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Judicial Activism

Last updated date: 23rd May 2024
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Definition of Judicial Activism

Judicial activism is the exercise of the power of judicial review to set aside government acts. This word is used generally to identify undesirable exercises of that power but there is little agreement on which instances are undesirable. Activism usually refers to the willingness of a judge to abolish the decisions or actions of the different branches of government or to change or overturn a judicial precedent; there is no judgment that can declare the judgment as correct. The judges who are often known as activist judges have been provided powers for reviewing requirements of the constitution.

What is Judicial Activism in India?

Judicial activism is a method to regulate the function of judicial review. It also exercises a description of a specific decision of the judiciary where a judge is generally considered more willing to give a decision on the issues of constitutional and to declare invalid the executive actions or legislative. Judicial activism in India provides the rights or power to the Supreme Court and the high courts to declare the regulations unconstitutional and void if they breach. But this authority is not provided to the subordinate courts. 

Judicial Activism Examples

The following are Judicial Activism Examples:

  • The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1979, at that time Judicial activism occurred in Bihar. It was the first time that a court held that a constitutional amendment passed by the legislature was invalid on the grants of destroying the basic structure. 

  • Golaknath Case: In this case, the question has arisen that whether the amendment of law or Fundamental Rights can be amended or not. The Supreme Court contended that Fundamental Rights provided by the Indian Consitution are not amenable to the Parliamentary restriction and in order to amend the Fundamental rights a new Constituent Assembly will be required. It stated that Article 368 provides the processes for the amendment of the Constitution but does not provide any power on Parliament the power to amend the Constitution.

  • Kesavananda Bharati Case: This judgement of this case defined the basic structure of the Constitution. The Supreme Court declared that no part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was beyond the Parliament’s amending power, the basic structure of the Constitution could not be changed even by any amendment in the constitution. This is the basis of Indian law in which the judiciary can strike down an amendment passed by Parliament that is in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution.

  • The Supreme Court canceled 122 telecom licenses and spectrum in the 2G scam that was allocated to 8 telecom companies because the process of allocation was flawed.

  • The Supreme Court banned firecrackers in the Delhi - NCR area because of extreme air pollution with certain exceptions in 2018.

  • The Supreme Court invoked terror laws against Hasan Ali Khan who was an alleged money launderer.

Functions of Judicial Activism

The functions of Judicial Activism are as follows:

  • Judicial Activism provides a system to balance and control the different branches of the government. It fulfils the requirement of innovation by providing ways of solutions.

  • If in case the law is failed to maintain a balance it grants permission to use their personal judgment.

  • It grants permission to the judges to do according to what they see fit within rationalised limits. 

  • Judicial Activism is helpful for the judiciary to keep a check on the misuse of power by the state government when it interferes and harms the residents. 

  • It helps address problems hastily in the issue of majority if the legislature gets stuck in taking decisions.

Significance of Judicial Activism

Judicial Activism can be considered an effective tool for upholding the right of citizens and making the principle of the constitution when the executive and legislature fails in doing that. The last hope of the citizens is the judiciary for protecting their rights when all other doors are closed. The Indian judiciary can be called the guardian and protector of the Indian Constitution. 

There are provisions given in the constitution for the judiciary to play a proactive role. The Constitution of India provides the power of judicial review to the higher judiciary to declare any legislative, executive or administrative action void when it creates any contravention with the Constitution.

Judicial Activism Criticism

Although Judicial activism has positive aspects there is some criticism about it. Several times Judicial activism has faced criticism on different topics. The judiciary often mixes personal bias and opinions with the law, in the name of judicial activism. One more criticism against Judicial activism is that the theory of separation of powers among the three arms of the State goes for a toss with judicial activism. In the name of activism many times, the judiciary has interfered in an administrative domain, and ventures into judicial adventurism or overreach. No fundamental rights of any group are involved in many cases.

Did You Know?

Judicial Restraint is a different aspect of judicial activism. It can be called the opposite of activism that can have obligations on it to follow constitutional laws while implementing its duties. It supports the judiciary for respecting the rules or laws made by the constitution. 


Therefore, in a nutshell, the concept of the above judicial activism essay can be concluded that it has both positives and negatives. We know that the main objective of the Judiciary system is to protect rule of law and ensure the supremacy of law and judiciary activism is helping the system in doing so. If the judiciary interferes a lot in the working of other organs of the government and tries to overreach the constitutional powers then this concept of judicial activism loses its importance and essence.

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FAQs on Judicial Activism

1. What is judicial activism in India?

The judiciary system of India is essential for upholding and promoting the rights of citizens. The Judicial system plays an active role in upholding the rights of citizens and preserving the constitutional and legal system of the country this is called judicial activism. It is a judicial philosophy. The courts, according to Judicial activism can and should go over the range of the applicable law to consider other societal implications of its decisions. Sometimes before the court judges appear to exceed their power in deciding cases.

2. What is the difference between judicial review and judicial activism?

This power of Judicial Review is that the Supreme Court has the power to examine the constitutionality of legislative and executive orders of both the government of India whether it is the central government or the state government. The word judicial review is not exactly mentioned in the Indian Constitution for High Courts. 

Judicial Activism is the role performed by the judiciary in order to uphold the constitutional and legal rights of the citizens. Judiciary exercises its own power to strike down or implement the laws and rules that violate the right of the citizens or is for the betterment of the society at large, whatever the case may be.

3. What is the difference between Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint?

These two Judicial terms are opposites of each other but the goal of both is providing justice at the end. Judicial activism is all about thinking and interpreting beyond the intent of the framers of the Constitution and talking about the proactive role of the Judiciary whereas in Judicial Restraint, Judiciary follows the constitution strictly and follows restraint and believes that changes in the Constitution can only be made through the legislatures.