Friday, January 12, 2007

Welcome Judicial Activism

Supreme Court of India under Chief Justice YK Sabharwal has done more to reign in the politicians than any other court. In a way, its an irony that Supreme Court has to step in to the day-to-day administration as much as it is doing now. But then, it reflects the state of affairs of of Indian executive and legislatures. Supreme Court is forced to step in as the politicians and the administrators have repeatedly failed to deliver and seem to have taken the citizens for granted.

Just in the last two days, Supreme Court has ruled on couple of cases that are bound to have far reaching impact on how the society is governed.
  1. Ruling to Free Police. Police in India have been much maligned and abused by the political class. They tend to use police for devious ends and shuffle them around like a pack of cards whenever power changes hands. But, Supreme Court wants to break the shackles of the Police and make them independent. Only time will tell, how far this goes, but there is at least a start now.
  2. Ninth Schedule to come under judicial review. Since Nehru days, Politicians have put 284 laws under Ninth Schedule to avoid them being scrutinized. From land reform act to 69% reservation in Tamil Nadu, several controversial laws which might not pass the muster of the courts have found its shelter in IX Schedule. But, in a landmark judgement, Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that laws included in IX Schedule after April 1973 are subject to judicial review. (why April 1973 cut off? I don't know..)
In a unanimous verdict, a nine-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice held that legislations would not get protection of the Ninth Schedule, if they violate the basic structure of the Constitution and fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution may have major implications in the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature.
It is said that, executive, legislature, judiciary and a free fourth estate are the key pillars of a democracy. Since independence, Politicians have unduly and unjustly controlled all the four pillars and used them for their own devious ends.

But of late, judiciary and fourth estate have started to assert their independence. Thanks to cable TV, News is the fastest growing segment in cable TV business today. By some accounts there are over 30+ news channels and it is set to grow even further. These channels have changed the way how news is gathered, delivered and consumed.

And, judiciary particularly under Chief Justice, YK Sabharwal have become fiercely active have repeatedly asserted their independence. Whether it is Delhi administration or the esteemed members of parliament or the powerful federal ministers, all have been censured by the highest court of the land.

Now, if the politicians and babus can buckle up and do their job, Judiciary doesn't have to this active. I hope that time is not far away.


  1. I will give credit to the vigilantes in the form of groups and associates who challenge the Executive and Legislative branches actions and interpretations of the law at the highest court if they cannot get the redressal at lower courts. Most of the lower courts, although supposed to be impartial, lean towards the current administration whereas the Highest Court has so far acted very independent and impartial.

    Irony of this is one should have time and money to go up to Highest Court and convince the Highest Court the importance of their intervention rightaway. Otherwise, cases may take years before the case is taken up by the Highest Court.

    The more the politicians and the Executive avoid circumventing the laws of the land, it is better for the common people.


  2. I agree with you. This is very welcome. To have proper checks and balance in the system, the judiciary-Executive-Parliament trio must be engaged in a rock-paper-scissors game of vigilance over one another. In a postive sense, of course, and not to kill each other

  3. Being independent in interpreting the constitution and delivering justice
    is not 'judicial activisim' rather doing what they are supposed to do in the first place.

  4. Raman
    YK Sabhrwal truly changed the way people view judiciary in India.. I hope they continue to keep a check on politicians and administrators..

    Yes.. in a positive way.. each should keep check on the other..

    Exile from the real world
    I agree.. but then everything is 'relative'.. In India, judiciary is not known to be independent.. and are generally subservient to the politicians..