Short abstracts of the presentations were submitted by many of the speakers in advance of the conference. The titles of those that were submitted are underlined; to view those abstracts, click on the title.

Title: Citizen Litigation On Behalf Of The Disempowered: India’s Grand Experiment For Access To Justice

Lead Presenter: Clark Cunningham


  1. Aman Hingorani
  2. Ashok Patil
  3. Basavan Patil

Session Abstract: Citizen Litigation on Behalf of the Disempowered: India’s Grand Experiment for Access to Justice Session 173: Wednesday, July 22 14.00-15.30 Graduate School, Derslik 3 Over the past 35 years the Supreme Court of India has created a unique set of procedures that have revolutionized the Indian legal system, creating an access to justice movement called PIL (for Public Interest Litigation). The most important innovation is elimination of traditional standing requirements, allowing any member of the public to file a writ petition on behalf of a person or determinate class of persons who “by reason of poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically disadvantaged position” is unable to approach the court directly. This session will provide a brief history and overview of the PIL movement and then share recent examples of how Indian law students have been able to file lawsuits in their own name and obtain sweeping judgments benefitting the poor and disadvantaged. Because the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction, PIL petitions can immediately lead to decisions with national impact. (State High Courts also have PIL jurisdiction.) If grave injustice or serious harm is shown, quick relief is common, sometimes in a matter of months. (Recently the Court has set up a specialized Social Justice Bench.) The Court has adopted many flexible procedures to minimize costs for citizen petitioners. A simple letter to the Court can be accepted as a petition with no filing fee, and instead of putting the burden on the petitioner to marshal evidence the Court can appoint “socio-legal” commissions of experts to investigate; often respondent government agencies have no choice but to admit the truth of the facts set forth in the petition. Presenter Aman Hingorani is a Trustee of the Kapila Hingorani Foundation, established in honor of his mother, who filed the first PIL case in 1979, which led to the release of 40,000 unjustly confined undertrial prisoners and then went on with her husband to file more than 80 PIL cases in the Supreme Court. The KH Foundation is promoting teaching and research about PIL and exchanges of lawyers, law teachers and law students to spread PIL to other countries. As Chair of Consumer Law and Practice and Faculty Advisor for Legal Services Clinic at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), presenter Ashok Patil has supervised a number of consumer cases filed by law students in their own names, including a successful PIL petition to fill vacancies preventing the implementation of consumer forums, argued by presenter Basavanagouda Patil representing himself before the Karnataka High Court when he was a student last year at NLSIU. Lead presenter Clark Cunningham was the first American scholar to research and write about the PIL movement in India.

Session Material:

  1. GAJE PublicInterestLitigationInIndia

See full list of abstracts here.