The question "Constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence is a prerequisite of democracy”. Comment. was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 2. Let us look at the model answer to this question.
Answer: The concept of an independent judiciary is a fundamental pillar of democracy. It allows courts and judges to execute their responsibilities free from external influences. This principle plays a pivotal role in preserving the rule of law. It also safeguards the rights and freedom of individuals. This is essential for preserving the essence of democracy within a nation.
Constitutionally Guaranteed Judicial Independence
- Security of Tenure: Judges hold office until the age of 65 for Supreme Court judges (Art. 124(2)) and 62 for High Court judges (Art. 217(1)).
- Removal of Judges: Supreme Court and High Court Judges can only be removed by a process of impeachment for proven misbehavior or incapacity as given under Article 124(4).
- Salaries and Allowances of Judges: Judges enjoy independence as their salaries, allowances, and pensions are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
- Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court: Parliament may expand the powers and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but cannot diminish them.
- Power to Punish for Contempt: Article 129 empowers the Supreme Court to punish for contempt of itself, while Art. 215 grants every High Court the same power for contempt of itself.
- Separation of the Judiciary from the Executive: Article 50 mandates that the state must take measures to separate the judiciary from the executive in public services of the state.
Constitutionally Guaranteed Judicial Independence Is a Prerequisite of Democracy
- Ensuring Accountability and Good Governance: Constitutionally guaranteed security of tenure imparts judicial independence that acts as a check on the executive and legislature. Independent judiciary confidently promotes good governance, without fear or fervour, by ensuring that government actions align with constitutional principles.
- Interpretation of the Constitution: An independent judiciary is essential to serve as the final authority in constitutional matters, ensuring that the Constitution is upheld as the supreme law of the land.
- For example, in Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala case, the Supreme Court established the basic structure doctrine, interpreting the impervious aspects of constitution
- Upholding the Rule of Law: Judicial independence ensures that all actions, including those of the government, are bound by legal principles and the Constitution. This prevents arbitrary exercises of power.
- In Nandini Sundar and Others Vs. State of Chattisgarh, Hon'ble Supreme Court has iterated the majesty of rule of law in upholding democracy.
- Safeguarding Individual Rights and Liberties: Only an impartial and independent judiciary can ensure that citizens receive equal justice and are shielded from potential abuses by the government.
- For instance, in KS Puttaswamy Judgement, the judiciary has delivered landmark judgment strengthening the protection of fundamental rights like Right to privacy.
- Prevention of Autocracy and Authoritarianism: Judicial independence acts as a safeguard against the concentration of power, preventing the executive from dominating all branches of government.
- For instance, in Minerva Mills case (1980), Supreme Court adjudged the limited power of Parliament to amend the constitution
- Ensuring Checks and Balances: To ensure that no branch oversteps its constitutional authority, the judiciary has the power of judicial review over the actions of the executive and the legislature. The judiciary can strike down any law if it is unconstitutional or arbitrary as per Article 13 (if it violates Fundamental Rights).
The independence of the judiciary, a fundamental pillar of the Indian Constitution, was affirmed in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India. The court emphasized that this principle is not only significant but also integral to the constitutional framework, forming the bedrock of India's democratic system. Entrusted with the crucial role of ensuring all state organs adhere to legal boundaries, the judiciary vitalizes the essence of the rule of law in the nation.