Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

3 - The Recent Evolution of Public Interest Litigation in the Indian Supreme Court

from Part I - The Supreme Court of India – An Institutional Overview


Following a period of great enthusiasm about the role of public interest litigation (PIL) as a tool for social change in India, there is now skepticism. It is often argued that the stated objective of PILs in the 1980s, to defend the interests of a disadvantaged and marginalized population, has now been lost. Is the skepticism justified? This chapter provides an empirical analysis of beneficiary inequality in the Indian Supreme Court between 2009 and 2014. Based on an analysis of public interest cases at the Supreme Court, the chapter seeks to characterize who uses public interest litigation in India, who wins and who loses, and the policy areas that occupy the Court's PIL docket. In doing so, it discusses broader patterns in the use of public interest litigation in India.