Has Judicial Activism been good for India?

Judicial activism implies assumption of greater role by the judiciary than what has been conferred upon it by the Constitution.

Genesis of Judicial Activism

The first significant signs of judicial activism in India took roots as a reaction to control of judiciary by the executive during Emergency in 1975. Prior to 1975 the politicians commanded greater respect of the society as compared with the judges.

In 1979 Public Interest Litigation (PIL) started when Supreme Court entertained complaints by social activists drawing the attention of the Court to the conditions of certain sections of the society or institutions which were deprived of their basic rights. In 1982, Justice P.N. Bhagwati, correctly stated the purpose of PIL as it originated. He emphasised that PIL “a strategic arm of the legal aid movement which is intended to bring justice within the reach of the poor masses, who constitute the low visibility area of humanity, is a totally different kind of litigation from the ordinary traditional litigation.”

However, over the years, the social action dimension of PIL has been eclipsed by another type of “public cause litigation” in courts. In this type of litigation, the court’s intervention is not sought for enforcing the rights of the disadvantaged or poor sections of the society but simply for correcting the actions or omissions of the executive or public officials or departments of government or public bodies. Examples:

  • Traffic pollution control in Delhi.
  • Ordered measures to prevent accidents at unmanned railway crossings.
  • Ragging in colleges.

The Court has taken responsibility to monitor investigation and prosecution in cases where it was apparent that it will not be done fairly by the government. Examples:

  • 2 G Scam.
  • Fodder scam of Lalu Yadav.
Future of Judicial Activism

With continued poor and corrupt governance judicial activism is likely to increase.

 

Has Judicial Activism been good for India?

As on date the reputation of the judiciary in the public perception is much better than that of the executive and the legislature. It is not that judiciary is clean. It is corrupt. However, in the ‘corruption index perception’ it is much lower than the former two!

From the above examples it is clear that it has been good for the Indian society.  We need this for another 20 years. The trend, however, is not good in a long term perspective, because increase in judicial activism will imply assumption of greater power by the judiciary and this will lead to greater corruption of the judiciary.

 

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Colonel M.M Nehru

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