The Judiciary in India: A Hunger and Thirst for Justice

The Judiciary in India: A Hunger and Thirst for Justice

Volume 5 Issue 2 ()

India’s higher judiciary has created and overseen the evolution of public interest litigation in India. This paper presents a strong defence for the public interest litigation model as an instrument for the delivery of fair and equitable justice, resistant to governmental apathy as well as economic and social privilege. The first part of the paper provides an account of the evolution of India’s constitutional courts’, and particularly the Supreme Court’s, role prior to the emergence of public interest litigation. It discusses the nomenclature of ‘social action litigation’ and characterizes its evolution as unique and indigenous, distinguishable from the practice of public interest law in
the United States of America. The obstacles faced by this radical new form of preserving social and economic rights are also examined. The paper then addresses the Supreme Court’s approach to increasing access to justice and overcoming these impediments, especially through procedural innovations such as broadened locus standi and non-adversarial, investigative proceedings using court appointed investigative commissions and amicus curiae. Even as it recognizes the possibility of misuse of social action litigation, the paper concludes with a strident defence of judicial activism and of social action litigation as a means for bringing the promise of justice to the
ordinary and disempowered.
‘Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they
shall have their fill’.
—The Eight Beatitudes, The Bible

Cite as: P.N. Bhagwati & C.J. Dias, The Judiciary in India: A Hunger and Thirst for Justice, 5 NUJS L. Rev. 171 (2012)