Public interest environmental litigation in sri lanka and right to information
1. Public Interest Environmental Litigation in Sri Lanka
And Right to Information
Kumudumalee Munasinghe, Lecturer
Mangala Wijesinghe, Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Law
Gen Sir John Kotelawala Defence University
The concept of locus standi was developed by English courts over the years, and
subsequently it became a significant element in the English Administrative Law. Standing to sue
or locus standi is the term used to indicate the right of a party to demonstrate to court a sufficient
nexus to the harm caused or the action challenged to support that party’s participation in a case.
Later expansion of this principle laid down the foundation for the concept of Public
Interest Litigation (PIL) largely developed by the Indian Supreme Court. It denotes litigation for
the protection of public interests through judicial activism. Sri Lankan courts too adopted and
encouraged PIL, and it gained success mainly in the field of environmental protection; the
climax was the world famous Bulankulama v. Secretary, Ministry of Industrial Development
(Eppawala Phosphate case) in the year 2000. However, it is observed, that particularly in the last
decade, PIL has faced a major drawback in Sri Lanka.
The objectives of the study are to discuss the gradual development of PIL in Sri Lanka in
the past two decades and identify the factors that contributed to its subsequent decline in
comparison to foreign jurisdictions. This study reviews some theoretical analyses or desk
research; based on sources such as law reports, books, journals, articles, Internet etc.
The study emphasizes that the concept of PIL revolves to a great extent around the right
of the public to have access to the information held by public authorities in trust of the public
(Doctrine of Public Trust), and active participation by the people in decision making process of
public authorities is vital to ensure openness, transparency and good governance, and to attain
sustainable development. A good example is the PIL in respect of the Galle Face Green filed
some time ago in the Supreme Court.
Further, this study reveals the factors that contributed to a decline in PIL, for instance,
public apathy, difficulty in obtaining sufficient information on relevant matters, inability to
comprehend the technical information gathered, which are mainly in English and current
negative judicial attitudes towards PIL.
Key Words: locus standi, Public Interest Litigation, judicial activism, environmental protection,
access to information