In every country the judiciary comprises the third and in many ways the most important organ of the governmental machinery. The executive and the legislature of course have a vital role to play in the multifaceted task of governance, but in a federal set-up, it is the judiciary that holds the balance. Lord Bryca, the famous British Jurist and constitutional expert, rightly commented that there is no better test of the excellence of a government than the efficiency of the judicial system.
The judiciary is in fact the guardian of the people’s right; it protects these rights from encroachments by the Government, public bodies and individuals. The liberty of the people, so vital in a democracy, gets endangered if there is no totally independent judiciary commanding the highest conceivable degree of credibility. If the judges, are not men of integrity and sound moral character, public confidence in the judiciary cannot be ensured.
It is this public trust and credibility that is now threatened as a result of certain improprieties, indiscretions and even acts of direct and indirect corruption, by certain judges. No one., least of all the framers of India’s carefully devised Constitution, envisaged a situation in which the judiciary would get exposed to charges of corruption. The recent acts of colleagues here and abroad but also by all people everywhere who cherish high moral principles and the values on which our polity is supposed to be based.
Until recently, talk of the threat of collapse of the judicial system was linked with the unbearable work load of the judges at various levels, caused by the frightening backing of cases together with the ceaseless flow of new ones.
The delays in getting justice from the courts are proverbial. Even six decades after independence there is no sign of the speedy, inexpensive justice which the Founding Father of the Republic and other leaders envisaged. Some people even fear that a time may come when disputes will be settled through extra judicial means, as has happened in certain areas of Bihar.
Among the causes of the scandalous delay are the complicated court procedures, the needlessly lengthy and adjournments (generally sought by the lawyers) themselves in order to enhance their incomes), the heavy pressure of work necessitating long intervals between hearings, the facility of lodging appeals to high courts, the inadequate number of judges and the numerous holidays. Two lack fresh cases are filed in the various courts each year while the disposal rate does not exceed 9,000. The work load of all courts – subordinate, High or Supreme is doubling every seven years.
The former Chief Justice of India, expressed anguish over the failure of the judicial system to meet the needs and expectations of the public for the justice and redress in private disputes or against the Government. All members of the judiciary, especially judges of the High courts are expected to be scrupulously honest and men of integrity. Unfortunately, several senior judges of the Mumbai High Court have become controversial figures.
Judicial independence has been enshrined in the Constitution under Article 124. A judge’s salary or other service conditions cannot be altered to his disadvantages. He cannot be removed from office, save through the arduous process of impeachment which requires approval of a two-thirds majority of ach House of Parliament. To get this is indeed a difficulty task. This independence has enabled the Courts to invalidate several unconstitutional laws passed by the legislatures affecting the rights and liberties of the citizens or the Press. Judicial independence , however, should no got to the extent of making judges irresponsible or unconcerned about the proper performance of their duties and their accountability for their actions and indulging in graft.
There seems to be a nexus between the sudden fall in the credibility of the judiciary and the increasing politicization of the process of appointment of judges in which lobbying in the corridors of power rather than knowledge of law and character was found to be quite effective. Unless the executive sheds its power of having the final voice in judicial appointments and transfers, the situation cannot improve.
The Judge’s conference thought if the existing system was worked in the true sprit, it could prove more useful. To ensure that malpractices do no creep in, it wants that the Chief Justice of India’s role should not be merely consultative as at present but it must be laid down that his concurrence is necessary for appointments and transfers. Also in the case of appointment of High Court Judges, it is the Chief Justice of the High Court who should recommended the name and the Chief Minister should only be consulted. In essence, it is politic and political influence that lead to miscarriage and denial of justice and even corruption.
The living conditions and economic status of some judges are started to pathetic. But could be any justification for indulging in corruption – the every evil of judiciary is expected to check. in this connection, the suggestion of a top anti-corruption drive expert that there should be an inter-judiciary or in-house body, which may be called ‘Board of Judicial Ethics’ is a sound of one.