Top 20 Landmark Judgements of Public Interest Litigation
- P. Gupta v. Union of India
The Court upheld the locus standi of lawyers to file a writ petition by way of public interest litigation and threw light on the change in the court’s approach to the concept of locus standi.
- Rural Litigation Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) v. UOI, 1988:
This was the first environmental PIL in India. The Supreme Court acting promptly prohibited the mining operations with a view to determine if the mines were operated with the safety standards. It appointed the Bhargava Committee- to assess the total effects of the mines in the ecology of the area. On the recommendations of the Bhargava Committee, the court ordered that these operations in such an ecologically sensitive area has to be stopped. The court further observed that preservation of ecology is a task which not only the States but also the Citizens must undertake u/A 51 A (g).
- Goa Foundation v. Konkan Railways Corporation, 1992:
In this landmark judgement, the court observed that: “The Courts are bound to take into consideration the comparative hardship which the people in the region will suffer by stalling the project of great public utility. No development is possible without some adverse effect on the ecology and environment but the projects of public utility cannot be abandoned and it is necessary to adjust the interest of the people as well as the necessity to maintain the environment. The balance has to be struck between the two interests and this exercise must be left to the persons who are familiar and specialized in the field.”
- Indian Council For Enviro-Legal Action v. UOI , 1996:
The court dealt in detail the matters concerned above referred to the cases of Rylands versus Fletcher, Oleum Gas Leakage case, Bhopal Gas Tragedy etc. and applied the Principle of Absolute Liability. It ordered closure of factories and also ordered them to pay damages up to the tune of Rs. 4 Crores for reversal of ecology of the area. The Court also suggested setting up of Green Benches in all the State High Courts.
- Samatha State of Andhra Pradesh
The Supreme Court held that lease of land, tribal land, and forest land in scheduled areas operations is not allowed to private companies or non-tribal for mining or industrial and such activity can only be done by a government undertaking or by tribal people.
- Vishaka State of Rajasthan
This case came before the Supreme Court as a Public Interest Litigation against State of Rajasthan and Union of India by Vishakha and other women groups. The petitioners demanded enforcement fundamental rights for working women under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. For this, Vishaka Guidelines were issued. The judgment also provided basic definitions of sexual harassment at the workplace along with provided guidelines to deal with the same.
- Mumbai Kamgar Sabha v. Abdul Bhai
The court introduced the doctrine of Judicial Activism. Justice Krishna Iyer in the present case held that test Litigation, representative actions, pro bono public etc keep with the current accent on justice to the common man. Further it is a necessary disincentive to those who wish to bypass the real issues on the merits by suspect reliance on peripheral procedural short-comings.
- Best bakery case
The Best Bakery was burned down. This resulted in death of 14 people on March 1, 2002 as part of the 2002 Gujarat violence. The Supreme court held this as a rarest of rare case and ordered a re-trial outside of Gujarat. A Special Court in Mumbai was formed in 2006 which gave conviction to nine out of the seventeen accused.
- MC Mehta v. Union of India
MC Mehta filed a Public Interest Litigation for escape of poisonous gases by a plant in Bhopal. The court in this case extended the scope of Article 21 and 32 of the Constitution of India. The case is also famous as Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
- Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation
This case came before the Supreme Court as a writ petition. 5 judge-bench gave decision allowing petitioners who live on pavements and in slums in the city of Bombay to stay on the pavements against their order of eviction. The court also held that right to livelihood is a right to life as per Article 21.
- Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
The apex Court here dealt with the right to protection against solitary confinement and putting undertrials. It observed that the operation of Articles14, 19 and 21 may be pared down for a prisoner but not puffed out altogether and every man or women sentenced for a term is doing violenceto Part III”.
- Shreya singhal v. Union of India
The apex Court held section 66A of the Information Technology Act which allowed arrests for objectionable content posted on the internet as unconstitutional and hence, struck down by the impugned section.
- Naz foundation v. NCT
The court decriminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature” which included homosexual acts, as per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But this judgement was overruled in 2013 by the Supreme Court of India.
- Damodar Rao v. Special Officer, Municipal Corporation, Hyderabad. 1987:
In this case, the writ petition was filed by some of the residents who lived around the Park claiming that construction of residential colony in an area reserved for recreational purposes amounts to violation of their Right to Life u/A 21. The court in this case held that any construction of residential house on the land allotted for recreational park would upset the environmental balance of the area. It directed the Government to remove any such construction on recreational zones.
- NALSA v. Union of India
The Court recognized rights of the transgender as third genders. Also, ordered government to treat them as minorities. Reservations in jobs, education and other amenities shall also be provided to them.
- C. Mehta v. UCC, 1986:
The Supreme Court directed the UCC to pay sum of 470 Million U.S. Dollars i.e. Rs. 750 crore towards compensation to the victims for the full and final settlement in satisfaction of all past, present and future claims and the same was accepted by both the parties. Also, the Court by exercising its extraordinary jurisdiction quashed all proceedings civil, criminal etc against the UCC.
- C. Mehta v. UOI [Shri Ram Food And Fertilizers Case / Oleum Gas Leakage Case], 1987:
The rule of Absolute Liability which is a more stringent rule than Strict Liability was laid down in this case. This case is more popular as the oleum gas leakage case. The Supreme Court after great debate and discussion, decided to permit Shri Ram Food and Fertilizers Industry to restore its operations. The Court observed that although such industries are dangerous, they are very essential for the economic and social progress of the country. It further directed the industries to establish and develop a green belt of 1-5 kms in width around such industries.
- Citizen for Democracy v. State of Assam
The Supreme Court in the present case which was a PIL had declared that while lodged in jail or while in transport or transit from one jail to another or to the court or back handcuffs and other fetters should not be forced upon a prisoner.
- Hussainara Khatoon case
One of the earliest cases in the subject of Public Interest Litigation is the famous Hussainara Khatoon case. There were a series of cases entitled Hussainara Khatoon v.Home Secretary, State of Bihar that were filed by a SC advocate in which the plight of helpless under trials, who were behind bars for decades, for a period much more than they would have undergone in case of conviction, was brought to the notice of the court. It observed that “even under our Constitution, though speedy trial is not specifically enumerated as a fundamental right, it is implicit in the broad sweep and content of Article 21.
- Municipal Council, Ratlam v. Vardichan
This landmark case is a path-finder in the field of people’s involvement in matters of public importance. The court accepted the locus standi of the citizens of a ward to seek directions against the Municipality for taking remedial action under Section 133 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and putting an end to the nuisance caused due to open drains, pits and public excretion in the absence of lavatories.