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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health
Building capacity for a tobacco-free world
July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA
Public Interest Litigation describes legal actions brought to protect or enforce rights enjoyed by members of the public or large parts of it. It has been a tool of great social change in many countries like India, Bangladesh, and Uganda on such issues like environment, public health and tobacco control. It can be used as a means through which the law can be enforced as a way of increasing or enhancing compliance with tobacco control measures.
Having been a Public Interest lawyer for the last 15 years, I found it a useful tool in changing attitudes, increasing compliance and as a result enhancing public health. Where as in various countries especially developing countries, a number of substantive and subsidiary laws are in place for protection of the public from health hazards and for maintaining public health, these laws are not largely enforced. The main reason being that governments lack the resources and the will to do so. Both public and private corporations benefit from non compliance and the public is doing nothing because of apathy, misinformation, poverty, or simply ignorance. The sheer power and economic influence of the multinational and public and private enterprises has a chilling effect on the public.
Public Interest Litigation sets a scenario of David and Goliath and one victory will have far reaching consequences and will mobilize public opinion, support, resources towards the just cause of enforcing and upholding justice. It will set precedents that can be used in other courts when handling tobacco cases.