This article on ‘Concept of Locus Standi: All you need to know‘ was written by Payal Sharma, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The concept of locus standi has its origin in administrative law. Any person who has suﬀered injury either because of an individual or state has a right to approach the court in order to get justice done to them, but there is a rule that the person who is approaching the court has suﬀered an injury or his legal rights have been violated. This rule is based on the concept of Locus Standi.
The concept of Locus Standi evolved from the fact, that with the evolution of time and shifting from a monarchical form of government to a democratic form of government rule of law is necessary to be applied in order to protect the common citizen in case the executive oversteps his power. The idea of rule of law was given by Sir Edward Coke but it was later propounded by A. V. Dicey, it stated three concepts for the protection of people’s interests and preventing the state from acting arbitrarily.
The three principles of rule of law include:
- Supremacy of law.
- Equality before the law.
- Predominance of legal spirit.
These protect the citizen from illegal activities of the state, it gives the power to the person whose right has been adversely aﬀected to challenge the legality of state action, this led to the evolution of the concept of Locus Standi.
What is meant by Locus Standi?
This is a Latin maxim, consisting of two words “locus” and “standi” which means a place to stand and the right to bring an action respectively. Thus, locus standi means the right to bring an action before the court.
According to this maxim, any person who is a stranger to the disputed matter cannot be allowed to file suit in the court of law, only that person whose legal right has been violated and has directed nexus with the decision of the court has the right to bring an action in the court. This maxim gives the litigant a position to question the law or the decision given. The Crux of all this is that the Latin maxim “Locus Standi” works on two principles.
Those two principles are:
- The person filing the petition, himself must have a grievance.
- Some personal legal rights of the petitioner must have been infringed.
As per the traditional rule of locus standi above mentioned principles were strictly followed but now, the Supreme Court has liberalized this concept and allowed the public-minded citizen to file a writ petition in order to save the right and interest of any other class or person, if that class or person is not able to do so either because of poverty, socio-economic disability or illiteracy.
Essentials of Locus Standi
As per Order 7 Rule 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908, there are certain ingredients that a party must follow. Those ingredients are:
1. Presence of Injury
This is the fundamental requirement for filing a suit. Injury can be real or anticipatory, it can be in any form whether monetary, physical or mental.
The injury should not be merely imaginary as held in the case of Shanti Kumar vs. Home Insurance Co. (1975).
Traditionally only the person having a direct nexus with injury was allowed but now there are many new developments that have relaxed this concept.
This term stands for the cause-and-eﬀect relationship. Its main purpose is that injury can be traced back to the action of the defendant and also the injury is not related to any third party.
It must be likely that the favourable court decision will redress the injury.
In the Indian context, a person whose fundamental rights are infringed or whose legal rights are aﬀected can file a writ in the High Court under article 226 of the Indian Constitution. It has a much wider scope than Article 32 under which writs can be filed in the Supreme Court for only violation of Fundamental Rights.
Exceptions to the principle of Locus Standi
PIL (Public Interest Litigation)
The literal meaning of the term public interest litigation is litigation for the benefit of the public at large.
The honourable Supreme Court interpreted this term in the case of Janta Dal v. Chaudhary, 1992 as: “a legal action brought in the court of law on behalf of those persons whose legal rights are violated, and they cannot approach the court due to their socially and economically disadvantageous position.”
PIL can be filed by any public-spirited person where he feels there is a violation of fundamental or legal rights of the public at large. It can be filed for any matter whether it be pollution, safety, availability of safe drinking water, road safety or harmful construction. It provides the right to equality to the citizen of India.
In the case of S.P. Gupta v. Union of India (1982) the Supreme Court said that the doctrine of locus standi should be relaxed in order to provide justice to the people who are ignorant of their rights and are not in a position to approach the court for the legal remedy.
History of Public Interest Litigation
The action popularis is the ancestor of PIL. The root of the PIL can be found in the root of the principle that the interest of the crown as parents patriae in upholding the law for the general public. In the U.S.A administrative agencies were appointed to look after the interest of the general public but the failure of these agencies to protect the rights of the public at large the concept of PIL originated.
This is the reason why the concept of locus standi got liberalized and any person for the benefit of the masses is allowed to file PIL.
Where PIL can be filed in the Indian Context?
Any person who is a citizen of India can file the PIL:
Article 32 of the Indian Constitution gives individuals the right to move to the Supreme Court to seek justice whenever they feel that their fundamental rights have been violated.
There are five types of writs provided in Article 32, those are:
- Habeas corpus
- Duo Warranto
These writs are public law remedies, they safeguard the rights provided under Part lll of the Indian Constitution against the misconduct of the state as defined under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, they are issued when PILs are filed.
Article 226 of the Indian Constitution provides the remedy to the person or a group of persons to file a Public Interest Litigation or writ petition in the High Court within their own jurisdiction.
Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India
Held that PIL is a challenge and incentive for the government to protect the basic human rights of the poor and vulnerable.
Akhil Bhartiya Soshit Karamchari Sangh vs. Union of India
Access to justice through class actions and representative proceedings.
S.P. Gupta vs. Union of India
Lawyers have a genuine interest in the appointment of judges thus the petition by lawyers was granted.
In my view, liberalization of the concept of locus standi is a positive approach and need as well. Many times people because of certain reasons or ignorance are not able to fight for their rights and have to bear the consequences of it, a person who is capable and well aware of their rights is righty allowed to file a petition for the benefit of the public at large. Only the thing which I think should be done is that these petitions should be filed in the local language of the public concerned and decisions should also be given in that particular language so that people aﬀected actually get to know about what all is going on.
The principle of Locus Standi has evolved a lot from earlier decades. The present concept of liberalization of this concept has led to the availability of justice to the weaker section of society as well which was not the case in earlier times, then the person who is directly related to the problem was only allowed to file the suit which kept many people at a disadvantaged position. The relaxation of locus standi is the result of judicial activism. The concept of PIL came to fulfil the main objective of our judicial system which is to maintain justice in society and protect the rights and liberties of every individual whether it be rich or poor.
- Pratyush Jha, Genesis and Growth of Public Interest Litigation in the Indian Legal System, 3(3) IJLMH (2020)
- Siddiqua Abdullah, Principle of Locus Standi, iPleaders Blog, 14 April 2023, available at: https://blog.ipleaders.in/principle-of-locus-standi/
- Concept of Locus Standi, ILMS Academy, 4 June 2021, available at: https://www.ilms.academy/blog/concept-of-locus-standi