Justice concerns the relationship between the individuals and also the relationship between the individuals and groups. Basically it stands for the right of the individual. Innocent should not be punished is the basic principle of all .civilized systems of justice. Notion of equality is central to the notion of justice.
Judiciary is that organ of the government which dispenses justice. It is concerned with justice to individuals and groups. It does not permit any discrimination and ensures equality before law. It protects individuals against the unjust actions of other individuals and groups and also against the highhandedness of the government. Thus, judiciary is entrusted with an important duty of protecting and safeguarding the rights of individuals and putting a check on arbitrary actions of the state. Another important function of the judiciary in all democratic countries which have a Constitution, is to interpret the Constitution. This function empowers the judiciary to determine the legal competence of the legislative bodies and to pronounce upon the constitutional validity of legislative measures passed by the legislatures.
The Constitution of India envisages an independent judiciary to adjudicate upon the disputes arising between the Government of India and one or more states, or between the Government of India and any state or state on one side and one or more than one state on the other, or between two or more states if and in so far as the dispute involves any question whether of law or fact or between two or more private citizens of the country. The judiciary in India has the right to hear and decide all civil and criminal cases. It is expected to function as the custodian of the Constitution, protector of right of the citizens and a watch-dog against the arbitrary actions of the administrative apparatus of the state.
In India the Constitution is supreme and the judiciary is an independent institution. The Constituent Assembly which framed the Constitution, emphasized utmost need of keeping the judicial organ completely free from the control and influence of the executive and legislature. It was so because the father of our Constitution were keen to protect the legitimate rights and interest of the citizens. The need for an independent judiciary was greater in a democracy without which it may degenerate into mobocracy.
During the last 50 years or so the role of judiciary has been the subject of debate in our country. Very important scholars have expressed various views blaming the judiciary of being conservative. Their main complaint has been that judiciary has been hostile to the needs and aspirations of common man and thus is anti-people and anti-legislature. Some intellectuals have seen an attitude of confrontation in judicial pronouncements. Some want the judiciary to be committed. A few in their anger against the judiciary went to the extent of demanding that it should be barred from sitting over judgment on matters decided by the collective wisdom of the elected legislature. Encouraged by such comments by certain scholars government tried to curtail the powers of the judiciary.
As enlightened students, let us examine the comments referred to above. First, the judiciary has been called conservative. It has been said that judiciary has opposed the progressive legislation passed for the benefits of the poor and down trodden, Second, some thinkers floated the idea of a committed judiciary. They want the judiciary to toe the official line. Third, some intellectuals advocated curtailment of powers of judiciary.
These comments are lop-sided and indicative of short-sightedness. The judiciary has been called conservative because it has obstructed progressive legislation. The Constitution has assigned a role to the judiciary and it should not be called conservative only because it struck down a legislation howsoever progressive it may be. Do we expect judiciary to go against the letter and spirit of our Constitution? Shall we not-malign our judiciary as ‘perverted in case it failed to perform the role assigned to it by our Constitution?
The notion of committed judiciary is very dangerous. Government will become dictatorial in case judiciary is forced to toe the official line. Under such circumstances government shall tend to violate the Constitution and our judiciary will not be able to protect it. The idea that the judiciary should not have a right to sit over judgment upon the collective decision of the legislature, is absured. If judiciary has to function as a protector of the Constitution and as a watch-dog of the liberties of the people, it must have the right to sit over judgment upon the validity of the legislative measures.
We, therefore, come to the conclusion that these adverse comments against the character of the judiciary are unwarranted, and at any rate political. The judiciary in India has given a very commendable account of its performance. It has worked independently and impartially. It has always followed the letter and spirit of the Constitution and has refused to be cowed down by the executive and legislature. It has neither shown any fear nor favour howsoever high and mighty he or she might have been. It has stoutly protected the Constitution and the rights of the citizens.