A discussion on the phenomenon of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is, in fact, an actual demonstration of law-society interaction itself. Being judicially invented device, it is not only a tool of judicial activism but also instrument of social transformation. Its genesis, growth, strategies, refined techniques, ramification on substantial law and overall impact upon the justice delivery function and society have provided ample evidences about its potentiality for social transformation. Looking to the types of beneficiaries of PIL and the benefit conferred, and kinds of grievances redressed, there would be no doubt about its enormous social contribution. All the social functions of law are given serious attention and intensive application. The whole development is innovative and fascinating because of the immense participative spirit released to involve the public in the cause of upholding public good and of the consequences emerging from the same.
Litigation is essentially a model of conflict. It is a fight for justice within the legal framework, and also by using the interstices that law leaves for creative interpretation. But the fight ought to be only on level playing field. When the aggrieved is weak, empowering of that party puts the scale on even plane. Whatever is required for carrying the conflict to its logical end will have to be supplied for its successful prosecution. Introduction of these factors into public law litigation needed specific changes. Its scope for participative action and inquisitorial approach may appear as a heresy against Anglo-Saxon heritage. But it is peripheral revival of the traditional method of adjudication with simple, cheap and prompt procedure. An effort to balance between change and continuity in response to the shortcomings of modernisation can be found in this sphere also. About the characteristics of PIL, it is observed by P.N. Bhagwati, J, one of the pioneering judges of PIL.
Where a person or class of persons to whom legal injury is caused or legal wrong is done, is by the reason of poverty, disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position, not able to approach the Court of judicial redress, any member of the public acting bona fide – may move the Court for relief under Article 32 ..so that the fundamental right may become meaningful not only for the rich and the well-to-do who have the means to approach the Court but also for the large masses of the people who are living a life of want and destitution and who are by reason of lack of awareness, assertiveness and resources unable to seek judicial redress.
V.R. Krishna Iyer, J. emphasised the social dimension of PIL in Fertiliser Kamgar Union case, “Law, as I conceive it, is a social auditor and this audit function can be put into action only when someone with real public interest ignites the jurisdiction.
It is viewed by A.S. Anand CJI: “Care has to be taken to see that PIL essentially remains Public Interest Litigation and does not become either Political Interest Litigation or Personal Interest Litigation or Publicity Interest Litigation or used for persecution. If that happens it would be unfortunate. PIL would loose its legitimacy and the credibility of the courts would suffer. Finding the delicate balance between ensuring justices in the society around us and yet maintaining institutional legitimacy is a continuing challenge for the higher judiciary.