Does Indian Judiciary need a health checkup?
Does Indian Judiciary need a health checkup?Sometime back the Supreme Court struck down an Act which amended the Constitution for the formation of an independent commission, called the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) to replace the collegium system of appointment of judges. The Act had received the Presidential Assent. The reason to shoot down the Act was the presence of executive members in the NJAC which violated the independence of the judiciary. On the face of it, the Supreme Court’s response looks very justified. But few factions in the society are mulling over the thought of whether the judiciary wants reforms or not. Many have voiced their concerns over the fact that there needs to be reform in the judiciary but nothing seems to be getting done. On this backdrop it would be pertinent to discuss whether Indian Judiciary has remained strong and healthy enough throughout so many years.
Yes. It is not healthy and needs reforms –
1. The judicial system is no less corrupt than any other institution of the government. There have been many allegations of the judiciary misusing its official position for personal gain.
2. Also the legal system has no self-correcting mechanism. Judges can’t judge their colleagues objectively and in the unlikely event of any judge being found guilty, the impeachment process is complex and difficult.
3. The number of cases is piling with no end to it. Cases are not getting disposed off quickly. Many lawyers intentionally make use of legal loopholes to prolong the trials.
4. Many under-trials are languishing in the jails pending trials.
5. The cost of justice is rising too. The poor cannot afford to get involved in court cases.
6. The legal technicalities sometimes are baffling to the common man.
7. No reforms are taking place. Indian judiciary has a self-regulating mechanism. Thus it should be easy to undertake changes. But nothing seems to be done. With the recent striking down of the NJAC Act, reforms are looking distant.
8. Judges appoint other judges. This can lead to opaqueness in appointments. The collegium system is one such example which has attracted criticisms from many.
9. Some have even criticized the power of contempt of the court as a tool to suppress public criticism.
No, it is healthy and needs no reforms –
1. Since independence till now, the only institute which has been performing consistently is the Indian Judiciary. And that is the reason why the eyes of the people always look with awe and respect towards it.
2. There have been allegations of corruption against personnel of the judiciary, but no government has ever initiated any major reforms for the lower class of employees in the judiciary. This shows that whatever concerns all have are regarding higher judiciary and that too in the appointments of the judges.
3. In case of appointments of judges, inclusion of executive opens the process to executive influence and possible avenues of corruption. Apart from violating the independence of judiciary there are chances of pressure from the government and other quarters which were till now barred from interference into the judiciary.
4. Impeachment process has been made complex and difficult so as to preserve the independence of the judiciary. If it had not been complex, the executive and the legislature will have a field day and judiciary would become just another puppet in the hands of them.
5. In so many years since independence, only two incidences of impeachment have been noted and that too have not been successful. In the latest case, the judiciary to protect its reputation made the guilty judge to resign. This shows that the judiciary takes such matters seriously to protect the institution.
6. The courts are the ultimate dispenser of justice for the common man, barring the President who can reverse even the Supreme Court's decision. Such a great institution has to be respected and protected from slander and meaningless criticisms which we can generally see in politics. The power of contempt attempts to do so. It also keeps all in line and makes sure that its decisions are carried out. Till today not many major incidences have been noted of misuse of the power of contempt of court.
Looking at the above points, we can say that though the points have merit, there is no doubt that the judiciary has always been there for the people; for e.g. during the times of emergency, the PILs, crackdown on the authoritative attitude of the executive and legislature, etc. Indian judiciary and its independence have served the nation well. Though there are minor areas where reforms are necessary but no step should be taken to encroach on its independence.
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