Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Public Interest Litigations and Re-inventing India

THE PROPOSITION

More often than not, the onus of re-inventing India is pushed to politicians and bureaucrats. Not many seem to realize that Judiciary can also help in this. Indian Constitution allows Public Interest Litigations (PILs) to drive Law making. I feel that PILs could potentially be used to driving some very visible changes. Wondering why they are not many more PILs effecting everyday life.

EXAMPLE

On top of my mind, I can think of a possible application of PILs to better our road conditions - In recent times there has been a lot of road digging by telecom companies and other utility companies laying their cables and pipes. This has been causing lots of inconvenience in India's heavy traffic laid roads. Even after the road work is done, more often than not, the dug up area is heaped with soil or with shabby masonry. This makes the road bumpy and inconvenient. As roads are built using tax payer's money, may be a PIL could be used to claim tax payer's right on this money - May be drive a legislation that forces these companies to be quicker in their digging and be better at covering the dug area. May be the quickness in the digging could be encouraged by imposing hefty penalties on road work that extends beyond 2 days. May be, to encourage enforceability, give Traffic Police Department the right to collect this money for bonus to its officers. Funds are anyway scarce is a lot of Government Departments these days, due to populist schemes.

THE TRIGGER EFFECT

Those who have read about the 'Systems Thinking' would be able to relate to this section better. Some of the changes that such PILs cause can change the overall course of the Indian system. Look at what the delimitation of electoral constituencies has done to the political thinking - there has been greater consideration to urban needs now – I feel we will see more of this focus in the future.

BUSINESS MODEL

I feel that such PILs should not be a one-off affair. There should a sustainable business model around this. There are definitely better thinkers than me in identifying such ideas - Graduates and Post-Graduates in Public Administration and in Law. There should be some incentive for these people to think about such PIL opportunities. May be the incentive is that some NGOs hire dedicated resources to file some popular PILs. The incentive for the NGO would be that it would gain greater publicity and thereby attract more funds.
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