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This article is written by Sanskaar Singhal, student of Geeta institute of Law, Kurukshetra University.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) is introduced by Justice P.N. Bhagwati. It is not defined under any statute or act but in simple words, It refers to the litigation filed in a court of law by an individual, NGO or group of people to secure public interest such as Terrorism, Road safety, Pollution, Constructional hazards etc. Its main aim is ensuring justice to all seeking justice in an issue having public interest at large and thus promoting public welfare.

PIL on environmental matters

“Environment is not our property to destroy, it’s our responsibility to preserve”. Nobody has the right to destroy the environment we all live in, but everyone has a right to a clean and sustainable environment. If any person tries to infringe our right to a sustainable environment then the law gave us the power to file a suit against that person and if it infringes the right of the public at large then a PIL can be filed against him. Petitions concerning environmental pollution, maintenance of heritage and culture, forest and wildlife, ecological balance, the integrity of flora and fauna and all other issues of public importance are increasing tentatively. Ganga water pollution case, Delhi vehicle pollution case, Dehradun limestone quarrying case, all these cases were brought to attention by PILs. It is noted that the development of PIL in environmental matters is pit against our country’s substantial environmental degradation. In Environment PILs, people usually ask the state to take a particular action where their basic environmental rights are infringed compelling the government to prevent such illegal activities.

Our Constitutional provisions provide the basis for the drafting of environmental laws in the country. Article 48-A of our Indian Constitution provides for the protection and improvement of the environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife. Also, Article 51-A (g) deals with the fundamental duties related to the environment. The SC in the case of Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of U.P, held that the right to proper environment and protection of nature’s gift is conceded under Article 21 of our Constitution. Other environmental legislation like the Water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981, the Environment protection act, 1986 and the Air (Prevention and control of pollution) Act are enacted under Article 252 and 253 of the constitution by Parliament. 

The SC broadens the scope of the Right to life and granted the State, the power to restrict any dangerous industrial activity to protect the environment and the right of people to live in a healthy and unpolluted environment in the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India. Also indirectly, the right to a healthy environment is approved by the court in the MC Mehta group of cases.

Drafting a PIL in environmental issues (Format)

1. Cover Page: It includes only the main information like the name of the court, names of the petitioners, jurisdiction and PRN (Petition reference number).

2. Memo of Parties: It includes only the name and registered address of petitioner/s and respondents/s. If there is any change of any of the addresses then it shall be communicated by him to the court and thereafter updated address shall be registered in the petition.

3. Urgent Application: This clause is to be included only if the petition is to be considered immediately. The urgency of prayer is addressed to the registrar of the concerned High court or Supreme court. It will be accepted only if the notice of motion and an advance copy is personally sent by the petitioner to the respondent.

4. Notice of Motion: It is a formal notice to respondent/s in a petition with an intention to seek a specific relief in an action for the petitioner/s and also informing the proposed date of hearing. If due to any reason, the petition is not listed for hearing on a proposed date or within three days of the proposed date then a fresh notice of motion as another annexure should be served to the respondent/s stating the updated specific date of hearing.

5. Synopsis and List of Dates: It includes the summary of facts and arguments concerning the matter of dispute in chronological order by consecutively numbered paragraphs. This clause also includes the complete list of the dates of relevant events.

6. Index: This clause includes all important headings of clauses along with annexures with proper pagination.

7. Preamble: This clause must include the specific name of the court, the basis of the court’s jurisdiction, the petition reference number, the cause title and the description of the petition. Then, it also contains the names of petitioner/s and respondent/s. 

8. Main Body: This clause of the petition includes the Question(s) of law:

  • The opening paragraph of the main body must include that the present writ petition under the relevant Articles of the Constitution is filed in a mode of public interest litigation, with no personal interest of the petitioner but for the benefit of the country or the public at large. Petitioner should also state that he is not guided by any personal motives or gains for any other person and he is filing the PIL on his own (if any personal interest is present, it must be disclosed and the details for that particular person or class of persons should be provided). No one in PIL has the right to wavier of the locus-standi. The petition will be permitted by the court only if the court is satisfied that the carriage of proceedings is within the competent hands of a person who is genuinely concerned with the public interest without being affected by any personal gains.
  • It is proclaimed that the petitioner/s have done enough research on the subject matter and has consulted all the individuals or groups affected. Also, he should be diligent while gathering details for use and it should be taken into consideration that a good cause can be lost if PILs are filed on the basis of half-knowledge or without proper research or if done by petitioner/s not competent to raise such issues may lead to rejection of petitions as it may affect third party rights.
  • If the petitioner plan to attach some photos, he must retain the negatives and take an affidavit from the photographer and he should be careful enough to retain all the bills.
  • The complete details of respondent/s including his name, designation, area of work and address must be furnished. If the petitioner is not an individual but an organization then the names of the office bearers should be mentioned. To the best of the petitioner’s knowledge, No other person or body other than the mentioned should be affected by the orders sought by them.
  • It should also be mentioned that whether the petitioner/s have the required means to pay if any cost is imposed by the court, if not then the source of funding must be disclosed. If borne by petitioner/s then it should be affirmed by him that he is bearing the litigation cost including the advocate’s fee and his travel expenses.
  • If the petitioner/s had made any efforts for the case then it should also be mentioned and also state whether he has sent representation in this regard. If yes, then show the details of such representation and reply from the authorities concerned along with copies.
  • If PILs or other cases, if any, are filed by the petitioner himself or by anyone else for the same matter of dispute before any court of law then the details for the same should be provided including the case number, status, the court and a brief summary of the order passed. If there any costs had been awarded or any awarded against the petitioner in those cases or whether any appreciation has been passed then it must also be mentioned and also if any commission or statutes were instituted. The complete list of officials and information regarding the case should be stated. If any interim reports are constituted then that complete report must be attached as an annexure with the petition. If the matter is held before the court for the first time then it must also be mentioned.
  • If any judgement or order passed earlier in any court of law relating to the subject matter of dispute then all the references and court orders should be added here. To provide detailed descriptions they can be attached as an annexure.
  • The source of information for the facts pleaded should also be provided. All important and supporting information and documents such as studies, statistics, news articles or if the petitioner himself verified the facts by personally visiting the place then they should be collected and submitted before the court of law as evidence.

9. Grounds: In this clause, the facts of the case and a brief articulation of legal grounds is clearly mentioned. Grounds are stated with mentioning specifically all the particular statutory or constitutional provisions violated or if there is any administrative instruction. All these relevant statutory and constitutional provisions must be quoted and annexed.

All the annexed documents and information must be registered with the main PIL so that there will be no requirement of any separate application for this purpose. They must bear an annexure mark which should consist of the letter ‘P’ followed by serial wise pagination of all the documents.

10. Averments: In this clause, it is stated that whether the petitioner has not filed any other petition, suit, claim or proceeding for the same subject matter of dispute before any court of law or tribunal throughout the country of India. If filed and then withdrawn then it must be affirmed that petitions filed at any other courts are not being prosecuted further and are being withdrawn for this petition. A petitioner has no better remedy than that of a petition.

11. Interim Relief: There are several kinds of relief available under this clause. It may include any interim measures or orders that are taken according to the case urgency. The court may order for an early interim measure until the final order is passed to secure the interest of the public. Some of the common interim measures can be following:

  • Prohibition of Deforestation in specific areas.
  • Setting up a scheme for compensation of victims.
  • Making early provisions for the discharge of sewage.
  • Closure of any industrial unit/s emitting toxic or harmful gases or substances.
  • Reopening of a unit with subject to extensive directions and regulations.
  • Appointing any committee, commissioner or environmental specialist to look into the issue while inspecting all the allegations and submit the report before the court. These appointed officers or committees may also be vested with the power to settle the matter in accordance with the public interest.
  • Senior advocates may also be appointed as Amicus curiae to assist the court in a petition to fasten the proceedings and ensuring that the court process is not being misused.
  • If there is any prayer of interim relief made after filing the writ petition then it should be made by a separate application supported along with an affidavit.
  • If any interim relief is claimed, then the petitioner should provide respondent/s with copies of such petition along with all the supporting documents of plea and shall contain a statement to the effect.
  • In certain cases, it can also be pleaded to pass the interim order as the final decision if required.

12. Prayers: Mention in this clause, if there are any specific remedies or reliefs expected by the petitioner/s. In the favour of public interest, it may also be prayed that the court shall pass such orders or directions as may be deemed necessary according to the facts and circumstances of the case.

  • It must be sworn and signed by the petitioner that this petition is filed by him in person or if by any other ways then it must be specified. The lawyer consulted by the petitioner should also stamp his identity as well. At the end of PIL, It must also include the date and place where the petition is signed.

13. Affidavit: The writ petition must be accompanied by an affidavit duly sworn and signed by the petitioner in which he humbly affirms that every information provided and prayer about the case is true and correct to the best of his knowledge and belief. Then the deponent, as well as the assigned lawyer, must confirm and sign the document.

Grounds for rejection of a PIL

  1. Malicious Petitions.
  2. Not impleading necessary parties.
  3. Delay from the part of petitioner without any reasons provided.
  4. Res Judicata (If rejected by any competent court of law).
  5. Infructuous petition.
  6. Misrepresentation or suppression of facts.

Conclusion

Public interest litigations provide an opportunity for individuals, groups or organizations to raise legal challenges before a court of law regarding any areas of law to secure public interest. Although it has faced many challenges from time to time like the failed implementation of directives from courts, Frivolous petitions for private or political reasons and increasing limitations by the SC, it still continues to serve as a ray of hope for protecting public interest especially in environment-related matters. Everyone has the right to a healthy and sustainable environment but along with this right comes a responsibility to preserve our environment against all odds. If anyone tries to infringe our right to a healthy and sustainable environment or try to go against public interests then a PIL can be filed against that individual, group or institution. The Government, people and institutions should adhere to environmental pillars for sustainable development.


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