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Judicial Activism

What is Judicial Activism?

Judicial activism refers to the judiciary's active role in safeguarding citizens' rights and preserving the country's constitutional and legal structure. This implies, sometimes, intruding into the executive's domain. 

Judicial activism is a political phrase that refers to judicial decisions that are accused of being influenced by personal and political factors other than the law.

What are the methods by which judicial activism is followed in India?

  • Judicial Review: The power of the judiciary to interpret the constitution and to declare any such law or order of the legislature and executive void, if it finds them in conflict with the Constitution.

  • PIL: The individual filing the petition must have no personal interest in the case; the court will only accept the petition if there is a large public interest at stake; the injured party does not file the petition.

  • Constitutional Interpretation

  • International statutes are available for use in protecting constitutional rights.

  • The upper courts have supervisory authority over the lesser courts.

Significance of Judicial Activism

It is a potent tool for defending individual rights and implementing constitutional principles when there is no executive or legislative branch.

When all other routes have been explored, citizens have the judiciary as their last resort.

The Indian judiciary has long been viewed as the custodian and defender of the Constitution.

According to analysts, the transition from locus standi to public interest litigation increased the participative and democratic nature of the judicial process.

Judicial activism contradicts the notion that the judiciary is a passive observer.


However, the Indian courts' meddling has not been universally denounced. The next, and nearly equally startling, example is a Supreme Court order questioning the proliferation of Mayawati monuments in Uttar Pradesh, which are supposedly worth crores of rupees.

The Emergency of 1975 and its aftermath were watershed moments for judicial activism in India, with the Supreme Court's controversial ruling in Jabalpur, ADM V Shukia (1976) allowing civil freedoms to be suspended during the emergency.

Keshvananda Bharti Case: This decision established the Constitution's fundamental structure. Although the SC concluded that no provision of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was outside Parliament's amending power, it held that the "fundamental structure of the Constitution could not be repealed even by constitutional amendment."

This is the legal basis under Indian law for the judiciary to invalidate a Parliamentary amendment that conflicts with the Constitution's fundamental structure.

( Part III of India's Constitution allows for the suspension of civil liberties in the name of personal liberty.)


Judicial activism has also been criticised in several instances. In the spirit of judicial activism, the judiciary routinely conflates personal bias and beliefs with the law.

Another criticism is that judicial activism calls the notion of separation of powers between the three branches of government into question. Judicial adventurism/overreach occurs frequently when the judiciary intervenes in an administrative area under the pretext of activity.

In many cases, no one's fundamental rights are jeopardised. In this case, the term "judicial restraint" is employed.


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