Undermining Justice

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express and TOI

Relevance: To understand the collegium system and Tribunals.

Synopsis: Indian judiciary has come a long way from the decade of ’70s where politics began to influence the Judiciary. With the arrival of tribunals, further Judicial reforms were expected. However, Judiciary is facing numerous problems.

Judicial appointments and collegium system:
  • Initially, the judiciary was free and without much political interference. However, this changed in the ’70s when politics influenced the appointments of Judges. This came to be tested in the ADM Jabalpur case.
  • Though Art 124(2) and 217 provided for the executive role in appointment, it was felt that the executive breached separation of powers by interfering in appointments.
  • In 1982, S P Gupta case, SC gave its approval for supremacy of Government in judicial appointments. This 5 Judge Bench decision was overturned by 9 Judge Bench, which interpreted that consultation with CJI accorded primacy to Judiciary in judicial appointments.
  • This was resented by Governments and in 2014 NJAC Act was introduced to strike a balance. But, this was struck down by the judiciary for violation of the Separation of powers.

Click here to read about Collegium System 

Issues with the collegium system:
  • There have been instances of Nepotism with person links to Judges appointed as Judges in high courts.
  • There are instances where the inferior persons against the All India Seniority of High court judges were appointed to SC.

Tribunals

  • Tribunals, a quasi-judicial body, are aimed at quicker resolution of disputes following the process of natural justice. Many domain-specific tribunals were set following LPG reforms after HCs faced difficulty in the disposal of specialized matters.
Issues with tribunals:
  • Tribunals are now facing governance problems because of issues and deadlock between SC and GOI. For instance, The SC judges who head statutory selection committees for tribunal vacancies have decided to stop working until 100 recommendations made since 2017 are appointed.
  • The jurisdiction of high courts is being exercised by tribunals. Failures to adjudicate or dispose of cases amount to the denial of justice.
  • Recent moves give greater control to the executive over tenure, emoluments and conditions of service, and the functioning of tribunals.
  • The Memorandum of Procedure,  which was meant to guide the post-NJAC collegium in judicial appointments remains in limbo.
  • Pandemic further impacted High Courts. As their disposals crashed by 53% and pendency swelled by 4 Lakh cases.
  • The government has further made them dysfunctional through a large number of vacancies.
  • The government has been reluctant to appoint a national body for overseeing the appointments to tribunals.
Way forward:
  • The ease of doing business experience depends on the speed of disposal of litigation and the quality of justice. So the government and the Judiciary has to function together for the welfare of the public.
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