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The dangers of judicial activism and overreach

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One of the foundational elements of democracy in India has always been the judiciary. It is the organisation in charge of defending citizens’ rights and upholding the Constitution. But there has recently been a heated discussion about the judiciary’s function in India, particularly the line between judicial activism and judicial overreach.

In a democracy, the judiciary’s duties include upholding the Constitution, ensuring justice, and interpreting the law. However, a contentious discussion over judicial activism and overreach has recently been focused on in the court. Judicial overreach occurs when judges go beyond their constitutional authority to make decisions based on their convictions, as opposed to judicial activism, which entails judges actively interpreting the law to solve societal concerns.

When judges actively interpret and uphold the law to defend citizens’ rights, this is referred to as judicial activism. This entails taking action to solve concerns that the government has neglected to address, such as instances of human rights breaches or the adoption of laws that might be unlawful. To ensure that the government and other institutions are held accountable to the public, judicial activism is regarded as a crucial weapon.

However, judicial activism occasionally oversteps its bounds and becomes a judicial overreach. When judges stray from their constitutionally mandated authority and interfere with the executive and legislative branches’ operations, it is known as judicial overreach. This could result in a situation where the judiciary starts deciding on policy rather than just interpreting and applying the law.

The debate over judicial activism and overreach in India has been ongoing for several decades. Supporters of judicial activism argue that it is necessary to ensure that the government and other institutions are held accountable to the people. They argue that the judiciary must be proactive in addressing issues that may not have been adequately addressed by the government or other institutions.

Opponents of judicial activism, on the other hand, argue that it can lead to a situation where judges are making policy decisions that should be left to elected representatives. They argue that judicial activism can be used to push a particular political agenda, which can be detrimental to the democratic process.

In recent years, several high-profile cases have brought the discussion of judicial activism and overreach to the forefront, making it a particularly divisive topic. For instance, in 2018, the Indian Supreme Court overturned a law from the colonial era that had made same-sex partnerships illegal and legalised homosexuality. As it was beyond what had previously been thought to be the jurisdiction of the judiciary, this decision was widely regarded as an example of judicial activism. 

The matter was once again brought to light when the Chief Justice of India recently expressed opinions that were seen as extreme by some and for which they have suggested that a person of such status should have refrained. However, others also connected his opinions to “Western Wokeism”. As a result, the Indian court, which is revered as the protector of the Indian Constitution, has come under fire for embracing the ‘urban elitist view’.

The debate over judicial activism and overreach is an important one for the future of democracy in India. While judicial activism can be an important tool for ensuring that the government and other institutions are held accountable to the people, judges must remain within their constitutional mandate. This means that they must interpret and enforce the law, rather than make policy decisions that should be left to elected representatives.

It’s critical to achieve a balance between judicial activism and overreach, even though both have proponents and opponents. Judges must use restraint and refrain from going beyond their constitutionally granted powers. Judges must be prepared to interpret the law in a way that advances justice and upholds the rights of all citizens. The judiciary must be unbiased, independent, and dedicated to protecting the Constitution and the rule of law.

Ultimately, the role of the judiciary in India will continue to be a subject of debate and discussion. However, this debate must take place in a constructive and respectful manner, wherein the focus is on upholding the Constitution and protecting the rights of all citizens.

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