The above-quoted phrase have the right to be found emblazoned across facebook prodocuments and also instagram peras of many an enthusiastic regulation student looking to spend their careers fighting the great fight, on the side of the voiceless and powerless “little bit guy”, versus the evil and malicious pressures that seek to manipulate and also oppress. To those of us no much longer conversant in the language of the prehistoric Romans, the expression can be around analyzed as, “let justice be done though the heavens fall.

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” On initially glance, this appears like a perfectly attrenergetic bit of rhetoric that may also qualify as a core tenet of legal viewpoint. No one desires to live in an unsimply world; therefore it is just natural for a citizen of a simply society to intend justice to be dispensed to all, regardmuch less of the expense. Without a doubt, the maxim could seem to a lot of nothing even more than a straightforward and also concise statement of pure logic, universal, incontrovertible and absolute. However, as soon as we think of the serious expense of justice in some scenarios, namely cosmic tumult, we should put to ourselves 3 concerns to ensure that the disturbance of the celestial condition quo was not in vain, these inquiries are-

1. What do we expect by “justice”?

2. To whom must justice be done?

3. Who should be charged through the duty to execute justice?

It is as soon as we are confronted with these 3 concerns, which basically consist of an elepsychological breakdown of the oft-quoted Latin maxim, that we see the fallacy lying within. The expression is, in truth, a mere servant of the ethical compass of the person who happens to be utilizing it, regularly to justify his or her own actions. What one thinks is simply, does not necessarily come in consonance through another’s principle of justice. The question of what is just and also what is unsimply, need to inevitably come dvery own to principles.

It is likewise often the situation that upon justice being done to one party to a problem, the same is denied to the other party, at least in the eyes of the last. Faced with such a conundrum, one could rightly argue that it will certainly never before be possible to please all sides to a conflict, and also the attempts to dispense justice cannot be frustrated by the reality that someone would certainly constantly be handed the shorter end of the stick in a problem. Hence, it must come down to the perboy looking to carry out justice, to decide if justice, all at once, has been done.

Resultantly, the question of whether a just outcome is reached in a conflict, have to be answered by the entity/authority/person entrusted with the dispensation of the very same, and, consequent to the abovementioned nature of justice, his/her principles. It is his/her principles, then, that is of paramount importance to the facility of a just culture. It deserve to, thus, be watched that among the three questions framed over, the the majority of essential one that needs to be answered is not the initially, nor the second, yet the 3rd.

Who must, then, be charged with the duty to perform justice? The answer springs to mind immediately, and also appears positively banal. It is the Judge or the Court of regulation, sudepend. Besides, the many senior Judges also have actually the word “Justice” presolved to their names. However before, in the humble and unqualified opinion of this author, this commonarea answer is incorrect. Justice has been, and must always be dispensed by the grand also old edifice of the law,² ever changing, ever morphing and ever before transforming under the influence of all three branches of government. Justice must not be subjected to the whims and fancies of any type of one entity, however have to dispensed as per the letter of the legislation. Note that, this does not mean principles has actually no location in the governance of culture, on the contrary, the law should have its basis in some form of principles, a concept Lon Fuller referred to as “the interior morality of law”.³ However, as soon as such regulation is framed, it should be the body that dispenses justice. In a constitutionally limited create of federal government, as we possess in India, the duty of each branch of federal government in framing the law is clearly delineated, and such delineations must be adhered to by each such branch. However before, I feel that, in current times, one branch has actually forayed, even more than any type of various other, right into the domain of others. This errant branch of government, seemingly violating the Montesquieuan principles of separation of powers, is the judicial branch. As an outcome of its attempts to escape the confines of the powers allotted to it, what comprises justice is now even more and also more dependent on the principles of the judicial branch, and this in itself is a hazard to the process of dispensation of justice. To support this proposition, I must intricate upon the dispute concerning the role of the judicial branch within constitutional government, and exactly how failure of the judicial restraint movement in India poses a hazard to the process of dispensation of justice.

Holmes, Hand and the Role of the Judicial Branch

It can not surpclimb you to understand that there is no concrete and also universal agreement among legal thinkers (judges, practitioners and also academics included) in relation to the question pertaining to the function of the judicial branch in a constitutionally limited develop of federal government. Though there are, in truth, countless views on the subject, the 2 main schools of thought have the right to be succinctly encapsulated in a story of a verbal exchange in between 2 20th century titans of Amerideserve to legal assumed, Judge Learned Hand and also Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.⁴The story has actually been told and also re-told for decades, and also though Hand’s very own account of it survives,⁵ tbelow exists no authoritative variation of it. The story takes area somewright here close to the Capitol in Washington D.C. where Holmes and also Hand, after having had lunch together, are about to go their separate ways. Holmes gets in his carriage and also is around to drive off, as soon as Hand, in order to provoke a parting response from his mentor and also friend, exclintends, “Do justice, sir, perform justice!” Holmes, preventing the carriage, retorts, “That is not my job. It is my job to apply the legislation.” This brief intercourse with Holmes left an indelible note on Hand also, who, prefer Holmes,⁶ became a staunch proponent of the doctrine of judicial restraint throughout his time on the bench.⁷

Though both interlocutors were effectively on the exact same side of the dispute once judged by their legacies, in the time of that exreadjust, they stood for the two great factions of believed that sneed to work-related out what duty Judges and also the Courts must play in the grand also system of federal government. On the one hand also were judicial activists, those that thought that the Courts once adjudicating problems need to have actually sufficient regard for the consequence of their decision in the sociological and financial spheres of life, and the decisions have to have their basis in principles. The supporters of this check out sought to carry out justice over all else.To them the welfare of the citizenry was as much the judiciary’s concern as it was the legislative and also executive branches’. On the various other side of the jurisprudential battle-field were the scholars advocating judicial restraint, in that they felt that Judges should simply follow the letter of the regulation and concerned the conclusion that the regulation leads them to. They believed that an excellent Judge should decide a instance prior to him/her without any type of consideration as to what the ethical impact of the decision would be. They conceded thatthis course of activity would undoubtedly result in some flagrantly ‘unjust’ outcomes, but all in all, limiting the discretion exercisable by Judges, who were after all unelected and also not representative of the populace, would cause a healthier and also more sturdy government. Justice Holmes took his conception of judicial restraintto such an extreme that he has come to be connected through some quotes (greatly remarks made by him in individual letters) which the majority of modern-day readers would find preposterous, including, “I have actually shelp to my brethren many times that I hate justice, which implies that I recognize if a male begins to talk about that, for one factor or another he is shirking thinking in legal terms.”;⁸ and “If my fellow citizens desire to go to Hell I will aid them. It’s my job.”⁹

Which side, then, has actually the appropriate answer? Should Judges be guided by principles in their actions, or must the black letter of the legislation be the single guiding force? Tbelow is no basic answer. However before, it seems clear to me that the the majority of moral, and also correct, course of action that deserve to be taken by the Courts is that of judicial restraint. The moral compass of a Judge, no issue how fine-tuned, refined and also precise, is still exclusively in the possession of that one Judge. And considering that we do not live in a country where one man/woguy via impeccable conscience and exemplary acuguys is entrusted through being the paramount adjudicator of all problems arising within the land also, allowing every Judge to be guided more by principles than regulation, would certainly be akin to opening up a Pandora’s jar (the ‘box’ was however a misinterpretation of the original Old Greek) wherefrom would arise myriad judicial indiscretions, improprieties and also lapses in judgement. The Judge, for this reason, should run within the bounds of the legislation at all times, paying no heed to the injustices that can outcome therefrom. This contention gives climb to an unpreventable question, if the law is based on ethical ethics, and morality is an ever-evolving concept, that has the authority to change the legislation so regarding ensure the regulation is in consonance through morality? The answer is basic, those branches of federal government that are consisted of with the help of the democratic procedure, and also resultantly, are elected by and accountable to the civilization directly. Now, the rational respond to to this statement is, the ethical compasses of members of the legislative and executive branches have actually regularly been presented to be weaker and also more flawed than those of Judges. Why should they, then, be allowed to change the law as per their whims? To this I merely say, these branches are, topic to expush constitutional limitations, allotted the power to readjust the legislation and decide what is just bereason of their ultimate dependence on the world to retain such power. The human being have actually the last say. This ultimate appropriate of the world to govern themselves is immortalised by the Preambles of both the American and also Indian Constitutions, and the very same cannot be usurped by an unautonomous body. The legislation, thus, owes its dynamism to the human being themselves. This sentiment was common by Justice Antonin Scalia in a lecture ceded at Iona College, where he said, “If you want something, you persuade your fellow citizens that it’s a great idea and also pass a law.”¹⁰ It must likewise be noted that, being representatives of the basic public, the autonomous branches of government, tfinish likewise to be even more representative of the various walks of life and also, as an outcome, embody a multiplicity of views that is conducive to moulding a durable body of legislation.

This role of the judiciary, as being to a degree subservient to the regulation collection by the autonomous branches, was recognised by Alexander Hamilton, speaking for the supporters of the then yet to be embraced USA Constitution, that said-

“Whoever before attentively considers the various departments of power have to perceive, that, in a federal government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its features, will certainly always be the least dangerous to the political civil liberties of the Constitution; bereason it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not just dispenses the honors, yet holds the sword of the community. The legislature not just commands the purse, however prescribes the rules through which the duties and legal rights of eextremely citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has actually no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the stamina or of the wealth of the society; and also deserve to take no energetic resolution whatever. It may truly be sassist to have neither FORCE nor WILL, however just judgment; and also need to inevitably depfinish upon the assist of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

…It equally proves, that though individual oppression might currently and then continue from the courts of justice, the general liberty of the civilization have the right to never be intimidated from that quarter;”¹¹

So great was the regarded impotence of the at an early stage Amerihave the right to judiciary that, on one occasion, upon analysis the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered by Chief Justice John Marshall in Worcester v. Georgia¹², President Anattracted Jackson is sassist to have actually renoted, “John Marshall has made his decision; currently let him enforce it.”¹³ And via these words the executive refsupplied to enforce a decision of the Supreme Court reached with a 5:1 majority. Without a doubt, such a situation would certainly be unacceptable this particular day, yet,in my judgement, the Courts have to always be the humble servants of the regulation of the land. The Courts possibly guided by moralistic considerations only once the legislation expressly gives for it¹⁴, however this should still not have the effect of superseding or upturning the clear manday of the autonomous branches.

The Demise of Judicial Restraint in India

At this phase, it would be negligent of me not to recognise the truth that Indian legislation generally recognises the Courts’ role in doing justice even more so than that of the United States. Nowright here is this even more apparent than in Article 142(1) of the Constitution of India, which allows the Supreme Court to pass orders in order/decrees to carry out “finish justice” in matters before it. From a perusal of the wording of the provision, it seems self-obvious that it does not permit the Supreme Court to ignore the legislation of the land in its search to act as the arm of justice.It merely allows the Court to pay heed to ethical considerations in a matter being heard by it if it has no legalistic guide to adjudicate the exact same. It does not seem to me to overturn the traditional duty of a constitutional judicial branch as described by Hamilton, however merely amends it by allowing the Courts to plug in the gaps in the legislation through equitable decisions on a case-by-case basis. This restrictive watch of the Article was recognized by the Supreme Court itself¹⁵ up till the 1990s, when with 2 decisions¹⁶ the Court gave to itself plenary powers to pass any orders it pleased in order to accomplish the ends of justice regardmuch less of express enactments of the legislative branch. This noticeable vesting of legislative power in the Court (a concept flying in the confront of Montequieu’s vision), capable of being minimal only by self-enforced restrictions, was expressedby Justice A.S. Anand thus-

“The exceptionally nature of the power must lead the court to set boundaries for itself within which to exercise those powers and also ordinarily it cannot ignore a statutory provision covering a subject, other than perhaps to balance the equities between the conflicting claims of the litigating parties by “ironing out the creases” in a reason or matter before it. Certainly this Court is not a court of restricted jurisdiction of just dispute settling. It is well recognised and establiburned that this court has actually constantly been a legislation maker and also its duty travels past just conflict settling.”¹⁷

Is this, then, how we are intended to be governed? A tiny, unelected, unrepresentative and also unaccountable body of human being that are to sit in judgment to decide what is best and what is wrong for the general public. The masses, indubitably,cannot be trusted to govern themselves, have the right to they? There is an oft-satirised quote (paraphrased from the original) attributed to the British politician Douglas Jay, “the gentlemale in Whitehall knows best”¹⁸ which intends to ridicule the British civil servant’s contemptuous notion that, sitting in his lavish office in Whitehall, he knows what’s finest for the ‘common man’. I am in no means trying to imply that the Judges of the Supreme Court believed anything of the type while establishing their paramountcy over ethical opinion in this nation, however it hregarding be said, to the ‘common’ reader, the pith and also marrow of their judgments relating to Post 142 carry out seem to say, “the gentlemale in Delhi knows best.”

The peril of unchecked judicial discretion is specifically obvious as soon as the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 142 are review through its standard features/structures doctrine.¹⁹ its generally liberal interpretation of Part III of the Constitution offering rise to so-called ‘unenumerated rights’,²⁰ and its tendency to perform ameans with locus standinecessity under its Post 32 jurisprudence.²¹ To demonstrate this risk, let us currently take a theoretical case, which though extremely unlikely, would still be perfectly within the confines of the regulation laid down by the Supreme Court. Let us say, sooner or later Parliament, now fed up through the Apex Court’s consistent meddling in legislative and executive affairs (a sentiment currently echoed by contemporary politicians),²² decides to pass a constitutional amendment repealing Article 142(1) meeting all the needs under Post 368. It is then within the power of the Supreme Court to take invoke its writ jurisdiction suo motuand declare the amendment unconstitutional, holding Article 142 to be a part of the fundamental structure of the Constitution and hence not abrogable, even if the shelp amendment had actually popular support. Such a head on encounter between the judicial and legislative branch might be difficult for us to imagine today, however one need just look to the provisions of the now defunct claoffers (4) and also (5) of Article 368 to be reminded of a time as soon as Parliament and the Supreme Court did battle over the spirit of the Constitution, and also the judicial branch, sans ‘purse’ or ‘sword’, arised victorious.

Examples of the Supreme Court, utilising its writ jurisdiction and Article 142, and also the High Courts, utilising their very own writ jurisdiction under Message 226, to boldly enter the domains of the democratic branches of federal government have actually end up being commonlocation. Such transgressions have been provided by several eminent jurists favor K.K. Venugopal²³ and T.R. Andhyarujina.²⁴

It should be detailed here that the judiciary has not been able to accumulate its power without being aided and abetted by the 2 other branches of federal government and also the citizenry at big. The legislative branch is complicit by method of sheer ineptitude, being as it is, more inclined to interact in political squabbles and also mud-flinging than passing legislation. The Government too, despite managing a bulk in Parliament, has in current times ceded its legislative powers to the judiciary in respect of matters wbelow it is afrhelp to take a stand for are afraid of shedding renowned support. A glaring example of this deserve to be checked out in the Supreme Court’s decision decriminalising consensual homosex-related relations²⁵, wright here the Further Solicitor General of India, on instruction from the Central Government, chose not to oppose the writ petition challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and left it to the “wisdom of the court”.²⁶ Lastly, we concerned the Indian citizens, you and also I. Regardless of it being hard to see exactly how, we are as complicit as the great branches of government when it comes to enabling the growth of judicial discretion. I deserve to prove this proposition by means of a question- once we view an unjust law (Section 377 of the IPC for instance) operating within our culture, and also we wish to rid ourselves of it,to which authority perform we go? Do we lobby (the original sense of the word had actually none of the sinister connotations we associate via it today)²⁷ our Member of Parliament, do we compose to the Minister-in-Charge of the involved Government Department, or execute we move the Courts? The answer, sadly, is generally the last of the 3. As a society, we have actually grvery own even more provided to having actually legislations ‘struck down’ than ‘repealed’ or ‘amended’. We see the Courts as being more ‘just’ than the democratic branches of government, and also giving a ‘much faster fix’. As a result, we tend to strategy the judiciary once we need justice, even if the legislation does not provide for the outcome that we desire. The judicial branch, by widening the scope of judicial discretion, is able, despite the inconsistency via regulation, to fulfil our requirements for justice. This in turn reinforces our faith in the Courts and renders us even more most likely to go back to their doorsteps once we are aobtain in the require of justice. We treatment, not for the sanctity of the process of dispensation of justice, but simply the reality of such dispensation, also though it is this process that safeguards our liberties in the long run. This dependence on the judicial branch has actually also made us a lazy electorate, many of whom vote on religious and also caste-based lines, and also can’t name their Member of Parliament, let alone the Legislative Assembly. A lazy electorate aacquire, results in an inept and inknowledgeable legislature, hence continuing the cycle.

In my opinion, though this model of administration has actually surrendered great outcomes therefore far, it leaves open up the opportunity of grave injustice being done in the future. A body which is in not in some means straight associated via and also dependent on the people, have the right to never be entrusted with the job of being the arbiters of principles and also ipso facto justice. It is for this reason, incumbent upon us, the citizens of this nation, to ‘break the wheel’ that has actually for so many type of years resulted in the unchecked expansion of judicial discretion. We should, by virtue of civic engagement in the political procedure, empower our democratic branches of government to wremainder earlier power from the hands of the unelected, and also gain back the ‘balance to the force’ that drives our federal government. For justice have to be done though the heavens need to fall, but, it is for the people to say what is simply and also what is not.


<1> (1772) EngR57 : (1772) Lofft 1 : 98 ER 499

<2> The term includes the rules set out in the Constitution, laws, subordinate legislations, and as soon as permissible, decisions of Courts.


<4> See Michael Herz, “Do Justice!”: Variations of a Thrice-Told Tale, 82 Virginia L.R.1, 111–161 (1996)

<5> JUDGE LEARNED HAND, THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY, 306–07 (Irving Dilliard 3rd Ed. 1960)

<6> See David Luban, Justice Holmes and also the Metaphysics of Judicial Restraint, 44 Fight It Out L.J. 3, 449–523 (1994)





<11> Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, №78,

<12> 31 UNITED STATE 515 (1832)

<13> See Edwin A. Miles, After John Marshall’s Decision: Worcester v. Georgia and the Nullification Crisis, 39 The Journal of Southern History 4, 519–544 (1973)

<14> For instance, Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908; Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1983; Message 142 of the Constitution of India

<15> Prem Chand also v. Excise Commissioner, AIR 1963 SC 996 : 1963 Supp. (1) SCR 885; A.R. Antulay vs. R.S. Nayak, (1988) 2 SCC 602 : AIR 1988 SC 1531

<16> Union Carbide Corpn. v. Union of India, (1991) 4 SCC 584, 634–635 : AIR 1992 SC 248, 278; In re, Vinay Chandra Mishra, (1995) 2 SCC 621

<17> Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India, AIR 1998 SC 1895 : (1998) 4 SCC 409


<19> Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461 : (1973) 4 SCC 225; Minerva Mills v. Union of India, AIR 1980 SC 1789 : 1981 SCR (1) 206

<20> Post 21 has been worst hit by this exercise. SeeD.D. BASU, SHORTER CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, 265 (13th Ed. 2001)

<21> S.P. Gupta v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 149 : 1981 Supp. SCC 87; Maharaj Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1976 SC 2602 : (1977) 1 SCC 155

<22> Sagnik Chowdhury,Judiciary is ruining legislature brick by brick: Arun Jaitley, The Indian Express, May 12, 2016,


<24> T.R. Andhyarujina, Disturbing patterns in judicial activism, The Hindu, August 6, 2012,

<25> Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1350 : (2018) 10 SCC 1

<26> PTI New Delhi, Section 377: Centre leaves it to the wisdom of SC to decide validity, The Hindu Company Line, July 11, 2018,; PTI, SC judge criticises government for leaving it to wisdom of court to decide on Section 377, The Economic Times, September 8, 2018,


The author is a Year V B.A.LL.B student at the Department of Law, College of Calcutta.

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