Since the establishment of the democratic form of government in the world, there has been an issue of debate worldwide that the judiciary should be independent. The independence of the judiciary was not given much thought in ancient times, and monarchs had administrative, legislative, and judicial powers. The origin of this concept can be traced back to Montesquieu’s emphasis on the judiciary’s independence. The independence of the judiciary is the sine qua non in all democratic countries. Independence of the judiciary means that it should not be subordinate to any other organ or branch. The judiciary should be free from all pressure and pulls, both internal and external. Judicial independence ensures that the judiciary has high credibility and trust among the public and that justice will be served despite any opposition or interference. To maintain the balance between private and societal interests, an independent court is essential.
IMPORTANCE OF INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY
In a federal Constitution, disagreements between the Centre and the State about their respective powers may develop; as a result, an independent and impartial authority must be established to address such disagreements between the Centre and the State or the State inter se, as well as, to resolve the disputes arising among individuals in the society. This function can solely be delegated to a judicial body. The independence of the judiciary is considered essential in all democratic countries to defend people’s fundamental rights. As a result, the court is seen as the defender of people’s rights and freedom as well as the Constitution. Only an impartial and independent judiciary can safeguard the rights of the individual and provide equitable justice without fear of retaliation.
WAYS TO SECURE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDICIARY
- Security of tenure: For the independence of the judiciary, judges must have the security of tenure, and the government should not be able to remove them at will. Because judges will not make decisions that go against the administration if they are always afraid of being removed from office. Judges in India have a fixed tenure. They hold their office until they reach the age of retirement. The Constitution provides a quite cumbersome procedure for removing judges. They can only be removed if there is evidence of wrongdoing or incapacity. The method for removing Supreme Court judges is outlined in Article 124(4) of India’s Constitution.
- Salary and allowances: In order to make judges independent, they should be paid adequately so that they can maintain a good quality of life and not engage in corrupt practices. Capable people will be drawn to this career if they are suitably compensated. The judiciary in India is not financially dependent on either executive or legislature. The Constitution establishes the salaries and allowances of Supreme Court judges, which are charged to the Consolidated Fund of India. Except in extreme financial hardship, these salaries and allowances cannot be changed.
- Power to punish for its contempt: The action and decision of the judges are immune from criticism and the judiciary has the power to penalize those who are found guilty of contempt of court. The Supreme Court and the High Court both have the authority to punish anyone who defies them. [Article 129 and 215].
- Separation of judiciary from executive: The judiciary needs to be free of executive authority for it to be independent. Article 50 of the Indian Constitution makes it clear that the judiciary and the executive must be kept distinct so that judges can make decisions without fear of political repercussions.
- No practice after retirement: Judges of the Supreme Court and High Court receive good pensions and they are not permitted to act as lawyers after their retirement. The Indian Constitution forbids retired Supreme Court judges from appearing in any court or before any authority within India, according to Article 124(7). Such provision is made so that the judges do not favor anyone in the hope of future favor.
IS THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY IN INDIA IN JEOPARDY?
An independent and efficient judicial system has been recognized as a part of the basic structure of our Constitution. But there have been various factors affecting the independence of the judiciary such as:
- Influence of political parties
- Influence of executive and legislature
- Non-transparency in the appointment of judges
- Dominating environment created by powerful entities
There have been numerous instances where the court has faced criticism for imparting judgments that specifically were assumed to have a political interest. For instance, in 2018, the Supreme Court cleared the Narendra Modi government of claims of irregularities in India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The Supreme Court Crisis of 2018 was another incident in which the independence of the court was threatened. The Supreme Court of India was in disarray after the Supreme Court judges Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur, and Kurian Joseph gave a press conference in which they accused the Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra of allocating politically controversial cases to such benches that gave favorable rulings towards a political party.
When it comes to the institution of the court, the independence of the judiciary takes center stage. It ensures that judges make decisions based on facts and laws fairly and impartially. There have been many instances when highly influential cases are given more priority than the cases which are of social cause and are truly crucial to be heard. This may be happening because of the low strength of the judiciary. Increasing the strength of the judiciary can help in solving genuinely urgent cases. The Independent judiciary is a lynchpin of democracy for a country like India and acts as a final vanguard for establishing constitutional supremacy and ensuring social, economic, and political fairness for all the citizens. Judges should be stern, uncompromising, and unyielding in the face of economic or political power, and they must preserve the core principle of the rule of law which says– “Be you ever so high, the law is above you.”
Author(s) Name: Anshi Singh (Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University, Gorakhpur)