This article on ‘Judicial Overreach: All You Need To Know‘ was written by Shivani Chaudhary, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
A judicial overreach happens when judicial activism goes too far. When the judicial branch begins to meddle with the work of the legislative or executive branches, this is called judicial activism. This undermines the separation of powers and has no place in a democratic society.
The Indian Constitution places special stress on the judicial branch’s impartiality. The courts have been given expanded authority to check that the laws passed by Congress actually comply with the Constitution. The judiciary has been given the power and responsibility to interpret the Constitution because it is a transformative document.
MEANING AND DEFINITION OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH
The use of judicial authority to articulate and enforce social good is an example of judicial activism, while judicial overreach occurs when the judiciary usurps the authority of the legislature and the administration.
When judges get too activist, it’s called judicial overreach. In a democratic society, this is unacceptable because it undermines the separation of powers.
The judiciary has defended its own overreach by saying it only stepped in when the executive and legislative branches had failed to do their jobs.
When the judiciary gets involved too much, it can seem like it’s trying to do something it doesn’t belong to them.
IMPACT OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH
- Given that the legislature is falling behind in its role, the judiciary is more likely to overstep its bounds and create tension between the two branches. The consequences of this Judicial Expansion are evident:
- The separation of powers is under attack, which runs counter to the Constitution’s guiding principles. There is disharmony between the legislature and the judiciary, and the general public has the impression that the legislature is not taking any action.
- In cases involving environmental, ethical, or political concerns, the judicial system may lack the specialised knowledge necessary to make sound decisions. If it passes judgment without having expertise in these areas, it will not only devalue the work of specialists but could even be detrimental to the country.
- A disregard on the part of the judiciary can be seen in the elected representatives if the judiciary oversteps its bounds. If this happens, people might lose faith in the democratic system as a whole.
EXAMPLES OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH
- The Supreme Court has ruled that the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) and the 99th Amendment are invalid. It also stated that giving politicians and civil society a final say in the appointment of judges to the highest courts would put the judiciary at risk of falling into a web of debt to the government. The court ruled in favour of bringing back the collegium system.
- Disregarded the Historic Bijoe Emmanuel Judgment: The court made no mention of the Bijoe Emmanuel judgement in its order. As an example, here. Three children in Kerala were kicked out of school for refusing to sing the national anthem because their faith forbade them to participate in any rituals aside from praying to Jehovah. After a court ruled that no student could be expelled for refusing to sing the anthem, the school was ordered to readmit the three students in question. The court has not considered the possibility that some people may be unable to stand due to their religious beliefs rather than their physical or mental condition.
- The court ruling in Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India mandated that the National Anthem be played in theatres before the start of every film. In addition, everyone had to stand, the doors had to be kept shut, and the national flag had to be shown on the screen. This court order is an abuse of power because it is merely an unsupported recommendation.
- Prohibiting the sale of alcohol along interstate and state roads is another example of this type of policy change. The State Policy Directive Principles were deemed constitutional by the court and are now mandatory policies. It exercised the Constitution’s extraordinary power under Article 142, which was not warranted here. Prohibiting the sale of alcohol along interstate and state highways is another example of this type of policy change. The court ruled that the government must follow the principles outlined in the State Policy Directive. It exercised the unconstitutional extraordinary power it possesses under Article 142 of the Constitution.
CRITICISM OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH
- Judicial Overreach is undesirable in a democracy as it breaches the principle of separation of powers.
- In view of this criticism, the judiciary has argued that it has only stepped when the legislature or the executive has failed in its own functions.
The activism of the Indian judiciary, particularly through PIL, has been a driving force in the country’s development. Due to this, previously disenfranchised groups now enjoy their full legal rights once again. Citizens have a great deal of respect for the judicial system because of the high regard in which the Supreme Court and High Courts are held.
But in a democracy, it’s critical to protect the legitimacy of the three branches of government and uphold the principle of separation of powers. The only way this is possible is if the executive and legislature are paying attention and working together effectively. However, the Judiciary must exercise caution when entering areas that are not within its purview.
LIST OF REFERENCES:
- Pragya Nagpal, Judicial Overreach in India, Legal Services India, available at: https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-6024-judicial-overreach-in-india.html
- THE SAGA OF JUDICIAL OVERREACH AND RESTRAINT – IS INDIAN JUDICIARY OVERSTEPPING ITS BOUNDARY?, Know Law, 26 October 2021, available at: https://knowlaw.in/index.php/2021/10/26/indian-judiciary-judicial-restraints-overreach/
- Chandan Kumar, Indian Judiciary– Inducing activism or leading towards overreach, iPleaders Blog, 22 June 2021, available at: https://blog-ipleaders-in.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/blog.ipleaders.in/indian-judiciary-inducing-activism-or-leading-towards-overreach/