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.