Judicial Overreach - UPSC Indian Polity Notes

Judicial overreach is a term commonly used when the judiciary seems to have overstepped its mandate. As IAS aspirants, it is important to understand what the term means and how it is different from judicial activism.

In this article, you can read all about judicial overreach for the IAS exam.

To complement your preparation for UPSC 2023, check the following links:

Judicial Overreach

There is a thin line dividing judicial activism and judicial overreach. While the former implies the use of judicial power to articulate and enforce what is beneficial for society in general, the latter is when judicial activism crosses its limit. Although this is a matter of perspective, there are many examples that are widely regarded as cases of judicial overreach in India. 

  • Judicial overreach is when the judiciary starts interfering with the proper functioning of the legislative or executive organs of the government, i.e., the judiciary crosses its own function and enter the executive and legislative functions.
  • Judicial overreach is considered undesirable in a democracy.
  • It also goes against the principle of separation of powers.
  • In defence of judicial overreach, the judiciary has always maintained that it stepped in only when there were cases of executive and legislative underreach.

Examples of Judicial Overreach 

Although it is a matter of perception as to when there has been a judicial overreach, there are some examples that are cited generally to showcase overreach by the judiciary. A common example is misusing the power to punish for contempt of court.

Imposition of Patriotism in National Anthem Case.

The Supreme Court on December 2016, passed its judgment in the case of Shyam Narayan Chouksey v. Union of India, which makes it mandatory, that:

  1. All the cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts.
  2. All present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.
  3. The entry and exit doors shall remain closed prior to the National Anthem is played or sung in the cinema hall so that no one can create any kind of disturbance.
  4. The doors can be opened after the National Anthem is played or sung.
  5. The National Flag should be displayed on the screen while the National Anthem is played in the hall.

Read more on 25 important Supreme Court Judgements on the linked page.

Ban of Firecrackers

The Vice-President of India in the event of the 80th All India Presiding Officers’ Conference in November 2020 termed the Supreme Court’s banning of firecrackers during Diwali as Judicial Overreach. The aspirants must note that there are mixed views on the Supreme Court’s actions hence, one must learn to critically examine a notion.

NJAC bill and the 99th constitutional amendment

The Supreme Court struck down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) which was established through the 99th Constitutional Amendment on grounds that it was unconstitutional. This was to replace the collegiate system.

Allahabad High Court Order

In 2015, the Allahabad High Court passed an order stating that children of public functionaries/ bureaucrats in Uttar Pradesh should be enrolled only in government schools.

Proactive Censorship in case of Jolly LLB 2 (Movie)

After the movie Jolly LLB 2 was certified by the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC), a petition was filed that claimed that this film violated Section 5B of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Section 5B deals with the prevention of the certification of films that involve defamation or contempt of court. The court-appointed a commission that looked into it, and finally, the commission ordered four cuts in the film and also asked the CBFC to recertify the film. This was in violation of the Cinematograph Act, which does not give courts any power to certify or modify films.

The cancellation of telecom licenses in the 2G case

After the CBI registered FIR against the officials of the Department of Telecom in 2G scam case, the Supreme Court ordered to cancel of 122 telecom licenses and spectrum allocated to eight companies. The Supreme Court held that the process of allocation was flawed. It further directed the government to allocate national resources through auction only.

Candidates reading, ‘Judicial Overreach’ for UPSC preparation, can also read some other Indian Judiciary related articles:

Indian Judiciary Judicial Review Important Supreme Court Judgements
Supreme Court of India High Court Separation of Power in the Indian Constitution
Indian Judiciary – Supreme Court, High Court, District Judicial Doctrines National Judicial Council (NJC) and 2nd ARC
High Court Of India – History, Jurisdiction, Constitution Supreme Court of India – History, Functions Subordinate Judiciary
Collegium System and NJAC for Appointment of Judges Civil Courts – Definition, Grades, Functions Judicial Behavior and Working of Indian Federalism
Women in Judiciary Supreme Court Judge Criminal Courts – Definition, Structure of the Bench

Judicial Overreach – Indian Polity:-Download PDF Here

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