Public interest litigation is one of the rare topics that interest lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Not only in term of elegance and novelty, is this topic with a high profile due to its importance, relevance and necessity. The concept of public interest litigation as has emerged into the judicial administration of Bangladesh is yet to mature with the concept of justice as guaranteed by the Constitution. This is a crucial concept in a country like ours where 65% of the total populace have no or less access to judiciary although the constitution commits for equality before law, justice, right to life and equal enjoyment of fundamental rights by all citizens.
The concept and practice of PIL is thus an exception to the general rules of our Common law based legal system. It is not a revolution in the sense that it does not attempt to overthrow the entire existing system. But it is not a mere tinkering with the system either. It brings along with it a new set of principles and procedures that negate the traditional approach when public interest is concerned. Accordingly, the courts act suo motu, liberally interpret the rules of standing, treat letters as writ petitions, appoint commissioners, enlist aid from volunteers, award compensation to the victim and provide for continuous monitoring of the situation. PIL thus is a major reformation at both conceptual and practical levels.
PIL may be described as a type of litigation where the interest of the public is given priority over all other interests with an aim to ensure social and collective justice, the court being ready to disregard the constraints of the adversary model of litigation. Thus when conscious citizens or organizations, with bonafide intentions, approach the court for the interest of the public in general or a disadvantaged or under-privileged segment of the society and not for any private, vested, special or group interest, it is termed as „public interest litigation. An injury to the public interest will be apparent only when some constitutional or legal rights, privileges or benefits are affected or where a constitutional or legal duty or obligation has not be performed. PIL becomes a necessity when protection of law is unavailable to the public or a segment of it due to ignorance, poverty, fear or lack of organized endeavor.
Who can file a PIL:
Such cases may occur when the victim does not have the necessary resources to commence litigation or his freedom to move court has been suppressed or encroached upon.
- The court can itself take cognizance of the matter and precede suo motu or cases can commence on the petition of any public-spirited individual.
- Any public-spirited person can file a PIL on behalf of a group of persons whose rights are affected. Hence, it is not necessary that the person filing a case should have a direct interest in that PIL.
For example, a person in Dhaka can file a PIL for that a cracker factory in Rajshahi is running on child labour; or a citizen can file a PIL challenging government’s arbitrary decision to impose heavy ‘tax’ that is affecting the poor people, though the citizen filing the PIL may not be personally so much affected by that; similarly a lawyer can file a PIL for release of some under trial in a jail, who has spent more number of years in jail than the period prescribed as punishment for persons the offence they are being tried for.
Against whom a PIL can be filed
- A PIL can be filed only against state/central government, municipal authorities.
- However “Private Party” can be included in PIL as “Respondent”, after making
concerned state authority party.
For example, a tannery factory in Hazaribagh of Dhaka is causing pollution, then people living nearly, or any other person can file a PIL against
- the government,
b)the Ministry of Forest and Environment, and also against
- c) that particular factory.
Procedure to file PIL:
PIL is filed in the same manner as a writ petition is filed.
In High Court:
If a PIL is filed in a High Court, then two copies of the petition have to be filed. Also, an advance copy of the petition has to be served on the each respondent, i.e. opposite party.
In Supreme Court:
If a PIL is filed in the Supreme Court then 5 sets of petition has to be filed apposite party is served, the copy only when notice is issued.
- Proceeding, in PIL start and carry on in the same manner, as other cases.
- However in between the proceedings if the judge feels he/she may appoint a commissioner, to inspect allegations like pollution being caused, trees being cut, sewer problems etc.