Indian Constitution has given high importance to the Independence of Judiciary System. Every democratic country puts a great store on the independence of the judiciary as a guarantee of individual freedom.
What is the meaning of Independence of Judiciary or Judicial Independence?
Judicial Independence or Independence of Judiciary refers to an environment where judges are free to make decisions or pass judgment without any pressure from the government or other powerful entities.
Independence of Judiciary means that the judiciary as an organ of the government should be free from influence and control of the other two organs i.e., the executive and the legislature of government.
Why is Judicial Independence important?
Judicial independence play an important role in maintaining the democratic set-up of any country. An impartial and independent judicial system alone can protect the rights of the citizens against the arbitrary powers of the executive or legislature. Freedom from the influence and control of the executive is of crucial importance. It is important for individual freedom that the judges give their verdict without fear or favor. It refers to an environment where the judge can pass impartial judgment.
Every democratic country adopts various means to ensure freedom of the judiciary and thereby to ensure individual freedom. The U.S.A. has adopted system of separation of powers to ensure independence of the judiciary. But in constitutional systems based on the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty, the adoption of separation of powers is ruled out. This is the case in England. This is also partly the case in India, for in India, the doctrines of Parliamentary and constitutional sovereignty are blended together.
Independence of Judiciary in India
The constitution of India adopts diverse devices to ensure the independence of the judiciary in keeping with both the doctrines of constitutional and Parliamentary sovereignty. Elaborated provision are in place for ensuring the independent position of the Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
- Firstly, the judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts have to take an oath before entering office that they will faithfully perform their duties without fear, favour, affection, ill-will, and defend the constitution of India and the laws. Recognition of the doctrine of constitutional sovereignty is implicit in this oath.
- Secondly, the process of appointment of judges also ensures the independence of judiciary in India. The judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts are appointed by the President. The constitution of India has made it obligatory on the President to make the appointments in consultation with the highest judicial authorities. He of course takes advice of the Cabinet. The constitution also prescribes necessary qualifications for such appointments. The constitution tries to make the appointments unbiased by political considerations.
- Thirdly, the Constitution provides for the security of tenure of Judges. The judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court’s serve “during good behavior” and not during the pleasure of the President, as is the case with other high Government officials. They cannot be arbitrarily removed by the President. They may be removed from office only through impeachment. A Judge can be removed on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity on a report by both Houses of Parliament supported by a special majority.
- Fourthly, their salaries and allowances are charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India. Further, the salaries and allowances of Judges of Supreme court and High courts cannot be reduced during their tenure, except during a financial emergency under Article 360 of the constitution.
- Fifthly, the activities of the Judges cannot be discussed by the executive or the legislature, except in case of removal of them.
- Sixth, the retirement age is 65 years for Supreme court judges and 62 years for High court judges. Such long tenure enable the judges to function impartially and independently.
- Seventh, a retired Supreme court judge cannot practice engage in legal practice in any court in India. However, a retired High court judge can practice law in a state other than the state in which he served as a High Court judge. These restrictions ensure that a retired judge is not able to influence the decision of the courts.
The hierarchy of Judicial system in India plays an important role in maintaining the independence of judiciary. Supreme Court is the highest court for justice. Then, there are High Court and District Courts in every states. Then, there are People’s courts known as Lok Adalats. If no decision is reached at these Lok Adalats, then the cases move to courts.