Public Interest Litigation – Meaning of

Black’s Law Dictionary defines public interest as follows:
“Public Interest.—Something in which the public, the community at large, has some pecuniary interest, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not mean anything so narrow as mere curiosity or as the interests of the particular localities, which may be affected by the matters in question. Interest shared by citizens generally in affairs of local, State or National Government.”
Advanced Law Lexicon defines ‘Public Interest Litigation’ as under:
“the expression ‘PIL’ means a legal action initiated in a Court of Law for the enforcement of public interest or general interest in which the public or a class of the community has pecuniary interest or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected.”
The Council for Public Interest Law set up by the Ford Foundation in USA defines “Public Interest Litigation” in it’s Report of Public Interest Law, USA, 1976, as follows:
“Public interest law is the name given that has recently been given to efforts providing legal representation to previously unrepresented groups and interests. Such efforts have been undertaken in the recognition that ordinary market place for legal services fails to provide such services to significant segments of the population and to significant interests. Such groups and interests include the proper environmentalists, consumers, racial and ethnic minorities and others.”
The Apex Court in the case of People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, (1982) 3 SCC 235, has observed that the public interest litigation is a co-operative or collaborative effort by the petitioner, the State or Public Authority and the Judiciary to secure observance of Constitutional or basic human rights, benefits and privileges upon the poor, downtrodden and vulnerable sections of the Society.
Public interest litigation means a litigation to espouse Public Interest. Hon’ble Supreme Court in Janta Dal v. H.S. Chowdhary, AIR 1993 SC 892, held that ‘Public Interest’ does not mean mere curiosity. Prakash Chand Srivastav v. State of U.P., 2014 (3) ESC 1665.

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