The filling of PIL is not at all mandatory in order to protect the environment from getting polluted. But, obviously yes, PIL can be the last resort/door to knock when all the other ways are locked with no options left.
The term ‘Public Interest Litigation’ (PIL) consists of three different words which possess its own meaning. The word ‘Public’ defines to be the citizen of the country and the whole mankind at large. The word ‘Interest’ also defines to be legal concern, general and common interest of the mass. The word ‘Litigation’ means judicial controversy which can be contested in a court of law, it can be judicial proceeding for the purpose of protection of rights and if infringed seeking for a remedy.
The term ‘Public Interest’ has got many interpretations and different definition from different sources like according to Stroud’s Judicial Dictionary:
“Public Interest – A matter of public or general interest does not mean that which is interesting as gratifying curiosity or a love of information or amusement but that in which a class of the community have a pecuniary interest by which their legal rights and liabilities are affected.”
According to Black’s Law dictionary, “Public interest is described as something in which the, the community at large, has some pecuniary, or some interest by which their legal rights or liabilities are affected. It does not anything so narrow as mere curiosity or as the interest of the particular localities, which may be affected by the matters in question. Interests shared by citizens generally in affairs if local, State or national Government…”
In its lexical connotation, ‘ Public Interest Litigation’ means legal action in a court of law for the protection of human rights, legal rights and fundamental rights and also for the enforcement of public interest or general interest of the mass for the benefit of society.
Origin of PIL: –
The concept of ‘Public Interest Litigation’ (PIL) has its origin from United States of America in the name and fashion of ‘Public Interest Law’. It prevailed during the period of mid 1980s.
USA in its report described the term as “Public Interest Law is the name that has recently been given to effort to provide legal representation to previously unrepresented groups and interests. Such efforts have been undertaken in recognition that the 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 poor, environmentalists, consumers and ethnic minorities and others. “
Public Interest Litigation which is also known as pro bonon publico litigare is a litigation initiated by the public spirited citizen raising the cause of others and also for the beneficiary of the society.
Brief History of PIL in India:-
In India, the seeds of the concept of PIL were initially sown by Justice Krishna Iyer in the year 1976, though he didn’t used the terminology PIL in the case of Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. Abdul Bhai [AIR 1976 SC 1455].
In the year 1981, Justice Krishna Iyer used the terminology of ‘Public Interest Litigation’ (PIL) for the first time in the Indian history of judiciary in the case of Fertilizer Corporation Kamgar Union v. Union of India [AIR 1981 SC 149]. And thereby, gradually the idea of PIL prospered and blossomed in the many cases. It played a crucial knock in keeping the democracy and integrity of the country and also secures the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Action of PIL in relation to environment:-
PIL in a sense evolved as a weapon for the mass which is used now and then against illegality and injustice. Public Interest Litigation expands its wings and helps the common citizen as an instrument to draw the attention of the judiciary to those areas which were left unnoticed by the executive and other governmental authorities after constant reminder from the public.
The Government of India has created many boards of National and State level categories for preventing environment from pollution which comprised of statutory and non-statutory bodies of organisations headed by respective chairman in order to protect environment from deterioration. The legislation of India has also played a crucial role by enacting many laws under the provision of Article- 253 of the Indian Constitution relating to environment.
The special mentions of the few of the acts are Water (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control) of Pollution Act, 1981, Environmental Protection Act, 1986 etc.
The above stated boards of Pollution Control are thereby set up by the Govt of India to perform a pivotal role in lowering the rate of pollution from the environment under the provision of specified acts. These boards were constituted to perform its functions of utmost importance. The main function of these boards shall be to improve the quality of air and water of the environment and also to take measures by means of proper strategies in order to combat and control pollution.
However, some at a time due to the emergence of rapid growth of corruption, the progress of the board slows down results into increase of illegal activities in the manner of smuggling, increasing the rate of emission of poisonous gases from the factories by exceeding the restrictive limit and many more.
These social evils stands as a barrier against common citizens who wants to prevent environment by any means from degradation. If the corruption and political dominance within the Pollution Control Boards is not checked, slowly and gradually, it will lead the environment to the extreme point of degradation and if it continues like this, the dooms day is not so far.
Thus, this compels the common mass to knock the door of the judiciary in order to seek proper justice by means of PIL.
Why and How PILs are used? :-
The instrument of PIL is usually filed to challenge the baseless decisions and the unhealthy steps that have been taken forward by the public authorities through judicial review.
Although, the whole nation has got stuck in the clay mud of corruption and other social evils, but still the common mass of all the democratic country keep faith in the court of law because they believe if the executive, the legislation and other governmental bodies do not pay heeds to their words, the court will listen to them and will deliver proper justice to them. That is why in every democratic country, Judiciary is considered to be independent and unbiased. Thus, Indian Judiciary through PIL plays a decisive role in bringing the train back into the track in generating efficiency and progress of all authorities in the prevention of environmental pollution.
Drawbacks of PIL:-
In everything, there is some positive and negative aspect, and everybody will dare to deny this fact. In the same manner, we cannot ignore the contributions PIL brought to the Indian society and at the same time, it also becomes our duty to highlight the drawbacks in order to cement it before getting too late.
In this recent time, it is often observed through mass media and social media that people are misusing the power of PIL and in the same manner, unnecessary filing of PIL created huge pressure on the judicial body of the country.
Many people started using PIL as a tool for harassment because frivolous cases can be filed with minimal court fee i.e. ₹50/- per respondent as compared to other cases. Its gives an open access to the common man and thereby PIL is getting misused by the public agitating for private grievances in order to seek publicity rather than supporting public cause.
In the year 2008, Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh expressed criticism over the misuse of PIL:”Many would argue that like in so many things in public life, in PILs too we may have gone too far. Perhaps a corrective was required and we have had some balance restored in recent times”.
Appreciation and Criticism of M.C. Mehta’s PIL: –
There are many famous personalities who dedicated their life in serving and protecting the environment from various means and also fought for the protection of historical monuments from getting destroyed. One among them was Adv Mahesh Chandra Mehta who is famously known as M.C. Mehta. He is a renowned lawyer by profession and environmental activist by passion. I really bow and salute to him for all his efforts and initiatives. His contributions towards the environment will be remembered for a long time.
Mr M.C. Mehta took a firm step in initiating the fight to save the nature and environment from the clutches of pollution. He fought and tried hard in every sphere as to the best of his ability to stop all the possible environmental hazards and to create better globe for future.
He fought against the pollution by filling the PIL in the court of Law against the Ganga Pollution, Yamuna Pollution, open slaughtering of animals. He also raised the issue of hazardous Delhi pollution which was caused due to increase of petrol and diesel driven vehicles. He also tried hard by filing a writ petition under Article-32 of the Constitution in order to save the Taj Mahal from the pollution through PIL in the famous’ Trapezium’ case.
It is often said that man has heart of stone but legendary man like M.C. Mehta has got a heart which saved many stones in the form of monuments. Thereby, his efforts have brought a new life to the environment and have also lowered the pollution rate to a handsome extent by closing and shifting many factories and tanneries which contributed most in the pollution.
Although, personally I am a strong believer of Mr. Mehta’s vision and ideology but at the same time, I strongly oppose against the procedure he applied and my objections are backed by valid reasons.
Firstly, I do not support the style by which Mr. Mehta fought against the pollution because somewhere, I sensed that he has created huge pressure on the justice delivery mechanism of the country. Moreover, he chose the way of fighting against the pollution just by appealing in the court and that is not a very big deal for any professional lawyer.
Secondly, I would like to express that by looking at the number of PIL Mr. Mehta filed, it is very clear that unknowingly he has created heavy load on the courts. Thus, it increases the number of pending of cases which ultimately results into denial of justice to the needy.
Lastly, I would like to say that the struggles, the hard work and the noble cause of Mr. Mehta are undoubtedly a worthy of appreciation. Moreover, these PILs are undisputedly considered to be a grand success from the vision of the environmentalist but at the same time, these PIL has also snatched the daily bread of many daily wagers who use to work on those factories which were made shutdown on the ground of causing pollution.
The closure of factories and tanneries has also showed a great impact in the fall of the growth of national income and GDP of the country. It also raises huge amount of unemployment in the society and in a deep sense, it almost broke the backbone of Indian economy.
So, after discussing almost all the points related to PIL, I would like to conclude with a message that PIL is a weapon available to the common mass and it should be utilised when all the doors get closed and moreover, filing of PIL is not at all mandatory, and the matter of public concern should first reach lower government bodies and the procedure should be maintained as given by the government.