Article 142(1) states that “The Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.
Significant cases where Article 142 was invoked:
- Babri Masjid Case: The article was used in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case and was instrumental in the handover of the disputed land to a trust to be formed by the union government.
- Bhopal Gas Tragedy: The SC invoked its plenary powers in the Union Carbide vs Union Govt case and intervened to provide compensation to victims of the deadly Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
- The practice of Judicial Activism was created and developed in the USA, and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. stamped the term in 1947.
- In India, the basis of Judicial Activism was brought about by Justice P.N Bhagwati, Justice O.Chinnappa Reddy, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, and Justice D.A Desai.
Judicial activism means the proactive role played by the judiciary in the protection of the rights of citizens and promoting justice in society.
Judicial activism is a practical tool for doing this when the administration and legislature fail to uphold constitutional values and protect the rights of people. It also disproves the notion that the judiciary is only a spectator in these situations.
Judicial activism has arisen mainly due to:
- The failure of the executive and legislatures to act.
- When the legislature and executive have failed to deliver the desired results.
- It occurs because the entire system has been plagued by ineffectiveness andinactiveness.
- The violation of basic human rights has also led to judicial activism.
- Due to the misuse and abuse of some of the provisions of the Constitution,judicial activism has gained importance.
- In order to prevent the compromise of democracy, the Supreme Court and High Courts took the responsibility of solving these problems.
- For example, in G. Satyanarayana vs Eastern Power Distribution Company (2004), Justice Gajendragadkar ruled that a mandatory enquiry should be conducted if a worker is dismissed on the ground of misconduct, and be provided with an opportunity to defend himself. This judgement added regulations to labour law which was ignored by legislation.
- Similarly, Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan (1997) is an important case that reminds the need of Judicial activism. Here, the SC laid down guidelines that ought to be followed in all workplaces to ensure proper treatment of women. It further stated that these guidelines should be treated as a law until Parliament makes a legislation for enforcement of gender equality.
Some other famous cases of Judicial Activism include –
- Kesavananda Bharati case (1973): The apex court of India declared that the executive had no right to intercede and tamper with the basic structure of the constitution.
- Sheela Barse v. State of Maharashtra (1983): A letter by Journalist, addressed to the Supreme Court addressing the custodial violence of women prisoners in Jail. The court treated that letter as a writ petition and took cognizance of that matter.
- I. C. Golaknath & Ors vs State Of Punjab & Anrs. (1967): The Supreme Court declared that Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part 3 are immune and cannot be amended by the legislative assembly.
- Hussainara Khatoon (I) v. State of Bihar (1979): The inhuman and barbaric conditions of the undertrial prisoners reflected through the articles published in the newspaper. Under article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the apex court accepted it and held that the right to speedy trial is a fundamental right.
- A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras (1950): The Indian Supreme Court rejected the argument that to deprive a person of his life or liberty not only the procedure prescribed by law for doing so must be followed but also that such procedure must be fair, reasonable and just.
- 1985: In the MC Mehta vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of several industries in Delhi to control pollution levels. This landmark judgment established the ‘Polluter Pays’ concept and set a precedent for environmental protection.
- 1993: In the case of S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of federalism and ruled that the dismissal of state governments by the central government must be for valid reasons and not for political reasons.
- 2002: In the Unnikrishnan vs. State of Andhra Pradesh case, the Supreme Court declared that every child in India has the fundamental right to education. It directed the government to provide free and compulsory education to all children aged 6-14 years.
Methods of Judicial Activism
- Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
- Interpretation of the Constitution
- Striking Down Unconstitutional Laws
- Expanding the Scope of Existing Laws
- Judicial Review