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PIL and Judicial Activism

A strong, independent, impartial and well-organised judiciary plays an important role in the democratic system of governance. It not only prevents the arbitrary use of governmental authority but also safeguards the rights and liberties of citizens. Moreover, under the federal form of government, the judiciary has the additional role of the guardian of the Constitution.

Doctrine of separation of power advocates independent judiciary. This Doctrine also ensures that legislature will play a leading role government, limited expenditure and limited administrative structure. and the other two organs, i.e. judiciary and administration will be neutral. The logic behind the doctrine was that legislature will take care of the interest of the majority of the population and judiciary will protect minority rights and administration has only to implement the statutes passed by the legislature.

It was in Marbury v. Madison case, that Chief Justice Marshall of the American Supreme Court in the year 1803, judicially adopted the principle of judicial review by declaring 'constitution is what Judges say it is'. This doctrine of judicial review as propounded by Chief Justice Marshall has reiterated by the judge of repute like Taney, even Hungnes, Harlan, Stane, Warren and Burger. Thus it can be concluded that the idea of judicial review sparked in England but was adopted as a jurisprudential concept only in the USA.

Judicial Activism

A comparatively recent development in the judicial field is the emergence of judicial activism which is essentially action by the judiciary to realise social justice. According to Justice P.N. Bhagwati, it is nothing but another form of constitutionalism which is concerned with substantivisation of social justice. It tries to free the judiciary from constraints of traditional judicial processes in the interests of social justice and permits or rather enjoins a more dynamic interpretation of the social values enshrined in the Constitution, beyond what the framers of constitution had contemplated.

Judicial activism is not a new phenomenon, way back in 1893,