[Answered] Discuss whether the judicial activism has undermined or strengthened Parliamentary Democracy in India?

Demand of the question
Introduction. What is judicial activism?
Body. Present both sides of arguments of judicial activism strengthening or undermining Parliamentary democracy in India.
Conclusion. Way forward.

Judicial activism means the proactive role played by the judiciary in the protection of the rights of citizens and in the promotion of justice in the society. In other words, it is the role played by the judiciary to force the other two organs of the government (legislature and executive) to discharge their constitutional duties.

How Judicial activism strengthen Indian democracy?

  1. Judicial activism allow judges to adjudicate in favour of progressive and new social policies helping in social engineering.
  2. In a modern democratic set up, judicial activism act as a mechanism to curb legislative adventurism and executive tyranny by enforcing Constitutional limits.
  3. Judicial activism help in protecting or expanding individual rights. Where the legislature and the executive fail to protect the basic rights of citizens, like the right to live with dignity, judicial activism plays an important role.
  4. Failure of Legislature and Executive to discharge their respective functions results in erosion of the confidence in the Constitution and democracy amongst the citizens. Judicial activism help in upholding faith of citizens in constitution and judicial organs.
  5. Judicial activism help in ensuring freedom of citizens and help in providing social justice to suffering masses.
  6. Judicial activism fill Legislative Vacuum i.e areas, which lack proper legislation. This help country to meet the changing social needs.
  7. In case of a ‘hung’ legislature when the government is weak and insecure, judicial activism play an important role in ensuring social justice.
  8. Sometime politicians afraid of taking honest and hard decisions for fear of losing power. Judicial activism help in plugging such active political lacunae.
  9. Judicial activism help in enhancing administrative efficiency and help in good governance.
  10. Judicial activism sometimes help in balancing powers among various organs of government through judicial control over discretionary powers.
  11. Judicial activism allow participation of judiciary in advancement of country and upholding democracy by extending the standard rules of interpretation in achieving economic, social and educational objectives.

How Judicial activism undermine parliamentary democracy?

  1. The line between Judicial activism and Judicial Overreach is very narrow. When Judicial activism crosses its limits it lead to Judicial Overreach.
  2. It may interfere with the proper functioning of the legislative or executive organs of government.
  3. It destroys the spirit of separation of powers. Thus damage balance between various organs of government.
  4. Judicial activism may lead to inactivity of legislature and executive, leading to running away from duties and responsibilities which they hold for people of India.
  5. In many cases, courts are often ill-equipped and lack experience to weigh the economic, environmental and political costs involved like liquor ban case.
  6. The executive remains “accountable” to the people through 5 year election process but judges exercise self-regulation and are insulated from any external control and thus accountable only to themselves, and their own sense of their limits.
  7. Sometimes when judicial activism is exercised it is done for solely selfish, political or personal reasons.
  8. It reduces the trust people pose in the Parliament and elected representatives as frequent overreach signals executive inactivity and incompetency.
  9. It appears as an act of ‘tyranny of unelected’ in a democracy.

In India judicial activism has played an important role in keeping democracy alive. Pronouncements like Keshavnanda Bharti case, Minerva Mill Case etc has helped in keeping all the organs of government in balance and help in keeping society healthy and progressing. Judiciary is expected to maintain its primary allegiance to the law and the Constitution i.e. to the text of legal instruments and legal interpretation, and to the body of judicial precedents.

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