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Judiciary in Democracy

  • The judiciary is a crucial pillar of democracy, tasked with administering justice in accordance with the law.
  • It primarily includes courts that settle disputes and deliver justice between individuals, states, and governmental bodies.
  • The judiciary plays a vital role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring justice prevails in society.

Judicial Review Concept

  • Judicial review grants courts the power to assess the constitutionality of laws and executive actions.
  • Courts can invalidate laws that violate the constitution and refuse to enforce such unconstitutional acts.
  • This doctrine ensures that the judiciary acts as a check on the legislative and executive branches.

Origin of Judicial Review

  • The concept of judicial review is attributed to the United States, although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
  • Chief Justice John Marshall's ruling in the 1803 case of Marbury vs. Madison established the Supreme Court's authority in judicial review.
  • This power allows the judiciary to declare acts of Congress as unconstitutional, safeguarding the supremacy of the Constitution.

The Role of the Judiciary in Interpreting and Enforcing the Constitution

Role of Chief Justice Marshall in Marbury vs. Madison Case

  • Chief Justice Marshall argued that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and it is the duty of the courts to uphold it over Acts of Congress.
  • When a conflict arises between the Constitution and a law passed by Congress, the court must prioritize the Constitution and invalidate the unconstitutional law.

Criticism of Marshall's Opinion

  • Marshall faced criticism for his decision in Marbury vs. Madison as it raised concerns about the enforcement of court rulings.
  • President Andrew Jackson's response, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it," highlighted the potential challenges in enforcing court decisions.
  • Despite criticism, Marshall's approach was considered innovative and pivotal in shaping judicial activism.

Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence

  • The principle of separation of powers mandates that the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary should function independently without encroaching on each other's domains.
  • Each branch should have the authority to interpret the constitutionality of laws that come before it, with decisions binding on other branches.
  • For effective implementation, there is a need for an independent judiciary to interpret and enforce the Constitution, a role that is best suited for a professionally trained body of lawyers and judges.

Interpreting the Constitution

  • The responsibility of interpreting the Constitution primarily lies with the Judiciary. This task is crucial for ensuring that the laws and actions of the government align with the principles set forth in the Constitution.

Division of Powers

  • The three branches of government—the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary—must possess equal powers to prevent any one branch from becoming dominant. This balance ensures a system of checks and balances.

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Judicial Review Types

  • Judicial Review of Administrative Action: This type of review involves assessing the actions of the executive branch or administrative authorities. For instance, a court may examine whether a government agency has acted within the scope of its authority.
  • Judicial Review of Legislation: In this form of review, the focus is on evaluating the validity of laws passed by the Legislature or subsidiary legislation created under a statute. The court assesses whether the legislation complies with the Constitution.
  • Evolution of Judicial Review: Notably, the practice of judicial review of administrative action predates the judicial review of legislation. Over time, both forms of review have become essential tools for ensuring the legality and constitutionality of governmental actions.

Judicial Review and Its Principles

The power of judicial review in India is guided by certain principles to ensure its proper exercise by the courts:

  • Irrationality
  • Illegality
  • Procedural impropriety

Judicial review serves two main interconnected functions:

  • Legitimizing governmental actions
  • Protecting the Constitution from undue government encroachments

Unlike the United States, the Indian Constitution explicitly establishes the doctrine of Judicial Review in various provisions such as Article 13(2), 32, 131-136, 143, and 226. Article 13(2) states that no law shall take away or limit the Fundamental Rights provided in Part III of the Constitution. Any law contradicting fundamental rights is considered void to the extent of the contradiction.

In the case of A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, the court highlighted the significance of judicial review in India. The court's authority is essential to ensure that legislative and executive actions align with constitutional limits.

Essentially, judicial review empowers the judiciary to determine the constitutionality of laws and government actions. It acts as a crucial check and balance mechanism in upholding the supremacy of the Constitution.

Judicial Review in India and the United States

  • Overview of Judicial Review: In the case of State of Madras v. V.G. Row, the scope of judicial review in India was discussed. Unlike the United States, where extensive powers of reviewing legislative acts are assumed under the due process clause, India's judicial review power is somewhat limited.
  • Comparative Analysis: India's power of invalidating laws based on contravention of Fundamental Rights differs from the United States Supreme Court. The absence of clauses like 'due process of law' and 'judicial supremacy' in the Indian Constitution contributes to this limited power.
  • Evolution of Judicial Review in India: Historically, India upheld the doctrine of legislative supremacy until the Golak Nath case in 1967. Chief Justice Subba Rao's stance in this case redefined fundamental rights as beyond Parliament's reach, placing constraints on its amending power under Article 368.
  • Judicial Power Controversy: This assertion of judicial power sparked intense controversy. In response, the parliamentarians contested it through the Twenty Fourth Amendment of Constitution. This amendment reinstated Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution, including the Fundamental Rights.
  • Keshavananda Bharati Case: In the Keshavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court overturned its prior ruling in the Golak Nath case. It affirmed Parliament's authority to amend the Constitution by adding, altering, or repealing any provision, as long as it did not tamper with the fundamental structure of the Constitution.

Basic Structure of the Constitution

According to Honorable Chief Justice Sikri, the basic structure of the Constitution comprises:

  • Supremacy of the Constitution
  • Republican and democratic forms of Government
  • Secular nature of the Constitution
  • Separation of powers among the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary
  • Federal character of the Constitution

In the Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain case, the Supreme Court utilized the theory of basic structure to invalidate clause (4) of Article 29A. This clause, introduced by the 39th Amendment Act of 1975, excluded the Supreme Court's jurisdiction in matters concerning the election of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, and the Speaker of the House of People.

The amendment aimed to retroactively validate the election of the then Prime Minister, which had been annulled by the Allahabad Court. Additionally, the Apex Court identified other aspects as part of the basic structure, such as Rule of Law, Judicial Review, and democracy, implying the necessity of free and fair elections.

Judicial Review in India

  • The Supreme Court of India has a crucial role in interpreting various aspects of the Constitution through its power of judicial review granted by provisions like Articles 13, 32, 131-136, 143, and 226.
  • The decisions made by the Supreme Court serve as fundamental principles in our country's constitutional framework.

Limitations of Judicial Review

  • Certain provisions in the Indian Constitution, such as Article 53, restrict the scope of judicial review by delineating the executive powers vested in the President.
  • Articles 74 and 77 further specify the roles of the Council of Ministers and the President, safeguarding executive actions from judicial inquiries.

Role and Impact of Judicial Review

  • Judicial review acts as a potent tool in curbing unconstitutional actions of the Legislature and the Executive in India.
  • It provides avenues for individuals to seek redress against state actions, including those of public officials.
  • Upholding the importance of an impartial judiciary, judicial review ensures fair and unbiased adjudication within constitutional boundaries.
  • The Judiciary's integrity and competence are vital to maintaining the dignity and effectiveness of the judicial review process.
  • Judicial review is a constitutional mandate that continues to play a crucial and effective role in upholding justice and accountability.

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