A fresh case for concern: Publicity interest litigation

Vignesh Baskaran

Associate Editor




In the fall of the 21st century, the legal activism to uplift the downtrodden has declined steadily. The supreme court of India has endured many misadventures of litigants and lawyers by way of public interest litigation. P.I.L has been abused for their publicity stunt. The apex court has adjudicated many unrealistic petitions along with bizarre (irrational) prayers.

The plight of PIL

The object and purpose of PIL are that of socio-legal activism, not any adventurism. From renaming cities, public places, government offices to India, the object of PIL has been jeopardized.

Following are some of the classic examples of a judicial publicity stunt[1]:

● A social activist filed a PIL in the apex court to rename India as "Bharat". Also sought orders refraining the use of India and directing the government organization, corporates, newspapers to follow the same.

● Unrealistic petition moved for rechristening of India as Hindustan summoning the Prime minister to the courtroom to oblige to his demand.

● Substituting certain words of the National anthem suggested by the petitioner. Even it was partly sung before the then chief justice of India[2]. .

● Yet another case of renaming, the Arabian sea to Sindhu Sagar before the apex court

These clearly establish the correlation between unrealistic petitions and bizarre (irrational) prayers. Whereby the objective of PIL is vandalized for their personal gains defeating its purpose.

Professional misconduct:

The officers of the court are using PIL as a tool for professional publicity. The Hon'ble Supreme Court has time and again barred those lawyers from filling P.I.L. The Hon'ble Madras high court [3] has directed the Registrar (Administration) to 'advice' 'the Print, Electronic and Media Houses to refrain from publishing the names of lawyers, judges and litigants. The petitioner was accused of breach of the Code of Ethics and professional conduct for seeking publicity and mileage under the veil of public welfare.


● The registry was handicapped by a technicality. As they have no power to scrutinize the hidden benefit to petitioners, the heavy burden fell on judges to adjudicate the same.[4]

● These vexatious litigations have a long mammoth backlog of cases and will pave the way for the inevitable explosion of litigation. Midst of Maverick bunch of petitioners the apex court is bound by rule of law to hear their contention irrespective of the outcome. Thereby resulted in wastage of judicial time, which can be utilised in a highly productive manner.


[1] Shodhganga, ch.13. "Criticism of PIL" [2] Sanjeev Bhatnagar vs Union Of India & Ors on 13 May 2005 [3] S.Baskar Mathuram vs The State Of Tamil Nadu on 22 August 2016 [4] https://blog.ipleaders.in/pil-for-publicity/amp/


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