Various incidents when the Court displayed Judicial Activism.

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
•	Speedy trial:  Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
•	Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
•	Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
•	Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
•	Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6], 
•	Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
•	Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
•	Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
•	Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
•	Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. The powers of the Supreme Court for the protection of the Constitutional rights are of the widest amplitude. They exercise their judicial powers for protecting the rights and liberties of citizens of the country. Thus the judiciary achieves this by constantly evolving and broadening its jurisdiction and boldly yet judiciously take up matters of public importance with courage and vision for betterment.  

The executive and legislature may turn apathetic and fail to discharge their Constitutional obligations. The bureaucracy may show a total indifference and insensitivity to its mandatory duties. This affects the basic rights of the people. When brute force is showed by the lawmakers, the judiciary should step in and keep a check on the implementation of law and welfare of the people.

SUPREME COURT AND PIL

Speedy trial

In Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar[1], the Supreme Court held that speedy trial is an essential and integral part of the fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21. Several prisoners, in Bihar under trial, were kept in various jails for several years without trial. The court ordered the immediate release of such prisoners. The Supreme Court considered its constitutional duty to enforce the right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to a speedy trial.

Protection against inhuman treatment in jails

In Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration[2], the Supreme Court observed that the Habeas Corpus writ can not only be issued for illegal detention of a person but also protecting a person from barbarous and inhuman treatment.

Power to award compensation

In Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar[3], the Apex Court awarded Rs. 30,000 as compensation to the petitioner who had to remain in jail for 14 years because of the irresponsible conduct of the state authorities.

Custodial death

In Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa[4], the Supreme Court has laid down the principle on which compensation is to be awarded by the Court under Articles 32 and 226 to the victim of state action. The Supreme Court awarded, the mother of the deceased, who died in police custody, a compensation of Rs. 1,50,000.

In D. K. Basu v. the State of WB[5], the Supreme Court has laid down detailed guidelines to be followed by the Central and State investigating and security agencies in all cases of arrest and detention. Dr. Basu the Executive chairman of Legal Aid Services in West Bengal, through a PIL, addressed a letter to the Chief Justice drawing his attention to certain news items published in the Telegraph and Statesman and Indian Express regarding deaths in police lock-ups and custody, which was treated as a writ petition by the Court.

Right against handcuffing

In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6], the Supreme Court held that certain provisions in Punjab Police Rules requiring every under trial who was accused of a non-bailable offense punishable with more than three years jail term to be handcuffed, violated Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution. The Hon’ble Court noted that handcuffing should only be used when there is an apparent perception of danger or escaping out of police control. For this, there must be clear and solid material and not just merely an assumption.

Child Welfare

In Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India[7], a writ petition was filed based on a letter, complaining of malpractices, in a social organisation and voluntary agencies who were engaged in the adoption of Indian children to foreign parents and its procedure thereof. It was alleged that in the name of adoption procedure the organisation exposed children of tender age to long and dreadful journey to a distant foreign land. This led to risk to their lives as they were not provided proper shelter or relief care and in case some of them survived they, over time, became beggars or prostitutes for the need of money. The Supreme Court laid down principles and norms which should be followed by the Government and various agencies dealing with the matter in determining whether a child should be allowed to be adopted by foreign parents.

Pollution of Ganga water

In M. C. Mehta v. Union of India[8], the matter was brought to the notice of the court by the petitioner through public interest litigation. The court said that notwithstanding the comprehensive provisions contained in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act and the Environment Protection Act, no effective steps have been taken to put a stop to the nuisance caused by the industries. The court passed an order to close the Tanneries if they did not take measures to set up a treatment plant.

Ban on smoking in public places

In Murli S. Deora v. Union of India[9], the petitioner filed public interest litigation in the Apex Court seeking to ban smoking in public places. The Court, considering the adverse effect of smoking on smokers and other persons’ directed Central, State Governments and Union Territories to immediately issue orders banning smoking in public places.  

Rights of women

In Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India[10], public interest litigation was filed under Article 32 at the instance of the petitioner to expose the pathetic plight of domestic servants who were subjected to indecent sexual assault by seven army personnel. The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines for rehabilitation and compensation of the working women who are victims of rape.

In Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan[11], the Supreme Court has laid down exhaustive guidelines for preventing sexual harassment of working women in place of their work until legislation is enacted for this purpose.

Pavement dwellers

In Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[12], (popularly known as the pavement dwellers case), the petitioner challenged some sections of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 which empowered Municipal Authorities to remove the huts from the pavement and public places on the ground that their removal amounted to depriving them of their right to livelihood and hence it violated Article 21. The Supreme Court ruled that the word “life” in Article 21 includes the ‘right to livelihood’ also. The court also held that it can be curbed and curtailed by following just and fair procedure. The challenged sections were held constitutionally valid since they imposed reasonable restrictions on the right of livelihood of pavement and slum dwellers in the interest of the general public. The court took a strong footing and mentioned that public streets and spaces are meant for the convenience of the people and are not meant to carry on business or trade.

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Judicial activism is another name for innovative interpretation. In this article Judicial Activism has been explained with help if Case laws.
• Speedy trial: Hussainara Khatoon v. the State of Bihar
• Protection against inhuman treatment in jails: Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration
• Power to award compensation: Rudal Shah v. the State of Bihar
• Custodial death: Nilabati Behera v. the State of Orissa: D. K. Basu v. the State of WB
• Right against handcuffing: In Prem Shankar v. Delhi Administration[6],
• Child Welfare: Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India
• Pollution of Ganga water: M. C. Mehta v. Union of India
• Ban on smoking in public places: Murli S. Deora v. Union of India
• Rights of women: Delhi Domestic Working Women’s Forum v. Union of India; Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan
• Pavement dwellers: Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation


[1] 1979 AIR 1369

[2] 1980 AIR 1579

[3] 1983 AIR 1086

[4] 1993 AIR 1960

[5] 1997 1 SCC 416

[6] 1980 AIR 1535

[7] 1984 AIR 469

[8] 1987 4 SCC 463

[9] (2001) 8 SCC 765

[10] 1995 SCC (1) 14

[11] AIR 1997 SC 3011

[12] 1986 AIR 180