Q1. Constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence is a prerequisite of democracy”. Comment. (10m) – Indian Polity
Independent judiciary is sine qua non for the healthy development of any democracy. Only the independent and impartial judiciary can ensure rule of law and protection of fundamental rights of citizens.
Constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence
- Independence in appointments: Legislature and executive are kept away from the process of appointment of judges. Party politics does not play any part in the appointment process.
- Security of tenure: Judges are ensured of secured terms. They hold the office till reaching the age of retirement. They can be removed only on the grounds and manner prescribed by the constitution. The procedure for removal of judges is complex and difficult. This can be gauged from the fact that no judge has ever been removed.
- Financial security: Finances of the judiciary are kept independent and beyond the executive or legislature control. Salaries and allowances of the judges are not subjected to the vote of Parliament.
- Immunity from personal criticisms: Judges cannot be criticised individually for their actions and decisions. It can penalise those found guilty of Contempt of Court.
- It allows the judges to make judgements without fear or favour.
- It protects them from unfair criticism.
- Conduct of judges cannot be discussed: Parliament cannot discuss the conduct of the judges except when the proceeding to remove a judge is under consideration of the parliament.
- Debarred from practice after retirement: Judges are not allowed to practise or plead before any court or authority within the territory of India. This provision ensures judges act impartially without any expectation of future perks.
Reasons why Constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence as a prerequisite of democracy
- Safeguards against authoritarianism: e.g. Judicial review implicit under A.13, 32, 226 prevents arbitrariness on the part of executive and legislature.
- Protection of fundamental rights: e.g. Through liberal interpretation of A.21, judiciary has deepened the roots of democracy.
- Checks and balances: independent judiciary ensures balance of power among different organs of the state.
- Upholding the spirit of constitutionalism: Independent judiciary upholds the constitutional provisions in letter and spirit and ensures the limited government. E.g. Due process of law and its application in upholding democratic norms
- Transforming society: Only an independent judiciary can ensure impartial and objective interpretation of the constitution to ensure upholding democratic norms. E.g.Nullification of discriminatory practices through judgements such as Navtej singh Johar, etc.
However, mere constitutional provisions on an independent judiciary are not sufficient to ensure democracy. Upholding the constitutional spirit on the part of the executive and legislature is paramount to ensure independent functioning of the judiciary. For instance, timely appointments of judges to fill judicial vacancies, respecting judicial pronouncements in its letter and spirit will ensure upholding democracy.
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