An Essay on the Role of Judiciary in Democracy

The three limbs of Democracy are the legislature, executive and the judiciary. The first formulates policy and enacts it as law, the second carries out policy in action and the third applies the law according to rules of procedural justice and resolves disputes. To guarantee freedom, the hallmark of democracy, these three powers must be separated as much as possible and balanced against each other.

For a successful democracy the existence of a free judiciary is a must. Without an independent judiciary, the system may be practically equivalent to dictatorship. Judiciary is the guardian of the constitution which is rooted in the Rule of law. The judiciary is the interpreter of the constitution. Parliament and the state legislature are creatures of the constitution and the judiciary has a duty to correct their errors, if at times they cross the limits of their powers as defined in their constitution.

Man’s passion for freedom is great but this passion has often been limited by the ruling authorities. Sometimes even the bare minimum of freedom needed by those on power, because this power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual or a small group of people. As legislatures and executives are generally dominated by the same party, they also enact and act without any regard to the people’s will and interests. In this situation the judiciary remains the only institution to which individual may appeal for help and once the verdict goes against such an enactment, the executives and legislature are expected to retrace their steps if the democratic norms have to survive.

The role of the judiciary came to be increasingly emphasized only when the democratic principles began to disseminate in the nineteenth century and as democratic governments began to be set up in the twentieth century. Today there is a wide-spread support and enthusiasm for the assertive posture adopted by the courts. It is because in a democracy the constitution is more steadfastly abided by because of its paramount nature in the political set-up. The judiciary sees that the constitution is not isolated and disgraced. Also hen a constitutional deadlock renders the government helpless, the judiciary is the only institution left as the authority on the constitution to defuse the crises. Lastly, as democracy leaves sufficient scope for different opinions and beliefs, sometimes thee arise two almost equal forceful opinions, contradicting and conflicting with each other, holding out little chance of compromise. At this time, judiciary being regarded and respected as independent and impartial, the judicial verdict is generally adopted by all and the crises are resolved.

However, the role of the judiciary is generally limited because of the balance of power tilting towards legislation in most of the democratic systems. The legislature and the executive combine to demoralize the judiciary on the one hand and make it ‘committed’ to the others. Also there is a section of people who are enraged over the aggressive developments brought into focus by the judiciary the new judicial crusade against corruption in high places has sent shock waves all over the country and many legislatures are expressing alarm in what they perceive as judicial activism. But actually this should not be considered as the judicial activism, in fact, these are the corrective measures taken by the judiciary. The constitution itself has given the judiciary over-riding powers.

The Indian judiciary has upheld great values enshrined in the Indian constitution. The needs of the hour are restraint and conformity to the letter and spirit of the constitution both by the judiciary and politicians. A free judiciary can only exist in a political system in which democratic principles are truly believed in and acted upon by all alike. In return, the judiciary in a democracy should have the courage to protect its independence and deliver impartial judgments free of fear of repercussions on career and prospects.