How many types of PIL are there?

There are two types of Public Interest Litigation (PIL):

  1. Representative Social Action and
  2. Citizen Social Action 

Representative Social Action

  • This is a form of PIL whereby any member of the public can seek judicial redressal for a legal wrong caused to a person or a determinate class of persons who by reason of poverty, or socially and economically disadvantaged position, is unable to approach the court. 
  • In such a case, the petitioner is accorded locus standi to sue as the representative of another person or group.
  • Examples:
    • Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs State Of Bihar, 1979
    • Sunil Batra vs Delhi Administration, 1979
  • These were the cases of this nature, where the Court accorded locus standi to a person or seek judicial redressal on behalf of another person or class when such person or class was unable to do so, by themselves. 

Citizen Social Action

  • The cases under this category represent a shift from the traditional view of the courts being a forum to enforce individual rights. 
  • The Supreme Court in S.P. Gupta Vs Union of India, (1982) held that any member of the public with sufficient interest could assert ‘a diffuse, collective and meta-individual right’. 
  • In a PIL, under this category, a Petitioner sues not as a representative of a class, but as a member of the public to whom a public duty is owed. 
  • Hence, the aim of this category of PIL is not to improve access to justice for the poor unlike a Representative Social Action, but to vindicate rights that are diffused among the public to be enforced, though no traditional individual right exists. 
  • In S.P. Gupta’s case, 1982 which dealt with the transfer of judges, the Supreme Court upheld the Petitioners’ contention that there existed a public interest in assuring the freedom of the judiciary from political influence. 
  • The Court held that the potential injury was the loss of faith in the rule of law and a concurrent loss of confidence in democratic institutions of Government.
  • Public interest litigations of this nature have also been resorted to in matters involving environmental issues.

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