A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said PIL was one of the more important contributions of India to jurisprudence and the mantra of 'judicial activism' or 'separation of powers' was nothing but a "fig leaf to cover the failure of the state".
"In recent times, usually and regrettably, the state has chosen to challenge the idea of public interest litigation or denigrate it by chanting the mantra of 'judicial activism' or 'separation of powers'," the bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, said.
The bench made these observations in its order delivered on a matter relating to inhuman conditions in 1,382 prisons across India.
"In most cases, these mantras are nothing but a fig leaf to cover the failure of the state to recognise the existence of the rule of law and the need for providing social justice to the people of the country, as stated in the Preamble to our Constitution," Justice Lokur, who penned the order, said.
"There must be a realization that public interest litigation has given a voice to millions of marginalised sections of society, women and children. Public interest litigation is one of the more important contributions of India to jurisprudence," it said.
The top court said that in fact, the Indian experience has encouraged some other countries to introduce PIL in their jurisprudence. It said over the years, PIL has brought immense social change through interventions made and directions issued by the top court.
"This is not to suggest that public interest litigation has not been misused or that occasionally this court has not exceeded its jurisdiction, but it must be emphasised that wherever this court might have exceeded its jurisdiction, it has always been in the interest of the people of the country prompted by administrative mis-governance or absence of governance," it said.