Judicial Activism & Doctrines associated with Supreme Court

Judicial Activism

Judiciary plays an assertive role to force the other organs of the state to discharge their constitutional duties towards public. Judicial activism basically has been forced upon the judiciary by insensitive & unresponsive administration that disregards the interest of the people, to ensure that administration of country does not suffer because of the negligence on the part of executive & the legislature.

  • Concept of Judicial activism emerged when SC started playing assertive role by giving some landmark judgments & issued some stern directives to legislature & executives concerned
  • Phenomenon of judicial activism is welcome step only in short run & if it is carried out for long, it may destroy the very essence of separation of powers , with the judiciary assuming greater powers compared to legislature & executive in the absence of proper checks & balance mechanism


Judicial Review

  • Both Supreme Court & High Court enjoys the power of judicial review in India
  • Based on the concept of supremacy of the constitution
  • For any law or executive order to be valid, it must confirm to the provisions of the constitution

Procedure established by law (India) v/s Due process of Law (US)

Procedure established by law 

  • The court examines a law only from the point of view of legislature’s competence
  • Court sees that the prescribed procedure has been followed by the executive
  • Court examines only procedural aspect not the motive behind the law or reason behind it, hence can not pronounce it unconstitutional unless the law is passed without the authorities competence


Due process of Law

  • Court can examine the law, not only from the point of view of legislature’s competence, but also from the aspect of motive behind the law
  • Though constitution of India follows procedure established by the law, but in case of Maneka gandhi case, SC interpreted article 21 to include the expression of due process of law in it


Hence, article 21 protects an individual both against the legislature & executives action. However, it does not mean that due process of law has come in form under judicial review of India

Prominent Doctrines associated with Supreme Court

Doctrine of Severability

  • While interpreting an impugned law, court has to see whether the law as a whole or some part of it is unconstitutional.
  • Court can declare impugned law as a whole or some part of it unconstitutional as the case may be


Doctrine of Progressive Interpretation

  • Court interpret the provisions of the constitution in the light of social, economic & legal conditions prevailing at that point of time


Doctrine of Prospective Overruling

  • Judicial invalidation or new view of interpretation of law will not affect the past transactions or vested rights, but will be effective with regards to future transactions only


Doctrine of Empirical Adjudication

  • While exercising the power of judicial review, courts are not supposed to deal with hypothetical cases; therefore it is essential that the matter bought before the court must be of concrete nature.
  • Court seeks to confine its decisions, as far as possible; within the narrow limits of controversy b/w the parties concerned in particular case


Presumption in favor of Constitutionality

  • Whenever the constitutional validity of a law is challenged, court will not hold it ultra vires until the invalidity is clear from all doubts which means there is always presumption by the court, in favour of law’s validity
  • However, despite the extensive power of judicial review enjoyed by SC & HC, scope of judicial review in India is limited, as while interpreting a law, SC will not self-legislate
  • SC is not supposed to question the reasonableness of any law except where the constitution has expressly authorised the court to exercise its power.
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