|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss how an independent judiciary provides checks and balances.
Conclusion. Way forward.
Independence of the judiciary means a fair and neutral judicial system of a country, which can take its decision without any interference of the executive or legislative branch of government. Judicial Independence is guaranteed in the constitution and cemented as part of ‘Basic Structure of Constitution’ by the Kesavananda Bharati (1973) Judgement. The Judiciary keeps in check the executive and Legislature in accordance with the ‘principle of separation of powers’ derived from Article 13.
Independent- provides checks and balances in a political democracy:
- Accountability to the people:Judicial independence is very important to uphold the democratic principle of accountability. It helps to keep the executive and legislature accountable to the people through judicial review and judicial activism.
- Constitution interpretation: A written constitution can hardly be effective in practice without an independent and impartial arbiter of constitutional issues and also that it is necessary to restrain governmental organs from exercising powers which may not be sanctioned by the Constitution. The written constitution is considered as the basic law of land and requires some authority to interpret it without prejudice and self-interest.
- Rule of law: For the maintenance of the rule of law and fair judicial administration, an independent judiciary is of utmost importance. The job of the judiciary is to interpret the Constitution and laws and make sure the executive and legislature are making decisions based on the Constitution and laws.
- Protection of individual rights: Only an impartial and independent judiciary can protect the rights of the individual and can provide equal justice without fear and favour.
- Prevent arbitrary acts: Independent judiciary plays an important role in controlling the arbitrary acts of the administration. If the arbitrary act of the administration causes injury to any person, it provides relief to them.
- Prevent autocracy: Judicial independence is important for that a democracy does not transform itself into an autocracy. Without an independent judiciary, we will have dictatorship, as the executive will be able to do whatever it likes.
- Free and fair elections:Independent judiciary ensures universal adult franchise as enumerated in constitution. The judiciary’s role in deciding the validity of presidential, vice-presidential, parliamentary and state legislative elections also necessitates independence of the judiciary.
Issues that impact judicial independence:
- Lack of transparency in judge’s appointment: India’s judges have been appointed by a “Collegium” of judges. Collegium considers the opinion of the executive government when appointing judges, but the final decision about who to appoint rests with the judiciary. Their decisions are taken behind closed doors, and the opacity of the process has been a long-standing issue.
- Case-allocation procedures: There is opacity in internal workings of the Court that impact independent decision-making. Usually, the Chief Justice of India, as the senior-most judge of the Court, decides the allocation of certain cases to judges and benches of judges. Some judges, on occasion, have spoken out publicly on the opaqueness and case allocation procedures of the Supreme Court. Criticisms point to many issues with the procedure, which included the allocation of politically sensitive cases to favourable judges.
- Political favouritism: Often, judges who have favours or relationships with senior judges of the Supreme Court or the Executive get promoted to or appointed to more favourable positions.
- Judicial overreach: Since there is no system of checks on the Supreme Court, it can interfere with the purview of the legislature and judiciary.
Independence of the judiciary is one of the basic structures of the Indian Constitution. In S.P. Gupta v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the concept of independence of the judiciary is a notable concept which inspires the constitutional scheme and constitutes the foundation on which the edifice of our democratic polity rests. It is the judiciary which is entrusted with the task of keeping every organ of the state within the limits of the law thereby making the rule of law meaningful and effective.