Every one of us right from our moment of inception is dependent on the environment for our all round development and growth. Our very existence will come into question if there is no life support called environment. We are what because of the environment. But many a times we tend to forget this and engage in activities that results in harming the environment. We tend to forget that harming the environment means we are harming ourselves and posing a threat to our very existence. Lot of damage has been done to the environment in the name of development. To deal with such situation legislations have been passed. Passing legislations is not enough. Environment is for all. Everyone has to take care of it. What is required is effective participation by all in matters of protection and improvement of environment. An answer to this is public interest litigation. By the very term ‘public interest litigation’ it means that it is litigation in the interest of public. Environment is an interest of the public in general and so litigation in the interest of the public should be allowed. In India, public interest litigation has played an effective role in the field of environmental law. Various new dimensions to the environmental law have been added because of various public interest litigations. Any public spirited person can file a public interest litigation and bring any matter in the notice of the judiciary. This unique characteristic of the Indian Public Interest Litigation gives places it in a higher pedestal over the Citizens Suit of United States of America. In this paper the researcher has tried to find out how the public interest litigation of India has helped to deal effectively with its environmental matters and also tries to find out if the present system of public interest litigation in India perfect to deal with problems of environment or should it strictly follow the principle of locus standii as in the case of citizen suits in United States.
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India- Its birth and continuity
Indian civilization is proud to have its continuity from time immemorial irrespective of its geographical boundaries. The very term ‘environment’ in Hindu/Sanskrit language is “Pasyavaran” which means “Pari-aavaran”, i.e., external covering or a thing encircling or encompassing human existence. The Indian viewpoint or the Hindu philosophy viewed man and environment as part and whole of the same thing but this part and whole keep their position constantly interchanging in different context and situations and in this way man and environment is the condition of the other.
India has shown a remarkable vigour in judicial activism from post 1980 onwards. Prior to this period it was only the aggrieved party who could personally knock the doors of justice and seek remedy. A person who was not personally affected could not raise his voice as a proxy for the person who was affected. But it is around 1980 that the Indian legal system brought about a sea change in this approach- particularly in the field of environmental law.
A host of problems crops up in matter pertaining to protection of the environment in developing countries like India. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through human rights jurisprudence and environmental jurisprudence initiated Public Interest Litigation in India. The traditional concept of locus standii is no longer applicable and acts as no bar in filing of community oriented Public Interest litigations. Any citizen can invoke the jurisdiction of the Court, especially in human rights and environmental matters even by writing a simple postcard.