The framers of the Indian Constitution at the time of framing of our constitution were concerned about the kind of judiciary our country should have. This concern of the members of the constituent assembly was responded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the following words:
“There can be no difference of opinion in the House that our judiciary must be both independent of the executive and must also be competent in itself. And the question is how these two objects can be secured“.
The question that arises at first instance in our minds is that what made the framers of our constitution to be so much concerned about providing the separate entity to the judiciary and making it self competent.
The answer to this question lies in the very basic understanding that so as to secure the stability and prosperity of the society, the framers at that time understood that such a society could be created only by guaranteeing the fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary to guard and enforce those fundamental rights. Also in a country like India, the independence of the judiciary is of utmost importance in upholding the pillars of the democratic system hence ensuring a free society.
It is a well-known fact that the independence of the judiciary is the basic requisite for ensuring a free and fair society under the rule of law. Rule of law that is responsible for good governance of the country can be secured through unbiased judiciary.
The doctrine of Separation of Powers which was brought into existence to draw upon the boundaries for the functioning of all the three organs of the state: Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary, provides for a responsibility to the judiciary to act as a watchdog and to check whether the executive and the legislature are functioning within their limits under the constitution and not interfering in each others functioning. This task given to the judiciary to supervise the doctrine of separation of powers cannot be carried on in true spirit if the judiciary is not independent in itself. An independent judiciary supports the base of doctrine of separation of powers to a large extent.
It is theoretically very easy to talk about the independence of the judiciary as for which the provisions are provided for in our constitution but these provisions introduced by the framers of our constitution can only initiate towards the independence of the judiciary. The major task lies in creating a favorable environment for the functioning of the judiciary in which all the other state organs functions in cooperation so that the independence of the judiciary can be achieved practically. The independence of the judiciary has also to be guarded against the changing economic, political and social scenario.
Whenever there is a talk regarding the independence of the judiciary, there is also a talk of the restrictions that must be imposed on the judiciary as an institution and on the individual judges that forms a part of the judiciary. In order to ensure smooth functioning of the system there must be a right blend of the two.
MEANING – THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
The meaning of the independence of the judiciary is still not clear after years of its existence. Our constitution by the way of the provisions just talks of the independence of the judiciary but it is no where defined what actually is the independence of the judiciary.
The primary talk on the independence of the judiciary is based on the doctrine of separation of powers which holds its existence from several years. The doctrine of separation of powers talks of the independence of the judiciary as an institution from the executive and the legislature.
The other meaning of the judicial independence can be found out by looking at the writings of the scholars who have researched on the topic. Scholars have followed the “constituent mechanism” (i.e. what constitutes the judiciary) to define the independence of the judiciary. Scholars try to define judiciary by talking about the independence of the judges which constitutes judiciary. Therefore the independence of the judiciary is the independence of the exercise of the functions by the judges in an unbiased manner i.e. free from any external factor.
So the independence of the judiciary can be understood as the independence of the institution of the judiciary and also the independence of the judges which forms a part of the judiciary.
Shetreet in his work tries to explain the words “Independence” and “Judiciary” separately, and says that the judiciary is “the organ of the government not forming a part of the executive or the legislative, which is not subject to personal, substantive and collective control, and which performs the primary function of adjudication”.
The final outcome that can be derived from Shetreet’s writings is that the independence of the judiciary as an institution and the independence of the individual judges both have to go hand in hand as the independence of the judiciary as an institution is not possible without the independence of the individual judges and is the institution of the judiciary is not independent, there is no question of the independence of the individual judges.
NEED FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
The basic need for the independence of the judiciary rests upon the following points:
- To check the functioning of the organs: Judiciary acts as a watchdog by ensuring that all the organs of the state function within their respective areas and according to the provisions of the constitution. Judiciary acts as a guardian of the constitution and also aids in securing the doctrine of separation of powers.
- Interpreting the provisions of the constitution: It was well known to the framers of the constitution that in future the ambiguity will arise with the provisions of the constitution so they ensured that the judiciary must be independent and self-competent to interpret the provision of the constitution in such a way to clear the ambiguity but such an interpretation must be unbiased i.e. free from any pressure from any organs like executive. If the judiciary is not independent, the other organs may pressurize the judiciary to interpret the provision of the constitution according to them. Judiciary is given the job to interpret the constitution according to the constitutional philosophy and the constitutional norms.
- Disputes referred to the judiciary: It is expected of the Judiciary to deliver judicial justice and not partial or committed justice. By committed justice we mean to say that when a judge emphasizes on a particular aspect while giving justice and not considering all the aspects involved in a particular situation. Similarly judiciary must act in an unbiased manner.
COMPONENTS – THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
The components of the independence of the judiciary as talked of here refers to some of the requisite terms and conditions which are so necessary that if they are absent, the independence of the judiciary also cannot exist.
It is very difficult to lay down certain set conditions as law is dynamic in itself and of the changing economic, political and social scenario.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS –
THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
Many provisions are provided in our constitution to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The constitutional provisions are discussed below:
- Security of Tenure:The judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have been given the security of the tenure. Once appointed, they continue to remain in office till they reach the age of retirement which is 65 years in the case of judges of Supreme Court (Art. 124(2)) and 62 years in the case of judges of the High Courts (Art. 217(1)). They cannot be removed from the office except by an order of the President and that too on the ground of proven misbehavior and incapacity. A resolution has also to be accepted to that effect by a majority of total membership of each House of Parliament and also by a majority of no less than two third of the members of the house present and voting. Procedure is so complicated that there has been no case of the removal of a Judge of Supreme Court or High Court under this provision.
- Salaries and Allowances:The salaries and allowances of the judges is also a factor which makes the judges independent as their salaries and allowances are fixed and are not subject to a vote of the legislature. They are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India in case of Supreme Court judges and the Consolidated Fund of state in the case of High Court judges. Their emoluments cannot be altered to their disadvantage (Art. 125(2)) except in the event of grave financial emergency.
- Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court: Parliament can only add to the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court but cannot curtail them. In the civil cases, Parliament may change the pecuniary limit for the appeals to the Supreme Court. Parliament may enhance the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It may confer the supplementary powers on the Supreme Court to enable it work more effectively. It may confer power to issue directions, orders or writs for any purpose other than those mentioned in Art. 32. Powers of the Supreme Court cannot be taken away. Making judiciary independent.
- No discussion on conduct of Judge in State Legislature / Parliament: Art. 211 provides that there shall be no discussion in the legislature of the state with respect to the conduct of any judge of Supreme Court or of a High Court in the discharge of his duties. A similar provision is made in Art. 121 which lays down that no discussion shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of the judge of Supreme Court or High Court in the discharge of his duties except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the judge.
- Power to punish for contempt: Both the Supreme Court and the High Court have the power to punish any person for their contempt. Art. 129 provides that the Supreme Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself. Likewise, Art. 215 lays down that every High Court shall have the power to punish for contempt of itself.
- Separation of the Judiciary from the Executive: Art. 50 contains one of the Directive Principles of State Policy and lays down that the state shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the state. The object behind the Directive Principle is to secure the independence of the judiciary from the executive. Art. 50 says that there shall be a separate judicial service free from executive control.
The independence of the judiciary as is clear from the above discussion hold a prominent position as far as the institution of judiciary is concerned. It is clear from the historical overview that judicial independence has faced many obstacles in the past specially in relation to the appointment and the transfer of judges. Courts have always tried to uphold the independence of judiciary and have always said that the independence of the judiciary is a basic feature of the Constitution. Courts have said so because the independence of judiciary is the pre-requisite for the smooth functioning of the Constitution and for a realization of a democratic society based on the rule of law. The interpretation in the Judges Case giving primacy to the executive, as we have discussed has led to the appointment of at least some Judges against the opinion of the Chief Justice of India. The decision of the Judges Case was could never have been intended by the framers of the Constitution as they always set the task of keeping judiciary free from executive and making it self-competent. The decision of the Second Judges Case and the Third Judges Case is a praiseworthy step by the Court in this regard.
There is a saying that “‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”
- Lord Acton
Whenever there is a mention of the independence of the judiciary, there is always a concern about the latent dangers of the judicial independence and there arises the importance of “Judicial Accountability”. The recent development in this regard is the recommendation of the Law Commission for the inclusion of a whistleblower provision, aimed at protecting those making complaints against judges, in a draft bill dealing with the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. Introduction of such a bill by the Law Commission is a major step in the direction of making changes to the rigid procedure in our constitution for the removing of the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
The final outcome of the above discussion is that the importance of the independence of the judiciary was long ago realized by the framers of the constitution which has been accepted by the courts by marking it as the basic feature of the constitution. It is well known law has to change so as to meet to the needs of the changing society. Similarly judicial independence has to be seen with the changing dimension of the society. Judicial Accountability and Judicial Independence have to work hand in hand to ensure the real purpose of setting up of the institution of judiciary.