What are judicial restraint and judicial activism?

Judicial activism and judicial restraint are the two alternative judicial philosophies in the United States. 

Judicial activism

  • ‘Judicial Activism’ is a layman’s term for the role of the Judiciary in initiating the policies to dispense justice. 
  • It is usually through the PIL, but the Supreme Court from time to time has given directions, passed writs and issued orders to redress the injustice either on request or by its own.
  • In other words, judicial activism denotes the proactive role played by the judiciary in the protection of the rights of citizens and in the promotion of justice in society. 
  • In other words, it implies the assertive role played by the judiciary to force the other two organs of the government (executive and legislature) to discharge their constitutional duties. 
  • Judicial Activism is also known as “judicial dynamism”. 
  • It is the antithesis of “judicial restraint”, which means the self-control exercised by the judiciary.

Judicial Restraint

  • Those who subscribe to judicial restraint contend that the role of judges should be scrupulously limited; their job is merely to say what the law is, leaving the business of law-making with the legislators and the executives. 
  • Under no circumstances, judges should allow their personal political values and policy agendas to colour their judicial opinions. 
  • This view holds that the ‘original intent’ of the authors of the Constitution and its amendments is knowable, and must guide the courts. 

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