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Public interest litigation in India : overreaching or underachieving ?


  • Gauri, Varun


Public interest litigation has historically been an innovative judicial procedure for enhancing the social and economic rights of disadvantaged and marginalized groups in India. In recent years, however, a number of criticisms of public interest litigation have emerged, including concerns related to separation of powers, judicial capacity, and inequality. These criticisms have tended to abstraction, and the sheer number of cases has complicated empirical assessments. This paper finds that public interest litigation cases constitute less than 1 percent of the overall case load. The paper argues that complaints related to concerns having to do with separation of powers are better understood as criticisms of the impact of judicial interventions on sector governance. On the issue of inequality, the analysis finds that win rates for fundamental rights claims are significantly higher when the claimant is from an advantaged social group than when he or she is from a marginalized group, which constitutes a social reversal, both from the original objective of public interest litigation and from the relative win rates in the 1980s.

Suggested Citation

  • Gauri, Varun, 2009. "Public interest litigation in India : overreaching or underachieving ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5109, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5109

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    Cited by:

    1. Brinks, Daniel M. & Gauri, Varun, 2012. "The law's majestic equality ? the distributive impact of litigating social and economic rights," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5999, The World Bank.
    2. Gauri, Varun & Brinks, Daniel M., 2012. "Human rights as demands for communicative action," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5951, The World Bank.
    3. repec:eee:wdevel:v:100:y:2017:i:c:p:59-68 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Rajshri Jayaraman & Dora Simroth, 2011. "The Impact of School Lunches on Primary School Enrollment: Evidence from India's Midday Meal Scheme," CESifo Working Paper Series 3679, CESifo Group Munich.

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    Gender and Law; Judicial System Reform; Human Rights; Information Security&Privacy; Legal Institutions of the Market Economy;

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