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Expanding Judiciaries: India and the Rise of the Good Governance Court

70 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2008 Last revised: 23 Dec 2014

Nick Robinson

Yale Law School; Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession; Center for Policy Research (India)

Date Written: April 9, 2012


The Indian Supreme Court has rightly been pointed to as an example of a global trend in the increase in the power of courts. This article argues that it is the mandate for a controlled revolution laid out in the Indian Constitution, combined with the shortcomings of India's representative institutions and the Supreme Court’s relatively unique institutional structure, which has led the Court to enlarge its role. The article examines the Court’s basic structure doctrine and right to life jurisprudence, which exemplify this expanded mission, and argues that the Court justified this jurisprudence not only with a wide reading of the Indian Constitution, but also with an appeal to broad, almost metaphysical, principles of civilization or good governance. The Court's interventions have not been without critics (who raise accountability, capacity, competency, and constitutional legitimacy concerns), but the Court’s wide-reaching jurisprudence has proved remarkably stable. The article finishes by examining parallel interventions in other parts of the world that suggest India's experience is part of and helps explain a larger global phenomenon of the rise of rule through good governance courts.

Keywords: Indian Supreme Court, comparative law, public interest litigation, basic structure doctrine, Pakistan Supreme Court, Thailand, controlled revolution

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Nick, Expanding Judiciaries: India and the Rise of the Good Governance Court (April 9, 2012). 8 Wash. U. Global Stud. L. Rev. 1 (2009). Available at SSRN: or

Nick Robinson (Contact Author)

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Center for Policy Research (India) ( email )

Dharma Marg
New Delhi, 110022

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