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5.16.2011

The Indian Supreme Court Headlines the WSJ

Today's edition of the Wall Street Journal profiles the Indian Supreme Court under the headline of "In India, the Supreme Court Takes an Activist Role."

As the article notes, however, it is an understatement to call the Indian Supreme Court "activist." It is much more accurate, according to the author, to call it "hyperactivist."

Whether or not one finds normative virtue in a powerful judiciary, it is hard to disagree as a descriptive matter with that characterization of the Indian Supreme Court. Indeed, the current Chief Justice has described the Court as a "superlegislature," as I observed in one of my recent posts.

Why is the Court so involved policy making and governance? According to the author, "there is growing frustration among millions of Indians that the government is failing to crack down on graft, ensure the middle class and poor get their fair share of the fruits of growth, and do away with outdated social strictures." As a result, "the Supreme Court has taken upon itself the task of trying to solve many of those problems."

Interesting. The structure and administration of constitutional government in India engages a number of first principles in constitutional theory, namely the relative institutional competence of courts and legislatures, the strictures and limits of the separation of powers, and the consequences of what Mark Tushnet calls democratic debilitation and of what my fellow blogger Ran Hirschl refers to as juristocracy.

This is an article well worth reading.

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