What is Independent Judiciary: Role & Significance (Download Notes)

Author : Yogricha

Updated On : January 29, 2024

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Overview: The evaluation of judicial independence should be conducted within the context of the Indian Constitution, rather than as an abstract concept.

The objective is to ensure that the process of adjudication remains uninfluenced by external or governmental constraints, with judicial independence confined to the realm of adjudicatory authority as outlined in the Indian Constitution.

The Indian Constitution assigns a distinctive and significant role to the judiciary, imbuing it with dignity and vital responsibilities. For Judiciary examnations, Law School and other Law Entrance Exams it is important to understand this concept.

Independence of Judiciary is an important concept for Constituion law and other related laws. Get into the details, history and other concepts related to Independence of Judiciary from this blog.

In this Blog we will cover:

  1. History of Independence of Judiciary
  2. Independence of the Judiciary in India
  3. Roles and Functions of the Indian Judiciary
  4. Appointment of Judges vs. Judicial Independence
  5. Important Questions on Indepedence of Judiciary 
  6. Download Sample Essay on Independence of Judiciary for Judiciary Exam
  7. Download Notes in Independence of Judiciary for Law School, Judiciary Exams and other Law exams

Introduction:

Independence of Judiciary signifies that each judge possesses the autonomy to independently adjudicate cases brought before their court in a fair and impartial manner, devoid of unwarranted interference from external entities, which includes fellow judges, regardless of their position or influence, be they institutions or individuals.

It further implies the safeguarding and advancement of financial and administrative autonomy for the entire judicial body, achieved through the establishment of an independent Judicial Supreme Council, devoid of external influence from any individual or institution.

The assurance of judicial independence rests upon several key guarantees, including:

  1. The selection of judges based on their merit and integrity, ensuring that the most qualified individuals are appointed.
  2. Safeguards against undue influence or decisions concerning their career progression, appointments, and transfers among various courts.
  3. Protections against arbitrary removal, while subjecting judges to appropriate oversight and disciplinary procedures.

In addition to these guarantees, judges must also be assured of their freedom of expression and the right to form associations, in alignment with international standards.

History of Independence of Judiciary:

The concept of judicial independence finds its roots in the ideas of Montesquieu, the renowned French philosopher, who championed the notion of an autonomous judiciary. Montesquieu's philosophy centered on the principle of the separation of powers, positing that the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—should each wield distinct and independent powers. His ideas profoundly influenced the framers of the United States Constitution.

The Act of Settlement in England and Wales, enacted in 1701, marked the formal inception of the fundamental principle of judicial independence.

This pivotal legislation explicitly established the principle of judicial tenure security, stipulating that High Court Judges and Lords Justices of Appeal hold their positions during "good behavior." It set forth clear and official procedures that needed to be followed before a judge could be removed from office.

Notably, the judiciaries in the United States and India have been vested with the authority of judicial review. This authority empowers them to scrutinize legislation enacted by the legislative branch and declare it unlawful if it contravenes the constitution. In the Indian context, the Supreme Court exercises its power of striking down a statute only when it encroaches upon the core framework of the constitution.

The concept and significance of judicial independence are essential to define. In everyday language, 'independence' implies not relying on any external authority or being dependent on another for validation or forming one's opinions. According to dictionary definitions, 'independence' means being free from external control and not subject to the authority of others.

Also Read: Judiciary Interview Preparation Strategies & Tricks

In the context of judicial independence, the term 'independence' signifies that a judge has the freedom to administer justice independently.

The concept of 'judicial independence' extends beyond just being free from influence by other branches of government, such as the legislature and executive. It also includes freedom from undue influence or pressure from fellow judges within the judiciary.

Judicial independence entails the idea that a judge should make decisions in a fair, impartial, and lawful manner, without being swayed by personal biases, external pressures, legislative or executive directives, or public opinion.

The independence of the judiciary is an essential component of a democratic system, designed to protect the judicial process from external interference and ensure full legal protection for all individuals seeking justice through the courts, regardless of their reasons.

The development of India's current judicial system was not sudden but the result of a gradual process influenced by different periods in Indian history. The history of the judicial system can be divided into two main phases: the pre-independence period and the post-independence period.

Also Read: Legal Current Affairs Questions for Judiciary Exams

Pre-Independence Period:

  • Ancient Hindu and Muslim Periods: The administration during ancient times in India was well-structured, with a strong emphasis on the administration of justice. In the Hindu period, the king was responsible for imparting justice, often with the assistance of priests and learned men, based on the principles of Dharmashatras. The appointment of judges, mostly Brahmins, was based on merit, personal qualifications, and character.
  • In Muslim-ruled areas, Qazis, Muftis, and Chief Qazis were responsible for administering Islamic laws. While specific qualifications were not prescribed for Qazis, honesty, impartiality, virtuousness, and detachment from local society were considered essential.
  • The Mughal period continued the practice of kings being the fountain of justice. Qualified judges were appointed to dispense justice, and judges were known for their independence and impartiality.

British Colonial Rule:

  • The British East India Company (EIC) established factories and courts in India. Initially, English people were administered justice in courts presided over by company servants.
  • Mayor's Courts were established in the presidency towns, but tension between the executive and judiciary persisted.
  • The Charter of 1753 gave the executive more control over the appointment of judges in Mayor's Courts.
  • Later, Mayor's Courts were replaced by Supreme Courts in the presidency towns, with judges appointed by the King of England. However, these courts were subject to government control, and the judiciary did not enjoy full independence.

Read More: Judiciary interview preparation.

Development of Mofussil Areas:

  • The Governor-General established an Adalat system in Mofussil areas, which included civil and criminal courts. The executive and judicial powers were often held by the same individuals, threatening judicial independence.
  • The Government of India Act, 1915, granted immunity to executive officials from the jurisdiction of the High Court for their official actions, limiting judicial review.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935, introduced some positive measures to protect judicial independence. The Federal Court was established above the High Courts, and High Court judges were granted security of tenure, allowing them to hold office until the age of 60.

Independence of the Judiciary in India

A Constitutional Perspective The concept of judicial independence in India must be contextualized within the framework of the Indian Constitution, rather than being treated as an abstract concept.

The primary objective is to ensure that the process of adjudication remains free from external influences or government constraints, emphasizing that judicial independence extends solely to the adjudicatory powers vested in the courts or tribunals by the Indian Constitution. India's Constitution bestows upon the judiciary a dignified and pivotal role.

Know About: Civil Judge exam preparation.

Although the Indian Constitution does not contain an explicit provision on judicial independence, its principles are deeply ingrained in the text through various articles.

As emphasized by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of S.P. Gupta v Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 149), the foundational elements of judicial independence and the rule of law, enshrined in the constitution, are immune even to constitutional amendments and cannot be abolished.

Independence of the Indian Judiciary: This concept signifies that the judiciary operates without interference from the other branches of government, such as the executive and the legislature. The decisions made by the judiciary are upheld and not tampered with by the other governmental bodies.

Furthermore, it entails that judges can discharge their responsibilities impartially and without any bias. It's important to note that the independence of the judiciary doesn't imply that it functions arbitrarily and without oversight. The judiciary remains accountable to the country's Constitution.

The Indian Constitution stands as the paramount legal authority in the nation, serving as the foundation upon which all other laws are constructed and to which they must conform. It serves as the source of authority for all branches of government, delineating their respective powers and responsibilities. While the Indian Constitution establishes a parliamentary system where the executive and legislative branches are not rigidly separated, it distinctly separates them from the judiciary. The constitution mandates the separation of the judiciary from the executive within the state's public services.

Read MoreTips to avoid negative marking in the Judiciary Exam

To safeguard the independence of the judiciary in line with the principles of constitutional and parliamentary sovereignty, the Indian Constitution incorporates various mechanisms. Judges of both the Supreme Court and the High Courts enjoy extensive safeguards to preserve their independence.

Upon assuming office in the Supreme Court and the High Courts, judges take an oath affirming their commitment to execute their duties without fear, favor, affection, or ill-will. They also pledge to uphold India's constitution and laws, implicitly recognizing the concept of constitutional sovereignty.

In India, the process of appointing judges further upholds the judiciary's independence. The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts in consultation with the highest judicial authorities, taking into account the Cabinet's recommendations. The constitution lays down specific eligibility criteria for these appointments.

Furthermore, the constitution ensures the security of judges' tenure. Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts serve "during good conduct," unlike other high-ranking government officials who serve at the President's pleasure. They cannot be removed arbitrarily but can only be impeached based on proven misconduct or incompetence, as supported by both Houses of Parliament with a special majority.

Prepare now: Online classes for judiciary preparation

Judges' salaries and allowances are drawn from the Indian Consolidated Fund. Even during financial emergencies, their salaries and allowances cannot be reduced during their term. Supreme Court justices must retire at the age of 65, while High Court judges must retire at 62. Such lengthy tenures enable judges to work impartially and independently.

In democratic nations, the judiciary holds a position of utmost importance. The framers of the Indian Constitution were acutely aware of the critical and distinct role entrusted to the judiciary within the constitutional framework.

The judiciary was designed to serve as the guardian of citizens' rights, as enshrined in the Constitution. It was acknowledged that Judges, especially those of superior courts vested with the authority of judicially reviewing administrative and legislative actions, must discharge their duties impartially and without any undue influence.

Therefore, the judiciary was intended to maintain absolute independence, shielded from any external interference, to ensure its unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of the people.

Justice S. S. Dhavan of the Allahabad High Court, in his essay "Judicial System in Ancient India," asserts that India boasts the world's most ancient and esteemed judiciary. No other legal system can claim a lineage as ancient or illustrious as India's.

Read Now: Structure of the Judiciary Exam

In ancient India, the Smritis placed significant emphasis on establishing an efficient judicial system to dispense justice in accordance with dharma (righteousness). These texts underscored the paramount duty of the King to uphold the rule of law, safeguard the well-being of the populace, and penalize wrongdoers. Additionally, Kautilya's Arthashastra delved into the principles of judicial independence.

Prominent ancient jurists such as Manu, Yajnavalkya, Katyayana, Brihaspati, and later commentators like Vachaspati Misra all highlighted the importance of judicial independence. They emphasized that the judiciary must operate independently, with judges making decisions solely based on factual evidence and established laws.

Read moreShort tricks to read the newspaper for Judiciary exams

Roles and Functions of the Indian Judiciary

The Indian judiciary plays several crucial roles and functions, which are as follows:

  1. Administration of Justice: The primary function of the judiciary is to administer justice. This involves applying the law to specific cases, settling disputes, and determining the facts through evidence presented during trials. If someone is found guilty of breaking the law, the court imposes appropriate penalties.
  2. Creation of Judge-made Law: In cases where it's challenging to select the applicable law, judges use their wisdom and common sense to decide the appropriate law. Over time, judges have established a substantial body of 'judge-made law' or 'case law.' The doctrine of 'stare decisis' dictates that previous judicial decisions are generally binding on later judges in similar cases.
  3. Guardian of the Constitution: The Supreme Court of India acts as the guardian of the Constitution. It resolves jurisdictional conflicts between the central government and state governments or between the legislature and the executive. Any law or executive order that violates the constitution's provisions is declared unconstitutional or null and void through 'judicial review.' This ensures the protection of fundamental rights and maintains a balance in federal states.
  4. Protector of Fundamental Rights: The judiciary safeguards individuals' rights against infringement by the State or any other entity. The superior courts enforce Fundamental Rights by issuing writs.
  5. Supervisory Functions: Higher courts also supervise the functioning of subordinate courts in India.
  6. Advisory Functions: The Supreme Court in India performs advisory functions, offering opinions on constitutional questions when disputes are absent and upon the executive's request.
  7. Administrative Functions: Some court functions are non-judicial or administrative in nature. These may include granting licenses, managing the property of deceased individuals, appointing receivers, registering marriages, appointing guardians for minors and individuals with mental illnesses.
  8. Special Role in a Federation: In a federal system like India's, the judiciary settles disputes between the central and state governments. It also acts as an arbiter in conflicts between different states.
  9. Conducting Judicial Inquiries: Judges are often tasked with leading commissions to investigate cases of errors or omissions by public servants.

Learn more: Judiciary Exam 2024 Online Coaching

The multifaceted role of the Indian judiciary underscores its significance in upholding the rule of law, protecting individual rights, and maintaining the constitutional framework of the country.

The role of the courts includes upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the government functions in accordance with the law. In a country with a written constitution, courts have the additional responsibility of preserving the supremacy of the constitution through the interpretation and application of its provisions, thereby ensuring that all authorities operate within the constitutional framework.

The maintenance of the rule of law and the fair administration of justice both rely heavily on the presence of an independent judiciary.

In India, civil courts are tasked with addressing civil cases, which encompass virtually all legal matters apart from criminal cases. Criminal law comes into play when offenses like robbery, murder, arson, and others are committed.

Civil law comes into play when disputes arise, leading one person or entity to file a lawsuit against another. Examples of civil cases include divorce proceedings, eviction disputes, consumer-related issues, debt or bankruptcy cases, and more.

Read moreImportant Judgements for Judiciary Exams

It's worth noting that judges in civil courts and criminal courts wield distinct powers. A judge in a criminal court has the authority to impose penalties such as imprisonment on the convicted individual, whereas a judge in a civil court can order the liable party to pay fines or other remedies.

Within the judicial hierarchy of India, District Judges preside over District Courts, while Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judges (Junior Division) occupy positions at the lower levels.

The highest civil court within a district is the District Judge's court, which holds both administrative and judicial authority. Situated in the district headquarters, this court is empowered to adjudicate both criminal and civil cases, and as a result, the presiding judge holds the title of District and Sessions Judge.

Beneath the district courts, there exist Sub-Judge courts, Additional Sub-Judge courts, and Munsif Courts. The majority of civil cases are typically filed in the Munsif's court.

Civil courts exercise four distinct types of jurisdiction:

  1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction: This pertains to the court's competence to hear cases of a specific type or related to a specific subject matter.
  2. Territorial Jurisdiction: The court's authority is confined to cases within its geographical boundaries and does not extend beyond its territory.
  3. Pecuniary Jurisdiction: This encompasses cases involving monetary matters and suits of specific monetary value.
  4. Appellate Jurisdiction: This denotes the court's power to hear appeals or review cases that have previously been decided by a lower court. Both the Supreme Court and High Courts possess appellate jurisdiction to review cases decided by lower courts.

Appointment of Judges vs. Judicial Independence

The appointment of judges and the principle of judicial independence are closely intertwined. The process of appointing judges plays a pivotal role in upholding and safeguarding judicial independence. When the method or process for appointing judges lacks transparency, it raises concerns about whether judges can dispense justice impartially. Conversely, a transparent and clear procedure for appointing judges contributes to the preservation of judicial independence.

Independence of judges can be categorized as follows:

  1. Functional or Decisional Independence: This pertains to judges' ability to make decisions without succumbing to internal or external pressures.
  2. Personal Independence: Judges should not be beholden to the government in any manner that could influence their decisions in specific cases.
  3. Collective Independence: This encompasses the institutional, administrative, and financial autonomy of the judiciary as a whole, distinct from the other branches of government, such as the executive and legislative.
  4. Internal Independence: This entails judges' freedom from orders, indications, or pressures from their judicial superiors and colleagues when adjudicating cases.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Indian Constitution explicitly grants the power of judicial review to the Supreme Court of India through Article 32 and to the State High Courts through Articles 226 and 227. The judiciary serves as the guardian of the Constitution and the protector of citizens' rights.

Don't Miss - How to Write Answers for Judiciary Mains Exam 2024?

Consequently, it possesses the authority to declare executive, administrative actions, or legislative acts as unconstitutional. The indispensable requirement for the rule of law to prevail is the presence of judicial independence.

Important Questions on Indepedence of Judiciary 

  1. What are the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary?
  2. Explain the concepts of Independence of the Judiciary with case laws.
  3. Explain the Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
  4. What is the need of Independent Judiciary?
  5. What are the articles in the Cosntitution of India that deal with Independent Judiciary?
  6. What is the concept on Neutral Judicial System in India?
  7. Explain the principle of separation of powers.

Conclusion:

The Constitution must establish systems with checks and balances to prevent the abuse and misuse of public power. Dr. Rajendra Prasad's caution during the concluding session of the Constituent Assembly is worth remembering. He stated:

"Regardless of what the Constitution may or may not contain, the welfare of the country will depend on how it is administered. This, in turn, depends on the individuals who administer it... A Constitution, like a machine, is lifeless. It gains life through those who control and operate it. India needs nothing more than a group of honest individuals who prioritize the country's well-being."

This statement encapsulates the essence of the issue. The expectations from the judiciary are exceptionally high due to its vital role in the Constitution. Judicial independence is intended to empower the judiciary as the guardian of the rule of law. It serves not only for the judiciary's honor but primarily to uphold public interest and preserve the rule of law.

In a republican democracy, judicial accountability is an integral aspect of judicial independence, and judges are expected to adhere to recognized norms of judicial conduct.

In the words of Addison, "To be perfectly just is an attribute of the divine nature, and to strive for perfect justice to the best of our abilities is the essence of human glory." This aptly describes the nature of the judicial function.

How can we ensure this outcome and achieve the true purpose of judicial independence? The answer lies in the texts and established judicial conventions, as generally reaffirmed in the 1997 resolutions mentioned earlier.

The Allahabad High Court Post-Centenary Silver Jubilee Commemoration Volume reminds us of an ancient quote:

"Let the king appoint, as members of the courts of justice, honorable men of proven integrity, who can shoulder the responsibility of administering justice, are well-versed in sacred laws and prudent rules, and who remain noble and impartial towards both friends and foes."

Read About:  Judiciary Exam Preparation Tips

More recently, David Pannick in his book "Judges" concludes:

"The qualities desired of a judge can be simply stated: that he be a good judge and that he be perceived as such... Such qualifications are not easily acquired. A judge needs to possess 'the strength to rectify injustice' and the intellectual abilities expected of historians, philosophers, and prophets... Since the judiciary plays a central role in governing society, we must, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested, scrutinize this aspect of public life with a critical eye."

The principles outlined regarding judicial independence aim to encompass these facets.

The appointment process and the mechanisms in place to ensure judicial independence with accountability at all levels are crucial in safeguarding judicial independence. The sincere commitment and determination of the entire legal community, including both the Bar and the Bench, are imperative in achieving this goal.

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What is Independent Judiciary: Role & Significance (Download Notes)

Author : Yogricha

January 29, 2024

SHARE

Overview: The evaluation of judicial independence should be conducted within the context of the Indian Constitution, rather than as an abstract concept.

The objective is to ensure that the process of adjudication remains uninfluenced by external or governmental constraints, with judicial independence confined to the realm of adjudicatory authority as outlined in the Indian Constitution.

The Indian Constitution assigns a distinctive and significant role to the judiciary, imbuing it with dignity and vital responsibilities. For Judiciary examnations, Law School and other Law Entrance Exams it is important to understand this concept.

Independence of Judiciary is an important concept for Constituion law and other related laws. Get into the details, history and other concepts related to Independence of Judiciary from this blog.

In this Blog we will cover:

  1. History of Independence of Judiciary
  2. Independence of the Judiciary in India
  3. Roles and Functions of the Indian Judiciary
  4. Appointment of Judges vs. Judicial Independence
  5. Important Questions on Indepedence of Judiciary 
  6. Download Sample Essay on Independence of Judiciary for Judiciary Exam
  7. Download Notes in Independence of Judiciary for Law School, Judiciary Exams and other Law exams

Introduction:

Independence of Judiciary signifies that each judge possesses the autonomy to independently adjudicate cases brought before their court in a fair and impartial manner, devoid of unwarranted interference from external entities, which includes fellow judges, regardless of their position or influence, be they institutions or individuals.

It further implies the safeguarding and advancement of financial and administrative autonomy for the entire judicial body, achieved through the establishment of an independent Judicial Supreme Council, devoid of external influence from any individual or institution.

The assurance of judicial independence rests upon several key guarantees, including:

  1. The selection of judges based on their merit and integrity, ensuring that the most qualified individuals are appointed.
  2. Safeguards against undue influence or decisions concerning their career progression, appointments, and transfers among various courts.
  3. Protections against arbitrary removal, while subjecting judges to appropriate oversight and disciplinary procedures.

In addition to these guarantees, judges must also be assured of their freedom of expression and the right to form associations, in alignment with international standards.

History of Independence of Judiciary:

The concept of judicial independence finds its roots in the ideas of Montesquieu, the renowned French philosopher, who championed the notion of an autonomous judiciary. Montesquieu's philosophy centered on the principle of the separation of powers, positing that the three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—should each wield distinct and independent powers. His ideas profoundly influenced the framers of the United States Constitution.

The Act of Settlement in England and Wales, enacted in 1701, marked the formal inception of the fundamental principle of judicial independence.

This pivotal legislation explicitly established the principle of judicial tenure security, stipulating that High Court Judges and Lords Justices of Appeal hold their positions during "good behavior." It set forth clear and official procedures that needed to be followed before a judge could be removed from office.

Notably, the judiciaries in the United States and India have been vested with the authority of judicial review. This authority empowers them to scrutinize legislation enacted by the legislative branch and declare it unlawful if it contravenes the constitution. In the Indian context, the Supreme Court exercises its power of striking down a statute only when it encroaches upon the core framework of the constitution.

The concept and significance of judicial independence are essential to define. In everyday language, 'independence' implies not relying on any external authority or being dependent on another for validation or forming one's opinions. According to dictionary definitions, 'independence' means being free from external control and not subject to the authority of others.

Also Read: Judiciary Interview Preparation Strategies & Tricks

In the context of judicial independence, the term 'independence' signifies that a judge has the freedom to administer justice independently.

The concept of 'judicial independence' extends beyond just being free from influence by other branches of government, such as the legislature and executive. It also includes freedom from undue influence or pressure from fellow judges within the judiciary.

Judicial independence entails the idea that a judge should make decisions in a fair, impartial, and lawful manner, without being swayed by personal biases, external pressures, legislative or executive directives, or public opinion.

The independence of the judiciary is an essential component of a democratic system, designed to protect the judicial process from external interference and ensure full legal protection for all individuals seeking justice through the courts, regardless of their reasons.

The development of India's current judicial system was not sudden but the result of a gradual process influenced by different periods in Indian history. The history of the judicial system can be divided into two main phases: the pre-independence period and the post-independence period.

Also Read: Legal Current Affairs Questions for Judiciary Exams

Pre-Independence Period:

  • Ancient Hindu and Muslim Periods: The administration during ancient times in India was well-structured, with a strong emphasis on the administration of justice. In the Hindu period, the king was responsible for imparting justice, often with the assistance of priests and learned men, based on the principles of Dharmashatras. The appointment of judges, mostly Brahmins, was based on merit, personal qualifications, and character.
  • In Muslim-ruled areas, Qazis, Muftis, and Chief Qazis were responsible for administering Islamic laws. While specific qualifications were not prescribed for Qazis, honesty, impartiality, virtuousness, and detachment from local society were considered essential.
  • The Mughal period continued the practice of kings being the fountain of justice. Qualified judges were appointed to dispense justice, and judges were known for their independence and impartiality.

British Colonial Rule:

  • The British East India Company (EIC) established factories and courts in India. Initially, English people were administered justice in courts presided over by company servants.
  • Mayor's Courts were established in the presidency towns, but tension between the executive and judiciary persisted.
  • The Charter of 1753 gave the executive more control over the appointment of judges in Mayor's Courts.
  • Later, Mayor's Courts were replaced by Supreme Courts in the presidency towns, with judges appointed by the King of England. However, these courts were subject to government control, and the judiciary did not enjoy full independence.

Read More: Judiciary interview preparation.

Development of Mofussil Areas:

  • The Governor-General established an Adalat system in Mofussil areas, which included civil and criminal courts. The executive and judicial powers were often held by the same individuals, threatening judicial independence.
  • The Government of India Act, 1915, granted immunity to executive officials from the jurisdiction of the High Court for their official actions, limiting judicial review.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935, introduced some positive measures to protect judicial independence. The Federal Court was established above the High Courts, and High Court judges were granted security of tenure, allowing them to hold office until the age of 60.

Independence of the Judiciary in India

A Constitutional Perspective The concept of judicial independence in India must be contextualized within the framework of the Indian Constitution, rather than being treated as an abstract concept.

The primary objective is to ensure that the process of adjudication remains free from external influences or government constraints, emphasizing that judicial independence extends solely to the adjudicatory powers vested in the courts or tribunals by the Indian Constitution. India's Constitution bestows upon the judiciary a dignified and pivotal role.

Know About: Civil Judge exam preparation.

Although the Indian Constitution does not contain an explicit provision on judicial independence, its principles are deeply ingrained in the text through various articles.

As emphasized by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of S.P. Gupta v Union of India (AIR 1982 SC 149), the foundational elements of judicial independence and the rule of law, enshrined in the constitution, are immune even to constitutional amendments and cannot be abolished.

Independence of the Indian Judiciary: This concept signifies that the judiciary operates without interference from the other branches of government, such as the executive and the legislature. The decisions made by the judiciary are upheld and not tampered with by the other governmental bodies.

Furthermore, it entails that judges can discharge their responsibilities impartially and without any bias. It's important to note that the independence of the judiciary doesn't imply that it functions arbitrarily and without oversight. The judiciary remains accountable to the country's Constitution.

The Indian Constitution stands as the paramount legal authority in the nation, serving as the foundation upon which all other laws are constructed and to which they must conform. It serves as the source of authority for all branches of government, delineating their respective powers and responsibilities. While the Indian Constitution establishes a parliamentary system where the executive and legislative branches are not rigidly separated, it distinctly separates them from the judiciary. The constitution mandates the separation of the judiciary from the executive within the state's public services.

Read MoreTips to avoid negative marking in the Judiciary Exam

To safeguard the independence of the judiciary in line with the principles of constitutional and parliamentary sovereignty, the Indian Constitution incorporates various mechanisms. Judges of both the Supreme Court and the High Courts enjoy extensive safeguards to preserve their independence.

Upon assuming office in the Supreme Court and the High Courts, judges take an oath affirming their commitment to execute their duties without fear, favor, affection, or ill-will. They also pledge to uphold India's constitution and laws, implicitly recognizing the concept of constitutional sovereignty.

In India, the process of appointing judges further upholds the judiciary's independence. The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts in consultation with the highest judicial authorities, taking into account the Cabinet's recommendations. The constitution lays down specific eligibility criteria for these appointments.

Furthermore, the constitution ensures the security of judges' tenure. Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts serve "during good conduct," unlike other high-ranking government officials who serve at the President's pleasure. They cannot be removed arbitrarily but can only be impeached based on proven misconduct or incompetence, as supported by both Houses of Parliament with a special majority.

Prepare now: Online classes for judiciary preparation

Judges' salaries and allowances are drawn from the Indian Consolidated Fund. Even during financial emergencies, their salaries and allowances cannot be reduced during their term. Supreme Court justices must retire at the age of 65, while High Court judges must retire at 62. Such lengthy tenures enable judges to work impartially and independently.

In democratic nations, the judiciary holds a position of utmost importance. The framers of the Indian Constitution were acutely aware of the critical and distinct role entrusted to the judiciary within the constitutional framework.

The judiciary was designed to serve as the guardian of citizens' rights, as enshrined in the Constitution. It was acknowledged that Judges, especially those of superior courts vested with the authority of judicially reviewing administrative and legislative actions, must discharge their duties impartially and without any undue influence.

Therefore, the judiciary was intended to maintain absolute independence, shielded from any external interference, to ensure its unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the rights of the people.

Justice S. S. Dhavan of the Allahabad High Court, in his essay "Judicial System in Ancient India," asserts that India boasts the world's most ancient and esteemed judiciary. No other legal system can claim a lineage as ancient or illustrious as India's.

Read Now: Structure of the Judiciary Exam

In ancient India, the Smritis placed significant emphasis on establishing an efficient judicial system to dispense justice in accordance with dharma (righteousness). These texts underscored the paramount duty of the King to uphold the rule of law, safeguard the well-being of the populace, and penalize wrongdoers. Additionally, Kautilya's Arthashastra delved into the principles of judicial independence.

Prominent ancient jurists such as Manu, Yajnavalkya, Katyayana, Brihaspati, and later commentators like Vachaspati Misra all highlighted the importance of judicial independence. They emphasized that the judiciary must operate independently, with judges making decisions solely based on factual evidence and established laws.

Read moreShort tricks to read the newspaper for Judiciary exams

Roles and Functions of the Indian Judiciary

The Indian judiciary plays several crucial roles and functions, which are as follows:

  1. Administration of Justice: The primary function of the judiciary is to administer justice. This involves applying the law to specific cases, settling disputes, and determining the facts through evidence presented during trials. If someone is found guilty of breaking the law, the court imposes appropriate penalties.
  2. Creation of Judge-made Law: In cases where it's challenging to select the applicable law, judges use their wisdom and common sense to decide the appropriate law. Over time, judges have established a substantial body of 'judge-made law' or 'case law.' The doctrine of 'stare decisis' dictates that previous judicial decisions are generally binding on later judges in similar cases.
  3. Guardian of the Constitution: The Supreme Court of India acts as the guardian of the Constitution. It resolves jurisdictional conflicts between the central government and state governments or between the legislature and the executive. Any law or executive order that violates the constitution's provisions is declared unconstitutional or null and void through 'judicial review.' This ensures the protection of fundamental rights and maintains a balance in federal states.
  4. Protector of Fundamental Rights: The judiciary safeguards individuals' rights against infringement by the State or any other entity. The superior courts enforce Fundamental Rights by issuing writs.
  5. Supervisory Functions: Higher courts also supervise the functioning of subordinate courts in India.
  6. Advisory Functions: The Supreme Court in India performs advisory functions, offering opinions on constitutional questions when disputes are absent and upon the executive's request.
  7. Administrative Functions: Some court functions are non-judicial or administrative in nature. These may include granting licenses, managing the property of deceased individuals, appointing receivers, registering marriages, appointing guardians for minors and individuals with mental illnesses.
  8. Special Role in a Federation: In a federal system like India's, the judiciary settles disputes between the central and state governments. It also acts as an arbiter in conflicts between different states.
  9. Conducting Judicial Inquiries: Judges are often tasked with leading commissions to investigate cases of errors or omissions by public servants.

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The multifaceted role of the Indian judiciary underscores its significance in upholding the rule of law, protecting individual rights, and maintaining the constitutional framework of the country.

The role of the courts includes upholding the rule of law and ensuring that the government functions in accordance with the law. In a country with a written constitution, courts have the additional responsibility of preserving the supremacy of the constitution through the interpretation and application of its provisions, thereby ensuring that all authorities operate within the constitutional framework.

The maintenance of the rule of law and the fair administration of justice both rely heavily on the presence of an independent judiciary.

In India, civil courts are tasked with addressing civil cases, which encompass virtually all legal matters apart from criminal cases. Criminal law comes into play when offenses like robbery, murder, arson, and others are committed.

Civil law comes into play when disputes arise, leading one person or entity to file a lawsuit against another. Examples of civil cases include divorce proceedings, eviction disputes, consumer-related issues, debt or bankruptcy cases, and more.

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It's worth noting that judges in civil courts and criminal courts wield distinct powers. A judge in a criminal court has the authority to impose penalties such as imprisonment on the convicted individual, whereas a judge in a civil court can order the liable party to pay fines or other remedies.

Within the judicial hierarchy of India, District Judges preside over District Courts, while Magistrates of Second Class and Civil Judges (Junior Division) occupy positions at the lower levels.

The highest civil court within a district is the District Judge's court, which holds both administrative and judicial authority. Situated in the district headquarters, this court is empowered to adjudicate both criminal and civil cases, and as a result, the presiding judge holds the title of District and Sessions Judge.

Beneath the district courts, there exist Sub-Judge courts, Additional Sub-Judge courts, and Munsif Courts. The majority of civil cases are typically filed in the Munsif's court.

Civil courts exercise four distinct types of jurisdiction:

  1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction: This pertains to the court's competence to hear cases of a specific type or related to a specific subject matter.
  2. Territorial Jurisdiction: The court's authority is confined to cases within its geographical boundaries and does not extend beyond its territory.
  3. Pecuniary Jurisdiction: This encompasses cases involving monetary matters and suits of specific monetary value.
  4. Appellate Jurisdiction: This denotes the court's power to hear appeals or review cases that have previously been decided by a lower court. Both the Supreme Court and High Courts possess appellate jurisdiction to review cases decided by lower courts.

Appointment of Judges vs. Judicial Independence

The appointment of judges and the principle of judicial independence are closely intertwined. The process of appointing judges plays a pivotal role in upholding and safeguarding judicial independence. When the method or process for appointing judges lacks transparency, it raises concerns about whether judges can dispense justice impartially. Conversely, a transparent and clear procedure for appointing judges contributes to the preservation of judicial independence.

Independence of judges can be categorized as follows:

  1. Functional or Decisional Independence: This pertains to judges' ability to make decisions without succumbing to internal or external pressures.
  2. Personal Independence: Judges should not be beholden to the government in any manner that could influence their decisions in specific cases.
  3. Collective Independence: This encompasses the institutional, administrative, and financial autonomy of the judiciary as a whole, distinct from the other branches of government, such as the executive and legislative.
  4. Internal Independence: This entails judges' freedom from orders, indications, or pressures from their judicial superiors and colleagues when adjudicating cases.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Indian Constitution explicitly grants the power of judicial review to the Supreme Court of India through Article 32 and to the State High Courts through Articles 226 and 227. The judiciary serves as the guardian of the Constitution and the protector of citizens' rights.

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Consequently, it possesses the authority to declare executive, administrative actions, or legislative acts as unconstitutional. The indispensable requirement for the rule of law to prevail is the presence of judicial independence.

Important Questions on Indepedence of Judiciary 

  1. What are the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary?
  2. Explain the concepts of Independence of the Judiciary with case laws.
  3. Explain the Powers and Jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
  4. What is the need of Independent Judiciary?
  5. What are the articles in the Cosntitution of India that deal with Independent Judiciary?
  6. What is the concept on Neutral Judicial System in India?
  7. Explain the principle of separation of powers.

Conclusion:

The Constitution must establish systems with checks and balances to prevent the abuse and misuse of public power. Dr. Rajendra Prasad's caution during the concluding session of the Constituent Assembly is worth remembering. He stated:

"Regardless of what the Constitution may or may not contain, the welfare of the country will depend on how it is administered. This, in turn, depends on the individuals who administer it... A Constitution, like a machine, is lifeless. It gains life through those who control and operate it. India needs nothing more than a group of honest individuals who prioritize the country's well-being."

This statement encapsulates the essence of the issue. The expectations from the judiciary are exceptionally high due to its vital role in the Constitution. Judicial independence is intended to empower the judiciary as the guardian of the rule of law. It serves not only for the judiciary's honor but primarily to uphold public interest and preserve the rule of law.

In a republican democracy, judicial accountability is an integral aspect of judicial independence, and judges are expected to adhere to recognized norms of judicial conduct.

In the words of Addison, "To be perfectly just is an attribute of the divine nature, and to strive for perfect justice to the best of our abilities is the essence of human glory." This aptly describes the nature of the judicial function.

How can we ensure this outcome and achieve the true purpose of judicial independence? The answer lies in the texts and established judicial conventions, as generally reaffirmed in the 1997 resolutions mentioned earlier.

The Allahabad High Court Post-Centenary Silver Jubilee Commemoration Volume reminds us of an ancient quote:

"Let the king appoint, as members of the courts of justice, honorable men of proven integrity, who can shoulder the responsibility of administering justice, are well-versed in sacred laws and prudent rules, and who remain noble and impartial towards both friends and foes."

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More recently, David Pannick in his book "Judges" concludes:

"The qualities desired of a judge can be simply stated: that he be a good judge and that he be perceived as such... Such qualifications are not easily acquired. A judge needs to possess 'the strength to rectify injustice' and the intellectual abilities expected of historians, philosophers, and prophets... Since the judiciary plays a central role in governing society, we must, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested, scrutinize this aspect of public life with a critical eye."

The principles outlined regarding judicial independence aim to encompass these facets.

The appointment process and the mechanisms in place to ensure judicial independence with accountability at all levels are crucial in safeguarding judicial independence. The sincere commitment and determination of the entire legal community, including both the Bar and the Bench, are imperative in achieving this goal.

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