization has filed a PIL, courts themselves may initiate a PIL on their own on ‘suo motu’ basis based on a report in the media.

Public interest litigation has scored great landmark victories. For instance, on Feb 15, 1983 in the case of Sheela Barse vs State of Maharashtra, the court ordered that there should be separate police lockups for women convicts in order to shield them from custodial violence. On July 28, 1998 in the so-called ‘CNG verdict’ the court banished diesel buses off the streets of Delhi over a period of time, in order to protect citizens' right to health in the face of environmental pollution.

What can a common citizen do?

If you come across of any instance where public interest is being blatantly violated, you too as a citizen of India can file a PIL in a High Court or in the Supreme Court. However, for two reasons a better course of action for you would be to approach organisations like those listed below who are active in filing PILs.

Firstly, Supreme Court had laid down guidelines to curb misuse and abuse of the PIL system. Above-referred organisations and bodies have experts who can interpret the guidelines to ascertain whether the PIL proposed by you is credible and meets the stipulations.

Secondly, PILs need senior lawyers with great legal acumen, to argue before HCs or SC. These organisations either have or have access to senior lawyers who can fight PILs on ‘pro bono’ (i.e. without payment) basis.

Forum for Fairness in Education

Their founder Mr Bhagvanji Raiyani has filed a series of PILs seeking reform in educational system and courts have ruled favourably.

14A, Dr. M. C. Jawle Road, Near Kabutarkhana, Dadar West, Mumbai 400028.

022-6666 1333


Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

ADR is an NGO focusing on electoral reforms. Their PILs in the Supreme Court have resulted in judgments on (a) Disqualification of convicted members of Parliament (b) Paid news and (c) Foreign funding of political parties.

T-95A, C.L. House, 1st Floor, Gulmohar Commercial Complex, Gautam Nagar, Near Green Park Metro Station, New Delhi 110049

080103 94248, 011-4165 4200


Common Cause

Led by Mr Prashant Bhushan, Common Cause has over the years filed a large number of PILs in the Supreme Court and the High Courts which have resulted in many landmark judgments impacting the lives of millions of people.

Common Cause House, 5, Institutional Area, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi 110070

011-2613 1313


Forum for Fast Justice

Their founder, Bhagvanji Raiyani believes that 'Justice delayed is justice denied'. To this end, he filed PILs seeking reforms in the judicial arena so that everyone is assured of speedy justice.

Kuber Bhuwan, Bajaj Road, Vile Parle(West), Mumbai 400056

Bhagvanji Raiyani

022-2297 2942, 2614 8872


Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)

HRLN is a collective of lawyers conducting public interest litigation to enforce the rights of poor marginalised people and to challenge oppression, exploitation and discrimination.

c/o Socio-Legal Information Centre, 576 Masjid Road, Jungpura, New Delhi 110014

011-2437 4501, 2437 9855


Janhit Manch

Mumbai-based NGO that files PILs on illegal shrines, hawking, illegal hoardings & banners, unauthorized construction and the state of city roads.

Kuber Bhavan, Bajaj Road, Vile Parle (West), Mumbai 400056

022-2297 2942

Lawyers Collective

This NGO, led by senior Supreme Court advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, is leading the court battle against discrimination faced by HIV-positive citizens.

E-20, Upper Ground Floor, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi 110013
Jalaram Krupa, 4th Floor, 61, Janmabhumi Marg, Fort, Mumbai 400001

Delhi: 011-4680 5555, Mumbai: 022-4341 1603, 4341 1604


Majlis Legal Centre

Majlis Legal Centre has successfully filed PILs to fight for women's rights and to help women access justice.

A 2/4 Golden Valley, Kalina, Mumbai 400098

022-2666 2394, 2666 1252


P-PIL (Promoting Public Interest Lawyering)

P-PIL enlists best law school students and finest lawyers to file PILs which seek to uphold human rights and other constitutionally guaranteed rights of the under-represented and the under-privileged.

Shamnad Basheer


Protection of Rights Association

They file PILs to tackle issues like corruption, governance as well as violation of fundamental, legal and human rights.

128, Heena CHS Ltd. 3rd floor, 1st Road, Near Madhu Park, Khar West, Mumbai 400052.

Richie Shoaib Sequeria


Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK)

RLEK, an Uttarakhand-based NGO, is involved in environmental litigation. In the past, their litigation led to courts directing Government to pass laws against bonded labour, narcotics abuse etc.

68/1, RLEK Building, Suryalok Colony, Rajpur Road, Dehradun, Uttarakhand 248001

0135-274 6071

Social Jurist

Social Jurist is a group of practicing lawyers and social activists which uses Public Interest Litigation as one of the major tools to defend the rights of the downtrodden and deprived.

Ashok Agarwal

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Supreme Court’s Guidelines on PILs

These guidelines have been framed by the Supreme Court for entertaining letters or petitions as Public Interest Litigation

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