Home > Current Affairs > National > Ex CJI Gogoi Draws a line b/w Judicial Activism & Judicial Overreach

Ex CJI Gogoi Draws a line b/w Judicial Activism & Judicial Overreach

Utkarsh Classes Last Updated 06-04-2024
Ex CJI Gogoi Draws a line b/w Judicial Activism & Judicial Overreach Supreme Court 6 min read

Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi explained the difference between 'judicial activism' and 'judicial overreach'. 

  • He emphasized that it is the responsibility of the judiciary to decide when to act as a catalyst for change and when to maintain the status quo.
  • Justice (retd) Gogoi emphasized the importance of adapting the judicial system to changing times, which is recognized worldwide. He acknowledged the Judiciary's significant responsibility in navigating the delicate balance between catalyzing change and maintaining the status quo. 
  • It is crucial to distinguish between "Judicial activism" and "Judicial overreach" in this context, as it can have a considerable impact on the judicial system.

Judicial activism

  • The role of the judiciary is to review the actions of the executive and protect the rights of the people when legislation is unable to do so. This is known as judicial activism, where the judiciary upholds the rights of the citizens and preserves the constitutional and legal system of the country. 
  • Judicial activism has become more effective since the emergency declared in 1975 when the power of the Lok Sabha was misused by the government. This was considered a black day for the entire country. 
  • However, following the end of the emergency, the judiciary became more active, and in recent times its active role has increased significantly. 

Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997)

The landmark case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) defined the need for judicial activism to establish guidelines for the treatment of women in workplaces. 

This led to the passing of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013, which adopts a three-pronged approach for dealing with sexual harassment and expands on the Vishaka guidelines.

Methods of judicial activism

Judicial activism can take place through various methods. They are as follows:

Judicial review

The Supreme Court can examine the constitutionality of a law through judicial review, which is the most common method. If a law is found to be inconsistent with the Constitution, it can be declared unconstitutional.

Public Interest Litigation (PIL) 

PIL is a suit filed for public interest protection. It was initiated to help disadvantaged sections of society who couldn't seek justice. The first case was Hussainara Khatoon v. State of Bihar (1979), where the apex court held the right to speedy trial as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Constitutional interpretation 

Judicial activism refers to a method in which interpretation of the Constitution is done through its text and "original history". There are many instances of judicial activism, such as the G. Satyanarayana v. Eastern Power Distribution Company (2004) case. In this case, Justice Gajendragadkar held that if a worker is dismissed on the ground of misconduct, a mandatory inquiry should be conducted. This judgment added regulations to labor law that were previously ignored by legislation.

Judicial Overreach

Judicial activism is when the judiciary uses its authority to define and enforce what is right for society. However, when the judiciary interferes with the legislative and executive branches of government, it is known as judicial overreach. In other words, when judicial activism goes beyond its limit, it is called judicial overreach.

  • There have been cases of judicial overreach that caused conflicts between the legislature and judiciary. 
  • For instance, in a recent case of Rajib Sharma v. The State of West Bengal (2019), a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Yuva Morcha leader, Priyanka Sharma, shared a meme on a social networking site. 
  • The Supreme Court, in her bail order, asked her to apologize for sharing the meme. The court explained that the freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution ends when it infringes upon the rights of others.


Answer: 1997

Answer: Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013
Leave a Review

Utkarsh Classes

Download India's Best Educational App

With the trust and confidence that our students have placed in us, the Utkarsh Mobile App has become India’s Best Educational App on the Google Play Store. We are striving to maintain the legacy by updating unique features in the app for the facility of our aspirants.