Judicial Overreach, Judicial Review in India and Extent of Judicial Review in India

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Judicial Overreach

  • SIT on Black Money: Central Govt filed a review petition in SC citing that this is a case of judicial over-reach

  • Constitutional Provision.

  • In August 2011, SC cautioned courts against passing orders that would hamper the State in its routine administrative functions

  • Certain matters by their very nature should be left to administrative authorities rather than courts seeking to substitute their own views and perceptions of ‘what is the best solution to the problem.’

  • In matters of policy, the courts have a limited role and they should interfere only if it is clearly illegal

Judicial Review in India

  • The Judiciary plays a very important role as a protector of the constitutional values that the founding fathers have given us. They try to undo the harm that is being done by the legislature and the executive and also, they try to provide every citizen what has been promised by the Constitution under the Directive Principles of State Policy. All this is possible thanks to the power of judicial review.

  • All this is not achieved in a day it took 50 long years for where we are right now, if one thinks that it is has been a roller coaster ride without any hindrances they are wrong judiciary has been facing the brunt of many politicians, technocrats, academicians, lawyers etc. Few of them being genuine concerns, and among one of them is the aspect of corruption and power of criminal contempt. In this paper I would try to highlight the ups and downs of this greatest institution in India.

  • The rule of law is the bedrock of democracy, and the primary responsibility for implementation of the rule of law lies with the judiciary.1 This is now a basic feature of every constitution, which cannot be altered even by the exercise of new powers from parliament. It is the significance of judicial review, to ensure that democracy is inclusive and that there is accountability of everyone who wields or exercises public power. As Edmund Burke said: “all persons in positions of power ought to be strongly and lawfully impressed with an idea that “they act in trust,” and must account for their conduct to one great master, to those in whom the political sovereignty rests, the people”.

  • India opted for parliamentary form of democracy, where every section is involved in policymaking, and decision making, so that every point of view is reflected and there is a fair representation of every section of the people in every such body. In this kind of inclusive democracy, the judiciary has a very important role to play. That is the concept of accountability in any republican democracy, and this basic theme has to be remembered by everybody exercising public power, irrespective of the extra expressed expositions in the constitution.

  • The principle of judicial review became an essential feature of written Constitutions of many countries. Seervai in his book Constitutional Law of India noted that the principle of judicial review is a familiar feature of the Constitutions of Canada, Australia and India, though the doctrine of Separation of Powers has no place in strict sense in Indian Constitution, but the functions of different organs of the Government have been sufficiently differentiated, so that one organ of the Government could not usurp the functions of another.

  • The power of judicial review has in itself the concept of separation of powers an essential component of the rule of law, which is a basic feature of the Indian Constitution. Every State action has to be tested on the anvil of rule of law and that exercise is performed, when occasion arises by the reason of a doubt raised in that behalf, by the courts. The power of Judicial Review is incorporated in Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution insofar as the High Courts are concerned. In regard to the Supreme Court Articles 32 and 136 of the Constitution, the judiciary in India has come to control by judicial review every aspect of governmental and public functions.

Extent of Judicial Review in India

  • The initial years of the Supreme Court of India saw the adoption of an approach characterised by caution and circumspection. Being steeped in the British tradition of limited judicial review, the Court generally adopted a pro-legislature stance. This is evident form the rulings such as A.K. Gopalan, but however it did not take long for judges to break their shackles and this led to a series of right to property cases in which the judiciary was loggerhead with the parliament. The nation witnessed a series of events where a decision of the Supreme Court was followed by a legislation nullifying its effect, followed by another decision reaffirming the earlier position, and so on. The struggle between the two wings of government continued on other issues such as the power of amending the Constitution.6 During this era, the Legislature sought to bring forth people-oriented socialist measures which when in conflict with fundamental rights were frustrated on the upholding of the fundamental rights of individuals by the Supreme Court. At the time, an effort was made to project the Supreme Court as being concerned only with the interests of propertied classes and being insensitive to the needs of the masses. Between 1950 and 1975, the Indian Supreme Court had held a mere one hundred Union and State laws, in whole or in part, to be unconstitutional.

  • After the period of emergency, the judiciary was on the receiving end for having delivered a series of judgments which were perceived by many as being violative of the basic human rights of Indian citizens 7and changed the way it looked at the constitution. The Supreme Court said that any legislation is amenable to judicial review, be it momentous amendments8 to the Constitution or drawing up of schemes and byelaws of municipal bodies which affect the life of a citizen9. Judicial review extends to every governmental or executive action - from high policy matters like the President’s power to issue a proclamation on failure of constitutional machinery in the States like in Bommai case, to the highly discretionary exercise of the prerogative of pardon like in Kehar Singh case or the right to go abroad as in Satwant Singh case. Judicial review knows no bounds except the restraint of the judges themselves regarding justifiability of an issue in a particular case.

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