Judicial Activism

(i) Judicial Activism
(ii) Public Interest Litigation

          Article 50 of the constitution stipulates that the state shall endeavour to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public service of the state. It implies that the judiciary should be kept independent of the influence of the executive. As the things have turned out Public Interest Litigation has taken upon itself the role of the executive. It goes to the credit of former Chief Justice of India P.N. Bhagwati (retired in 1986) that the term judicial activism gained currency. It was he who would act on the receipt of post-cards or letters containing complaint from the members of a weaker sections. It is how Public Interest Litigation came to stay as a relief to those who could not get justice for years. In his own words the significance of PIL is well defined, "This was to vindicate the rights of weaker sections because I found that justice was totally denied to them by our legal system." In our country there are about 3 crore civil cases pending in various courts—2.5 crore cases in lower courts, 50 lakh cases in High courts and 17 thousand cases in the Supreme court. The poor section of our society is the worst affected."
          Judicial activism steps in when the attempts of the aggrieved fails to secure justice from any other source. In fact PIL has been in practice since 1977. The Supreme court exercised pressure on Govt bodies to stop infringement of human rights, investigated the custodial deaths and other related matters.
          In recent years PIL has broadened the sphere of judicial activity. Any one can bring a public grievance direct to the notice of the Supreme court. The record of the Supreme court in the field of PIL is very impressive because it has been able to solve a number of problems related to bonded labour, ecology pollution, corruption in high places etc. In a case filed by a lawyer in 1995 Chandra Swami was prohibited from going abroad. Corruption in the allotment of Govt houses, LPG outlets and patrol pump's were brought to the notice of the Supreme court. As a result of this 72 VIPs were served notices for eviction. Minister for petroleum was indicted of favouritism and nepotism. Many units in and around Delhi releasing effluents in the Yamuna were ordered closed by the Supreme court. The DTC buses older more than eight years were ordered off the roads with a view to checking the menace of pollution.
          However, the most important case under PIL relates to 'Hawala Scandal'. A Sessions Judge was hauled before the court on the initiative of a PIL activist. Sessions Judge P.K. Biswas was accused of forging evidence for air dropping of arms in District Purulia in west Bengal. The National Social Watch Coalition (NSWC) of civil society organizations state in their 2003 report that the balance of force is shifting to the judiciary because of laxity on the part of legislature and the executive.

          The spurt in judicial activism has raised the question how far the court can encroach on the rights of both the executive and the legislature. The Judiciary is accused of taking upon itself the role of govt. PIL has indeed been degraded by unscrupulous elements for a variety of things. People are approaching the Supreme court for violation of human rights in the case of terrorists and criminals. Most of the social activists take to PIL for the sake of their own publicity. In fact PIL movement started for helping the poor to vindicate the rights of the weaker section. However, one thing is certain. Instead of criticizing the role of judiciary let the govt, at the centre and state level show efficiency and solve the problems of the people expeditiously at administrative level. It will not be out of place to state that the active role of the judiciary should awaken the administrative bodies to shed their laxity and casual approach to the problems of the poor and common citizens. They have to shun the attitude of "playing on the fiddle while Rome is burning."