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Doctrine of Judicial Review

Basic Concept of the Doctrine of Judicial Review:

The doctrine of Judicial review is basically the power of the judiciary to decide on the constitutional validity of the acts of the other wings of the government (the executive and the legislative). The objective is to regulate any such acts which may contravene the constitution. For instance, if any act of the law making bodies is such that it negates the provisions given in the constitution, it is important that it should be made null and void. In order to do so an organ is required to have the force or power to articulate such acts as void.

This is where the importance of the aforementioned doctrine comes into play. Thus, when the law making bodies are acting in contradiction to the supreme law, the judiciary can intervene and decide on the constitutional validity of such an act.

Justice Khanna, in the fundamental rights case or Kesvananda Bharti v State of Kerala, spoke about the importance of judicial review in today's time. He added that judicial review has become an important part of our constitution. Furthermore, it was said that a force has been vested in the High Courts and the Supreme Court to decide about the constitutionality of the provisions in different statutes. On the off chance that the provisions of any statutes are observed to be voilative of any of the articles of the constitution which is the standard for the legitimacy of all laws, the High Court and the Supreme Court have the power to strike down such provisions [1].

Articles relevant to Judicial Review in the Indian Constitution:

The means for judicial review is based in Article 13 of the Constitution. It gives the power to the courts to keep the legislature under preview. The Article gives to the judiciary the power to declare an act or law void if it is not in consonance with Part III of the Constitution. Additionally, Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution also aid the judiciary in judicial review. If a person's fundamental rights have been violated by any legislation, then they can move to court under Article 226 and 227.

This power of the High Court and the Supreme Court under Article 226 and 227 of the constitution was recognized in the case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India. Moreover, in Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Shri Raj Narain & Anr, the Court declared judicial review to be part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution[2].

Genesis of the doctrine of Judicial review:
The Doctrine of Judicial Review has evolved over the course of several years, however it is important to understand the genesis of the doctrine. The concept of Judicial Review was first originated in America, established through the case of Marbury v. Madison. Jurists have long argued that the this is one of the most important cases in American Legal history.

The reason for this is that it is a Landmark case in Constitutional law as it was in this very case that the Supreme Court of United States of America established the doctrine of Judicial Review. The court set out that those Federal laws that are in contradiction with the U.S. Constitution would be held invalid, and the ability and power to decide if federal laws are unlawful rests with the Judiciary. This is alluded to as Judicial Review.

However, the jurisdiction of the courts to judicially review the acts of the legislative and the executive that are in contradiction to the U.S Constitution, is not unlimited. The limitations have been set out in the Constitution of the United States itself. The facts and the judgement of the case are mentioned hereunder.

The facts of the case: In the year 1800, Thomas Jefferson won the Presidential race against John Adams. President Jefferson was to come into office on 4th of March, 1801. Before President Jefferson came into office, the active President John Adams and Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801. This gave more control and power to the President in the appointment of Judges. It was only basically an endeavour by Adams and his party to baffle Jefferson. He utilized the Act to choose sixteen new circuit judges and forty-two new judges for peace.

These new appointees were approved by the Senate, yet they could not be said to be valid until their commissions were conveyed by the Secretary of State. William Marbury was one of the appointees approved by the Senate, however his commission was not delivered by the Secretary of State. Marbury filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court, in order to compel the delivery of the commission.

Judgement of the case: The Court held that the provision of Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, that gave the courts the power to issue writ mandamus to an office, was in itself, in contradiction of the U.S Constitution. It was held to be unconstitutional and void. This way, the court struck down a provision of the Act which was in Contravention of the Constitution[3].

Importance of the doctrine of Judicial Review:

The importance of the doctrine of Judicial review is that it upholds the supremacy of the Constitution. It becomes important when it comes to upholding fundamental rights of the individuals. When a constitutionally unjust law is in place, then the doctrine of judicial review comes into play and determines the unconstitutionality of the law.

Hence, it becomes of exceeding relevance in today's world life scenario as it gives power to the judiciary to determine whether or not a law is in adherence with the Constitution. The doctrine helps in negating the potential misuse of power by the Executive and the Legislative. It treads on the aspect of checks and balance, an important element of democracy which ensures that no single organ of the government misuses its power, and maintains the balance of power between all the organs of the government.

In India we do not follow 'separation of power' in the strict sense. Rather we follow a system of checks and balance. This gives the judiciary the ability to exercise its power in order to check on the acts of the other organs of the government[4].

In my opinion, the Doctrine of Judicial Review is extremely important. At the same time, I believe that in order to ensure that the judiciary is not encroaching over the other organs of the government, it is essential that the Judges be coherent, lawful, moral and people centric. In a developing country such as ours, judicial review has gained more importance over the course of years. Judicial review is of utmost importance to the least common denominators of our society, whose rights are often infringed upon without notice.

The doctrine not only gives power to the judiciary to render an act unconstitutional but the judiciary can interpret the words of the constitution, thereby removing ambiguity. That is to say that when the judiciary is reviewing an act of other organs of the government, it may sometimes remove ambiguity by interpreting the intention of the framers of our constitution.

Taking into consideration the fact that we are evolving and our nation is moving towards being more progressive, our understanding of constitutionalism and natural justice is also changing. Thus, Judges must also take social progress and development into account while deciding on the constitutionality of the acts of other organs of the government.

The Judges must avoid making hasty decisions, rather the decisions must be well reasoned and based on juristic principle. If the judiciary satisfies the abovementioned requirements and endeavours to break new grounds, it would be a step toward the right path. It would open a whole new dimension of Justice which would in turn contribute to the growth and development of the Justice system of the country.

To this day, Judicial Review remains a highly controversial topic amongst scholars and jurists. Some believe that it gives too much power to the judiciary and that the decisions must be left to our elected officials, while others believe that it is necessary to uphold the supremacy of law.

  1. Fayaz Ahmed Bhat, Doctrine of Judicial Review in India: A Judicial Perspective, latest (Feb.1, 2020),
  2. Anamika Mishra, Analysing the Ambit and Meaning of Article 13: How Did the Judiciary Interpret It?, ACADEMIKE (Jun. 4, 2021),
  3. Admin LB, Constitutional Law Aspects of Judicial Review and Judicial Activism, Legal Bites (May 16, 2020),
  4. Gurram Ramachandra Rao, India: Judicial Review in India, MONDAQ (Apr. 10, 2003),

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