The Judicial Jeopardy

Judicial independence is the bulwark of the system. It gives life to the words in the constitution.

Douglas Abrams

The Judiciary is considered as one of the pillars which upholds democratic systems in a country. It is the ultimate check on absolute executive power and is the guardian of constitutional values. Without the judiciary, there will be no one left to truly protect the interests of the people of a country.

In India, the people hold a profound faith in the judicial system. Even though it is plagued with various problems; you will still find people lining up outside courts. With the belief that when all else fails, it will provide them justice.

to secure to all its citizens JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

Preamble of the Indian Constitution

In recent years, the Supreme Court has passed judgements which have had huge, positive impacts on the society and country. Judgements like decriminalization of Section 377, ban on Triple Talaq etc. were watershed moments in Indian history. These cases make you think that the judiciary plays a vital role in the progress of the country.

However, there are some serious problems, which if not resolved could ultimately break the system.

Last year, Justice Chelameswar of the Supreme Court wrote a letter which highlighted the vices of our judicial system. It is an undeniable fact that after this particular incident, the people became disillusioned with the ‘bulwark of the system.’

Political influence is one of the main issues which was highlighted in the letter. ‘Judges are human beings, they are no divine creatures.’ Ruling parties try to appoint or favor those judges who have a track record of giving judgements in alignment with the party’s ideology. This was visible in the fiasco when Justice KM Joseph was obstructed from being appointed to the Supreme Court by the government.

It is imperative that our justice system does not get influenced from political parties. The core of justice is impartiality and objectivity. A subjective and partial judiciary will harm the country more than corruption ever did. It could make irreparable damages to the country.

This brings us to the appointment of Judges to the Supreme Court. Presently, judges are appointed through the collegium system. The collegium is a body consisting of the Chief Justice of India and four of the most senior judges in the Supreme Court. They give their recommendations of lawyers and High court judges to the central government who it feels should be appointed as judges.

However, the problem with this system is that in a democratic setup like India. The judges are appointing judges to the apex judicial body. This gives rise to nepotism as well as personal patronage within the system. In 2009, the Law commission of India confirmed this problem with the system. If we look at the current justices, many have had some kind of personal relationship with previous supreme court justices. (Father-son relationships are quite common)

Apart from the problems mentioned in the letter. Recently the office of the Chief Justice has come under fire. The Chief Justice himself has been accused of harassment by a staff of the Supreme Court.

The issue has divided the country. Some say that the accusations are an attempt at bringing down the Supreme Court and the judicial system. Others say that the case has to be treated the same way as all other cases, with the due process of law.

Article 14 of the Constitution of India gives us the, ‘Rule of law.’ The principle of rule of law states that each and every single person will be treated equally without any kind of discrimination, i.e. no one is above the law. It (rule of law) is one of the primary indicators of the existence of a true democracy in any country.

While many argue that the accusations are part of a conspiracy to bring down the judiciary. As well as, should every single accusation be investigated against someone like the Chief Justice?

According to me, it’s in the positive. If the accuser is following all the procedures and files a formal complaint against the chief justice then even he has to be investigated. If the claims being made hold no credibility, then the committee will acquit the CJI. What sparks controversy even more, is his involvement in these procedures in his capacity as the Chief justice. As the head of the ‘bulwark‘ of the system, he should allow law to take its due course. Otherwise, people will lose faith in the judiciary.

It is crystal clear that the judiciary needs to undergo reforms. An alternative system for appointment of judges has to be adopted at the earliest to erase the perception of nepotism in the system. Political influence has to be severed if we wish to preserve the democratic nature of our country. Our country is facing far too many pressing issues which require the justice system to be at its maximum.

Priyamvad Rai


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