Judicial review is the power of the Supreme Court to examine the constitutionality of legislative enactments and executive orders of both the Central and state governments. On examination, if they are found to be violative of the Constitution (ultra-vires), they can be declared as illegal, unconstitutional and invalid (null and void) by the Supreme Court. Consequently, they cannot be enforced by the Government.
The Supreme Court used the power of judicial review in various cases, as for example, the Golaknath case (1967), the Bank Nationalisat-ion case (1970), the Privy Purses Abolition case (1971), the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), the Minerva Mills case (1980) and so on. Though the phrase ‘Judicial Review’ has nowhere been used in the Constitution, the provisions of several articles explicitly confer the power of judicial review on the Supreme Court. The constitutional validity of a legislative enactment or an executive order can be challenged in the Supreme Court on the following three grounds:
- It infringes the Fundamental Rights (Part III),
- It is outside the competence of the authority which has framed it, and
- It is repugnant to the constitutional provisions.
From the above, it is clear that the scope of judicial review in India is narrower than that of what exists in USA, though the American Constitution does not explicitly mention the concept of judicial review in any of its provisions. This is because, the American Constitution provides for ‘due process of law’ against that of ‘procedure established by law’ which is contained in the Indian Constitution. The difference between the two is : ‘The due process of law gives wide scope to the Supreme Court to grant protection to the rights of its citizens. It can declare laws violative of these rights void not only on substantive grounds of being unlawful, but also on procedural grounds of being unreasonable. Our Supreme Court, while determining the constitutionality of a law, however examines only the substantive question i.e., whether the law is within the powers of the authority concerned or not. It is not expected to go into the question of its reasonableness, suitability or policy implications.’