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Centre for Public Interest Litigation


Centre for Public Interest Litigation

Centre for Public Interest Litigation
Type NGO
Region served India

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) is an V. M. Tarkunde, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.[1]


  • Background 1
  • Sample cases 2
    • 2G Spectrum Scam case 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4


In India, anybody can file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suit on behalf of a group of people whose rights are being affected, typically one of the weaker segments of the community. The PILs are filed in a high court against state or public authorities that have caused a public wrong or injury through some act or omission. The person filing the PIL does not have to have a direct interest in the suit.[2] The CPIL was founded in the late 1980s by V.M. Tarkunde, who was also the founder of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.[3] V.M. Tarkunde was the first president. Other founder members were senior advocates including Fali Sam Nariman, Shanti Bhushan, Anil Divan, Rajinder Sachar and Colin Gonsalves.[4]

Sample cases

In October 1997 the Prashant Bhushan acted as advocate for CPIL. The petition claimed an inquiry was justified on the basis of testimony that Reliance had bribed the minister of petroleum, Satish Sharma, to get the award.[5]

In 2002 the CPIL asked for scrutiny of a proposed Freedom of Information bill to determine whether the bill gave citizens sufficient power to find out about governance. The government had been reluctant to recognize that the people had a right to know, and after the CPIL filing it rushed through the bill without correcting known defects.[6]

The CPIL won a major victory in 2003 when the Supreme Court restrained the Central government from privatizing Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum without the approval of Parliament.[3] As counsel for the CPIL, Rajinder Sachar said that the only way to disinvest in the companies would be to repeal or amend the Acts by which they were nationalized in the 1970s.[7] As a result, the government would need a majority in both houses to push through any privatization.[8]

In October 2004 the CPIL filed a petition with the Supreme Court in which they challenged a clause of the constitution related to reservation benefits. Under this clause, such benefits only went to people who professed faith in Hinduism, Sikhism or Buddhism. Specifically at issue was the question of Scheduled Castes being deprived of benefits if they converted to Christianity.

In 2007, Prashant Bhushan of the CPIL filed a petition with the Delhi High Court to investigate whether there had been kickbacks in the 2005 Scorpene submarine deal. The High Court took a strong line with the investigating agency, saying "We feel dissatisfied with that you've done so far. If you've tried to shield someone, then we will come down very heavily on you".[9]

The CPIL won another victory in 2011 with a challenge to the appointment of P. J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner.[3] On 3 March 2011 the Supreme Court held that Thomas was not eligible since he was facing a criminal case in Kerala.[10]

2G Spectrum Scam case

The CPIL is best known for taking the lead in filing a suit against the Government of India for irregularities in a major award of spectrum for 2G mobile telephones. The CPIL petition alleged that the government had lost $15.53 billion by issuing spectrum in 2008 based on 2001 prices, and by not following a competitive bidding process.[11] In February 2012 the Supreme Court decided in their favor and declared the allocation of spectrum had been illegal.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Copy of Supreme Court Verdict on 2G Licence Cancellation". IndiaWires. February 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  2. ^ Adv. Mihir Deasi and Adv. Kamayani Bali Mahabal (ed.). "Health Care Case Law in India – A Reader by CEHAT and ICHRL". Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b c SAMANWAYA RAUTRAY AND PHEROZE L. VINCENT (March 4, 2011). "Feather in cap for graft fighters". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  4. ^ "PIL FOR DECLARING NUCLEAR LIABILITY ACT OF 2010 AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL". Elaw. 2011. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Notices to Centre, CAG, Enron, Reliance on Panna-Mukta oilfield". Rediff. October 14, 1997. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  6. ^ Alka Dhameja, ed. (2004). Contemporary Debates In Public Administration. PHI Learning Pvt. Ltd. p. 317.  
  7. ^ Ramakrishna, G. V. (2004). Two Score and Ten: My Experiences in Government. Academic Foundation. p. 301.  
  8. ^ Gopal Ganesh (2008). Privatisation And Labour Restructuring. Academic Foundation. p. 136.  
  9. ^ Saikat Datta (21 Jan 2008). "A Sea of Subterfuge". Outlook 48 (3). Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  10. ^ Krishnadas Rajagopal (Mar 3, 2011). "Supreme Court strikes down P J Thomas as vigilance chief".  
  11. ^ Hui Pan, ed. (October 2010). "ED tells SC that 2G spectrum scam probe is underway". India Telecom Monthly Newsletter (Information Gatekeepers Inc): 6. 
  12. ^ "Dr. Subramanian Swamy ...Petitioner versus Union of India and others ...Respondents". Keralaw. February 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
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