BACKDROP OF THE EVENT
The independence of the Indian judiciary is of paramount importance for the functioning of a vibrant democracy. It ensures that the judiciary remains free from any external influence or interference, allowing it to dispense justice impartially and without fear or favor. The judiciary acts as a check on the powers of the executive and legislature, safeguarding individual rights and upholding the rule of law.
An independent judiciary inspires public confidence, enhances transparency, and maintains social harmony. It provides a level playing field for all citizens, irrespective of their status, and serves as a crucial pillar in protecting the democratic values and principles upon which India’s constitutional framework is built. Judicial independence is one of the most important tenets of any democracy since it ensures that the judges are unbiased and deliver reasoned judgments.
Recently, Supreme Court judge Justice B.V Naghrathna addressed an assembly at the launch of a book titled “Constitutional Ideals” compiled by a group called DAKSH. She talked about the importance of judicial independence which is a founding pillar of the Indian constitutional scheme. She emphasized that there must be mutual respect between the judiciary and legislature in terms of the fact that the legislature must not undermine by questioning the view expressed in the judgments and the judges must not question the rationale behind the formation of a statute unless either of them stand in contravention with the law.
DOCTRINE OF INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY IN THE INDIAN SCENARIO AND ITS EVOLUTION
The doctrine of the independence of the judiciary plays a significant role in the Indian scenario and has undergone a remarkable evolution over the years. In India, the judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and the protector of individual rights. The doctrine of judicial independence ensures that the judiciary functions free from any external influence, be it from the executive, legislature, or other powerful entities.
In the early years of independence, the Indian judiciary faced challenges in establishing its independence. However, through landmark judgments and the unwavering commitment of judges, it gradually gained recognition as an independent institution. The Supreme Court of India, as the apex judicial body, has been instrumental in upholding the principle of judicial independence. One of the key developments in the evolution of the independence of the judiciary in India was the establishment of the collegium system for the appointment and transfer of judges.
This system, introduced through judicial interpretation, aimed to insulate the judiciary from political interference by giving judges a significant say in the appointment process. Additionally, the judiciary has demonstrated its independence by asserting itself in matters of public interest and ensuring accountability of the government. It has actively engaged in the interpretation and enforcement of fundamental rights, often taking suo moto action to address issues affecting citizens’ rights and welfare. Furthermore, public interest litigation (PIL) has emerged as a powerful tool for citizens to seek justice and hold authorities accountable.
PIL allows individuals or organizations to approach the courts on behalf of marginalized groups or for the betterment of society at large, ensuring access to justice and promoting judicial activism. Despite these advancements, challenges to the independence of the judiciary persist. The increasing workload, vacancies, and delays in the judicial system pose significant hurdles. Furthermore, concerns have been raised regarding the executive’s influence in the appointment process and the need for more transparency in judicial proceedings.
IMPEDIMENTS TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY IN INDIA
While the independence of the judiciary in India is a crucial aspect of a functioning democracy, it faces several impediments that threaten its autonomy and effectiveness. One significant impediment is the issue of judicial appointments and transfers. The process of appointing judges has been a subject of debate, with concerns raised about executive interference and lack of transparency. The executive’s role in selecting and transferring judges can potentially undermine the independence of the judiciary and compromise the impartiality of the appointments.
Another challenge lies in the mounting backlog of cases and the slow pace of justice delivery. The judiciary in India is burdened with a substantial number of pending cases, leading to delays and denial of justice. This overload not only hampers the judiciary’s ability to dispense timely justice but also erodes public confidence in the judicial system. Financial constraints also pose a hurdle to the independence of the judiciary. Insufficient allocation of funds can impact the infrastructure, technology, and capacity-building initiatives required for an efficient and effective judiciary.
Limited resources may hinder the judiciary’s ability to function independently and deliver justice promptly. Furthermore, the issue of vacancies in the judiciary has been a longstanding concern. Vacancies in high courts and lower courts lead to increased workloads for the existing judges, leading to delays in the disposal of cases. The inadequate number of judges affects the quality and efficiency of justice delivery and undermines the independence of the judiciary. Lastly, external pressures and interference from powerful entities can pose a threat to the independence of the judiciary.
Influential individuals or groups may attempt to influence judicial decisions through political or financial means, undermining the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Addressing these impediments requires comprehensive reforms. Ensuring a transparent and merit-based appointment process, reducing the backlog of cases through increased judicial efficiency, providing adequate funding and resources, and safeguarding the judiciary from external influences are crucial steps. Strengthening the independence of the judiciary will not only enhance public trust in the judicial system but also uphold the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law in India.
THE WAY FORWARD
In conclusion, the doctrine of the independence of the judiciary in India has evolved, with the judiciary playing a pivotal role in upholding the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Its independence ensures that the judiciary remains impartial, protects individual rights, and acts as a check on the powers of the other branches of government. However, continuous efforts are needed to strengthen and preserve judicial independence, addressing the challenges that arise and upholding the trust and confidence of the people in the judiciary.