CNG buses in Delhi to reduce air pollution, Ban on sounding crackers and high decibel sound between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Framing of the guidelines for appointing the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the ruling that two wheeler manufacturers must sell helmets along with the vehicles, order that every member of the medical profession should provide medical aid to every injured citizen without waiting to complete procedural formalities (munnabhai mbbs style) and many such cases are examples of one phenomenon which is like the hot ghee that can neither be swallowed nor spit out. Yes, I am speaking about judicial activism.
Judicial activism is defined as a philosophy of judicial decision-making whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions. In a democracy, the legislature, executive and the judiciary have their own spheres of functioning at least theoretically. The legislature makes laws, the executive implements laws and the judiciary interprets laws. This balance of power gets disturbed when a particular institute of democracy fails to deliver. Since, we have also included the concept of judicial review in our constitution, the judiciary can strike the laws that are unconstitutional and also instruct the executive in the interests of the nation.
Though judicial activism has been criticized by many, I look at it as an alternative route for the betterment of the citizens which tries to overcome the disadvantages of democracy. One of the drawbacks in a democracy is the representative politics which is not actually representative for various reasons. The other drawback that I can relate here is the executive and the legislature constrained by the will of the majority who have voted them. This ‘will’ of the people need not be right always. For example, the Government of Karnataka started implementing a law that required two wheeler riders to wear a helmet. This law was vehemently opposed by the citizens though the intention of the government was to reduce the deaths due to road accidents. It is in such cases that the judiciary and its activism help. Normally, laws related to contempt of court etc prevent the legislature, executive and citizens from questioning the judiciary and thus the judiciary can pass judgements which consider the interests of the citizens without bothering the ‘will’ of the citizens.