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The Concept Of Judicial Review And Its Importance In Upholding The Constitution

The legal Maxim "Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum" underscores the principle that justice must be pursued no matter the consequences. Judicial review embodies this principle by ensuring that the actions of the legislature and executive are subject to scrutiny under the Constitution.

The ability for the judiciary to assess the legality of laws and executive orders is known as judicial review. This idea makes sure that the government functions within the parameters set forth in the Constitution which safeguards the rights of the people and maintain the rule of law.

In India judicial review is not explicitly mentioned in the Indian Constitution but is derived from various provisions such as Articles 13, 32 and 226 which empower the courts to declare any law or executive action invalid if it contravenes the Constitution. This power acts as a check on the legislature and the executive preventing any abuse of power and ensures that the principles enshrined in the Constitution are upheld.

It is impossible to exaggerate the significance of judicial review. It protects the Constitution from possible violations and upholds its sanctity in its role as a guardian. The judiciary is essential to preserving the balance of power between the three arms of government i.e. Legislature, Executive & Judiciary and defending individual rights because it can review and if necessary, nullify actions that violate the constitution.

Understanding the Judicial Review
Judicial review is a fundamental principle in constitutional law that allows the judiciary to assess the legality of legislative and executive actions. It ensures that all government actions comply with the Constitution. This principle acts as a safeguard against the misuse of power by any branch of government. The concept of judicial review means that courts have the authority to examine laws, regulations as well as actions taken by the government.

If these are found to be inconsistent with the Constitution the judiciary has the power to declare them invalid or unconstitutional. This process helps maintain a balance of power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Judicial review serves multiple purposes. It protects the fundamental rights of citizens by ensuring that no law or government action infringes upon these rights. It also acts as a check on the powers of the legislature and the executive and ensures that they do not exceed their constitutional authority or Constitutional Boundary as well as it promotes the rule of law by ensuring that all actions taken by the government are legal and justified.

The United States is the birthplace of the concept of judicial review which gives judges the power to judge whether laws and executive orders are constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court established its jurisdiction to invalidate laws that are in violation with the Constitution in the famous case of Marbury v. Madison[1]. India was among the nations that eventually embraced and modified this idea.

The case of Shankari Prasad v. Union of India[2] marked the beginning of judicial review in India. In this case, the Supreme Court upheld Parliament's authority to change any provision of the Constitution including the fundamental rights. But this viewpoint shifted with time. The landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[3] represented a fundamental shift with the Supreme Court developed the "basic structure" theory.

This ensures that while Parliament may amend the Constitution but it cannot alter its Basic Structure. This principle was reinforced in various cases like as Minerva Mills v. Union of India[4] where the Supreme Court struck down amendments that threatened the Constitution's basic structure. Over the decades judicial review has played a critical role in Indian democracy and ensures that all government actions conform to constitutional principles and protecting the rights of citizens.

Constitutional Provisions related to Judicial Review
The Indian Constitution does not explicitly mention judicial review but several provisions implicitly support it which allows the courts to assess the constitutionality of legislative and executive actions. These provisions collectively empower the judiciary to protect the Constitution and uphold fundamental rights. Article 13 is a very important in this respect. It states that any law that is incompatible with or violates fundamental rights is invalid. This article provides a legal foundation for judicial review and allows the courts to annul legislation that contradict the Constitution. Individuals have the right under Article 32 to directly approach the Supreme Court to enforce their fundamental rights.

This article authorizes the Supreme Court to issue different writs such as habeas corpus and mandamus to protect these rights. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar referred to Article 32 as the "heart and soul" of the Constitution because it establishes a strong framework for defending fundamental rights. Article 226 empowers High Courts to issue similar writs to enforce fundamental rights and for other purposes. This article extends judicial review powers to High Courts and enables them to examine the actions of both central and state governments

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over disputes between states or between the federal governments under Article 131. This strengthens the Supreme Court's position as the Constitution's defender by guaranteeing that it can immediately resolve major constitutional disputes. Articles 132, 133 and 134 outline the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Article 132 allows appeals in cases involving substantial constitutional questions. Article 133 deals with civil cases while Article 134 pertains to criminal cases. These provisions enable the Supreme Court to review High Court decisions ensures consistent constitutional interpretation.

Article 136 gives the Supreme Court discretion to grant special leave to appeal any judgment, order or sentence from any court or tribunal in India excluding military tribunals. This broad authority allows the Supreme Court to address significant public interest cases or correct gross injustices and expand the scope of judicial review.

Until the laws are changed or abolished by a competent authority the pre-constitutional legislation are guaranteed to remain in effect under Article 372. This clause gives the judiciary the authority to assess whether current legislation is constitutionally compliant or not.

Understanding its importance
Judicial review is important because of several key reasons including upholding the supremacy of the Constitution, maintaining federal equilibrium and protecting the fundamental rights of citizens. These aspects collectively ensure the proper functioning of a democratic society.

Firstly judicial review upholds the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution. This means that the Constitution is the highest law of the land and any law or action by the government must align with it. Judicial review empowers courts to strike down any legislation or executive action that violates constitutional principles.

This ensures that the government cannot enact laws or take actions that are arbitrary or unjust which maintains the integrity and authority of the Constitution. Secondly judicial review is essential for maintaining federal equilibrium which is the balance of power between the central government and the states. In a federal system like India's both the Centre and the States have distinct areas of authority. Judicial review ensures that neither the Centre nor the States exceed their constitutional limits and prevents any encroachment on each other's powers. This balance is crucial for the smooth functioning of a federal system and for respecting the autonomy of state governments.

Thirdly judicial review is essential to safeguarding people's fundamental rights. Individuals are guaranteed a number of rights under the Constitution including equality, freedom of speech and the right to life and personal liberty. A way for people to contest laws or actions that violate their rights is through judicial review. Judicial review guarantees that the government respects and defends the liberty of its citizens by defending fundamental rights.

  1. Marbury v. Madison 5 U.S. 137 (more)1 Cranch 137
  2. Shankari Prasad v. Union of India 1951 AIR 458
  3. Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) 4 SCC 225
  4. Minerva Mills v. Union of India AIR 1980 SC 1789

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