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Need to scale-up the mechanisms of ‘accountability’ within judiciary

  • Published
    12th Nov, 2022
Context

In a view of the functioning of the Supreme Court (SC) as being the highest decision-making authority in the country with all-pervasive powers, it has recommended finetuning its workings and overcoming the loopholes simultaneously.

About
  • For decades, the Supreme Court has attracted disproportionate public attention and international admiration for its judicial interventions with its well-known innovations like-
    • Public interest litigation
    • Basic structure doctrine
    • The concomitant judicialization of politics in India
  • In the last few instances, however, there has been a general sense of disappointment with the Supreme Court, with a widely shared lament that the court has failed to be a protector of democratic institutions.

The Supreme Court: (Roles and Responsibilities)

  • The Supreme Court is the apex court of India.
  • The judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President in consultation with other judges of the Supreme Court and high court.
  • The Supreme Court is primarily a court of appeal though it hears cases in the original jurisdiction.
  • It is the last resort in case of appeals.
  • It is the guarantor and guardian of Fundamental Rights and exercises the power of judicial review to check the actions of legislative and administrative authority.
  • It has the power of giving an advisory opinion to the President in certain matters.
  • It hears interstates disputes and disputes between centers and states.
  • It issues writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights and hears PIL (Public Interest Legislation).

Tools provided to the Supreme Court under the Constitution:

  • Power to enforce the core principle of “limited government”.
  • Court’s recognition, and endorsement of the fundamental distinction between “rule of law” and “rule by law” — prepositions matter.
  • Court’s role as the promoter of “constitutional morality”.
  • Judicial activism

Concerns associated with the Working:

  • Government interference: In 2018, four senior sitting judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference and aired their grievances against the administration of the court by the then Chief Justice, hinting at government interference.
  • The unexplained transfer is a common affair.
  • Sealed cover: The increasing incidence of sealed-cover jurisprudence, where the government engages privately with the court, in a public hearing, without sharing information with the opposite party, has occasioned considerable protest.
  • Erosion of constitutional morality: India also saw Erosion of constitutional morality most clearly in the case of Fr Stan Swamy who was denied a straw, denied decent healthcare, and denied bail all in the name of the “rule of law”.
  • High rate of case pendency: As of May 2022, over 4.7 crore cases are pending in courts across different levels of the judiciary. Of them, 87.4% are pending in subordinate courts, 12.4% in High Courts, and nearly 1, 82,000 cases have been pending for over 30 years.
  • Under trials on the rise: As per the Prison Statistics-2020, released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), under trials accounted for 76% of the total inmates in around 1,300 prisons across the country.
  • Unavailability of any law for Judges: There is no law in India to guide our judges — only “guidelines”.

Suggestive measures:

  • Making stringent rules for Judges: There is a need to make laws against any misdeed by any judicial authority and must be punished as per the rules mentioned under it.
    • For example; The 1980 US Act confers powers on bodies comprised of judges to take such action against a federal judge ‘as is appropriate, short of removal’.
  • Relaxation of provisions for removal of a Judge/Official
  • Citizen-centric approach to Judiciary must be ensured
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