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PM concerned over judicial overreach

Apr 08, 2007 10:13 PM IST India India

New Delhi: Judicial overreach isn’t quite judicial activism – that seems to be the message from the Prime Minister to the judiciary.

A note of caution came from none other than the Prime Minister himself.

"The dividing line between judicial activism and overreach is a thin one," said the Prime Minister.

But for the Chief Justice, it’s these tensions between the legislature and the judiciary that makes India a lively democracy

"The application of judicial review sometimes creates tension. Such tension is natural and to some extent desirable," said Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan.

Prime Minister has reason for voicing concern. In recent times the courts have struck down a number of legislations.

  • Last week the Allahabad High Court ruled that Muslims could not be considered minorities in Uttar Pradesh before staying this decision the next day after a special appeal by the state government

  • The Supreme Court also stayed the 27 per cent quota for OBCs in educational institutions last month

  • In January this year, the Supreme Court ruled that courts have the power to examine the validity – and strike down if necessary – laws placed in the ninth Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • Laws included in this schedule created in the 1950s have been immune from judicial scrutiny

And much of this judicial activity has been on the back of PILs or Public Interest Litigations.

"We need standards and benchmarks for screening PILs so that only genuine PILs are taken up," said Singh.

But this may be a little difficult, indicated the Chief Justice of India.

"But could anyone know it hits the threshold," said Balakrishnan.

Pointing at the rampant use of PILs, the Prime Minister said that there is a thin line separating judicial activism from judicial overreach.

And that's perhaps an implicit indictment of the entire process of judicial redressal, which for many is ripe for urgent reforms.