In a recent lecture at Columbia Law School, P.N. Bhagwati discussed his time as a justice on the Supreme Court of India, a period of roughly 13 years during which the court handed down a series of landmark rulings supporting human rights and expanding access to justice for all Indian citizens.
Bhagwati’s court broadened the right-to-life clause in the Indian constitution to include the right to a healthy environment. It also improved access to justice for the poor by allowing individuals, social action groups, and NGOs to bring cases before the court on behalf of the impoverished.
“If we want human rights to become meaningful for the large masses of people in the country,” Bhagwati said at the lecture, “[public interest litigation] is the only way in which it can be done.”