In a democracy, the Constitution is supreme which resolves to secure justice to all its citizens. The judiciary is thus, appropriately one of the most important agencies of any democratic government. It is an independent body protecting the rights of the citizens and guarding the constitution zealously.
The judiciary is in a very powerful position in any democracy and demands supreme confidence from the people. An individual, when harassed and threatened by the politics that engulf most governments, turn with great hope to the judiciary. With the growth of Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the role of judiciary has increased manifold. The courts are no longer confined to determining the interests of the litigants in a private dispute or those between a citizen and State.
It has transgressed its traditional role and has begun to perform even those functions which ought to have been discharged by the democratically elected representatives of the people and bureaucracy.
Every institution of the government is accountable to some agency or the other. Every government official and body is also fully answerable to the judiciary of the country. But when it comes to the judiciary itself, a different set of rules and standards are followed. The judiciary has become a judge in its own cause.
An important aspect of judicial accountability that is often forgotten is the question of protecting the judiciary from public criticism. One of the critical reasons for the low accountability of judges in India is the power of the courts to punish for its contempt.
Judges are now fixing school fees, deciding how much water should be released by upstream States to Delhi and what the height of the Narmada Dam should be. Having assumed the powers of what ought to be within the exclusive domain of elected and, therefore, accountable representatives, can the courts remain entirely above public censure and accountability? Is there no mechanism whereby one can provide proof of misconduct by a judge without being sent to jail for contempt?
The main purpose of the contempt power has been to enable the court to be able to enforce its orders and to punish for obstruction in administration in justice. But over the years this power has been considerably widened and freely used by the courts. Today, in countries like UK and USA the concept has been liberalized. But India still follows the old British-rule norms, which undoubtedly was not a free democracy.
This leads us to ask some important questions regarding the right of the public to freely criticize the judiciary. Is the judiciary so fragile that it needs to be shielded from public scrutiny? Or is public scrutiny required to increase judicial accountability?
Assistant Professor – Department of Law
Kalinga Plus is an initiative by Kalinga University, Raipur. The main objective of this to disseminate knowledge and guide students & working professionals.
This platform will guide pre – post university level students.
Pre University Level – IX –XII grade students when they decide streams and choose their career
Post University level – when A student joins corporate & needs to handle the workplace challenges effectively.
We are hopeful that you will find lot of knowledgeable & interesting information here.