JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN INDIA

“Power tends to Corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” the words of  British moralist Lord Acton have over the years proved to be an inescapable truth for all,  even the high white halls  of the courts have always had their pillars stained, the problem has aggravated today because today there is no one to clean up the mess and the officers of the court refuse to get their hands dirty. seems to vanish.

Montesque foresaw the dangers of concentration of the state’s power in one organ and thus propagated the theory of “” the theory along with insisting on clear demarcation and distribution of  the sovereign powers. The framers of the Indian taking cognizance of undeniable foresight  of the theory incorporated its principles in our and ordained a system of checks and balance to further bolster  the democratic structure of our polity.

The function of the Legislature was to legislate the will of the people into law, with the Judiciary over its shoulder making sure that the legislature follows the straight and narrow path of constitutionality, the executives powers were regulated through governing enactment which limited the  executive powers of the executive along with the ever present judiciary. The judiciary the final arbitrator and interpreter of law, was to be the guardian of Liberty and the executor of Justice  its power limited to interpreting the legislative intent and defining the borders of the above mentioned straight and narrow.

JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN INDIA

Further as the Judiciary was tasked with preserving the bedrock of society measures were taken to ensure that its integrity remains unquestionable :

  1. Security of Tenure: The judges of the Supreme Court have security of tenure and they cannot remove from office except by an order of the President by adopting the set procedure laid down in the constitution.
  2. Salary of Judges fixed not subject to vote of Legislature: The salary and allowances of the judges of the Supreme Court are fixed by the constitution and being paid from Consolidated Fund of India. Salary cannot be altered.
  3. Parliament can extend but cannot curtail the jurisdiction and power of the Supreme Court: To work more effectively the Parliament may enhance the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in civil cases, here the point to be noted that in all the provisions the Parliament can exceed, but cannot curtail the jurisdiction and power of the Supreme Court under article 138.
  4. No discussion in Legislature on the conduct of Judges: Neither in Parliament nor in a State Legislature a discussion can take place with respect to the conduct of a judge of the Supreme Court in discharge of his duties under Article 121.
  5. Power to punish for its contempt: The supreme Court and the High Court have the power to punish any person for its contempt under Article 129 and 215, this power is very essential for maintaining the impartiality and of the Judiciary.
  6. Separation of judiciary from executive: States have been directed by the constitution through Article 50 to take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the interest of public service of the State
  7. Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Executive with the consultation of Legal experts: Executive cannot appoint the Judges without the consultation of the Judges of the Supreme Court as provided in Art. 124(2).
  8. Prohibition on practice after retirement: Under Article 124(7) of the constitution a retired Judge of the supreme Court is prohibited to appear and plead in any court or before any authority within the territory of India.

The above mentioned provisions does their job of securing the Independence quite well, actually it does its job too well, so well that the judicial accountability has today become of no value and judiciary has turned as an autonomous ruler who is answerable to no one but itself .

Not only it becomes an authoritarian but also a totalitarian usurping power from the other organ, In 1973 the in Keshvanand Bharti vs Union of India curtailed the supreme Amending power of the Legislature making certain provision  constituting the “Basic Structure” of the constitution inalienable and what exactly forms part of this basic structure is again left open to the court’s interpretation.

JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN INDIA

Again in the famous case of  Vishakha vs State of Rajasthan (1997) the court leaped out of its constitutional boundaries of interpretation and performed the function of legislature laying down guidelines in absence of governing laws in the name of Justice which though well intentioned set a dangerous precedent.

The courts through inventive interpretations has become a self-appointing autocrat with the process thereof completely opaque,  with nothing set in stone and being left to the consortium of judges calling themselves the collegium.

And finally the process of removal of judges called as impeachment being extremely cumbersome and politically charged has led to there being zero successful impeachments in the 70+ years of History of modern India, meaning either the entire Judicial system has established itself as an unprecedented paragons of virtue free from any substantial flaw or their being a fundamental deep rooted flaw within it, balance of possibility and probability both points towards the latter.

At this juncture judicial accountability becomes a sine qua non of future of Indian Democracy. Transparency in the system, recognition of constitutional responsibilities, imposition of self-restrains and honest introspection are the need of the hour to save this great institution of Justice.  

For if this hegemony of the judicial class is not broken the masses will lose faith in the judicial system and become helpless. Hence, Judicial Accountability is the need of the hour.

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