Indian Judiciary

Mains Marks Booster     29th July 2023        
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Introduction:

Among the noble aims and objectives of the Constitution, the founding fathers accorded the highest place to Justice. Most significantly, Justice is placed higher than the other principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

  • The Indian Supreme Court is the federal court. The Apex Court's powers and jurisdiction are covered in Part V of the Constitution, Articles 124–147.

Structure:

  • Integrated System - There is an integrated judiciary as established by the Indian Constitution with the Supreme Court at the top and High Courts below it. 
    • Below the High Courts, there is a hierarchy of subordinate courts. 

Supreme Court 

  • Article 124 to 147 - It deals with the organisation, independence, jurisdiction, powers, and procedures of the Supreme Court. 
courts of India

Independence of Judiciary:

    • Security of Tenure (Articles 124 and 217) - The President can only remove judges for misbehavior and incapacity.
  • Fixed salary and allowance - The legislature cannot vote on judges' salaries and allowances, making them independent.
    • Separation of Judiciary from the Executive (Article 50).
  • Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court - Parliament cannot limit the Supreme Court's powers.

Major Issues with Judiciary:

power of judiciary

  • Justice delays: The backlog of cases is one of the biggest issues. Inadequate resources, procedural complexity, and a lack of judges might act as causes. As per the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), 93 crore cases are pending in the subordinate courts, 49 lakhs in High Courts, and 57,987 cases in Supreme Court.
  • Alternative dispute resolutions and empowering Family courts and Gram Nyayalayas can mitigate these issues.
  • Diversity and representation: Many judiciaries lack gender and ethnic diversity. As a result, fairness and equality before the law may be tarnished.
  • According to data given in the Lok Sabha, there are no ST judges in district and subordinate courts in ten states/UTs, including Haryana, Odisha, Punjab, and West Bengal. 
  • Similarly, there are no Scheduled Caste (SC) judges in such courts in 12 states/UTs, including Goa and West Bengal. 
  • There are no OBC judges in any of the ten states or union territories, including Delhi, Assam, and West Bengal.  
    • Corruption and unethical behavior: Bribery, favoritism, and political interference can taint justice.
    • Accessibility and affordability: It prevents marginalized and impoverished people from accessing justice. 
    • Judicial activism vs. judicial restraint: Balancing judicial activism, which involves judges impacting public policy, and judicial restraint, which limits the judiciary to interpreting and enforcing laws, can be problematic. 
  • The Supreme Court and all High Courts must use English. 
  • Use of other languages: Article 348 (2) of the Constitution states that the Governor of a State may, with the prior consent of the President, authorize the use of Hindi or any other language used for official purposes of the State in proceedings in the High Court having its principal seat in that State.
  • Ex: The use of Hindi in the proceedings of the High Court of Rajasthan was authorized under clause (2) of Article 348 of the constitution in 1950.
  • Technological issues: Rapid technological innovation presents opportunities and challenges for the court. Electronic filing and virtual hearings boost judicial efficiency. 
  • The courts use two tools: Supreme Court VidhikAnuvaad Software (SUVAS) and Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency (SUPACE).
  • SUVAS converts orders/judgments to vernacular languages using AI, while SUPACE is being developed as an AI Research Assistant tool.

Public trust depends on the judiciary's perceived independence, justice, and transparency. Lack of transparency in the selection, appointment, and disciplinary process for judicial misbehavior can cast doubt on the judiciary's credibility.

Friction between Judiciary and Executive:

Montesquieu introduced the "separation of powers" in the 18th century. He considered the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary the three branches of government. This is a system adopted in India as well.

Recent Developments:

  • In 2023, a war of words intensified between the government and the judiciary over the issue of judges' appointments and transfers. 
  • A number of senior government officials, including Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, criticized how judges were being appointed in the country. 

Sealed cover Jurisprudence:

  • Meaning: The Supreme Court and sometimes subordinate courts request or receive government agency material in sealed envelopes for judges only.
  • Origin: Rule 7 of Order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules and Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 give the Supreme Court the right to employ the notion of sealed cover, even though no legislation defines it.

Issues:

  • Undermining basic human rights: The state's "routine" handing over of sealed covers in court to parties battling for life and liberty is undermining public confidence.
  • Without understanding their opponent, the petitioners cannot defend themselves
  • Against the Natural Justice of Law: In circumstances where the government's narrative is challenged, giving the court sealed materials forces judges to accept it.

Recent observation of the Supreme Court:

  • The court advised the government to assert "specific privilege" in an affidavit and explain "extenuating circumstances" to keep documents secret during the Media One transmission ban hearing. 
  • The government must prove that even disclosing redacted copies of the information will harm national security and public order. 
    • Only a "small exception" of instances can use sealed coverings, according to the court.
  • The principles of natural justice and the fundamental right to know cannot be taken away by the state.

Conclusion:

Reducing friction between the judiciary and executive in India requires a balanced approach that upholds the independence of the judiciary while allowing for transparent and accountable judicial appointments. It's crucial to engage in open dialogue and reform, ensuring respect for constitutional principles and the separation of powers to maintain democratic integrity.

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