The Judiciary is one of the three organs of the Government which plays a crucial role in the administration of justice in the country. It performs various functions to promote justice and protect the rights of the people. In performing its functions it also has to keep in mind the responsibility that comes with it and has to be accountable for its judgements. This is known as Judicial Accountability.
In India there exists the separation of powers between the three organs of the government and thus the judiciary as a separate organ enjoys Independency. Due to this, there can be times where it can be arbitrary in passing its judgements. This is where Judicial Accountability comes into play and the judges have to be accountable for passing those judgements that tend to infringe the rights of the people.
Judicial Accountability means that the judges are accountable for the judgements delivered by them. They have the responsibility to assess each and every case in an efficient manner by keeping in mind the principles of justice and equity and give the decisions accordingly. It is true that the judges have a sense of freedom and independency but it does not mean that they can misuse the power that has been given to them. So therefore, they have to be ethical and impartial in the administration of justice.
REQUIREMENTS OF A GOOD JUDICIAL SYSTEM:
A very good justice system depends on the quality of the judges and how efficient they are in doing their work. The following are the essential requirements of a good justice system:
• Ethical: The judges are the carriers of justice in the country, so they have to be ethical in doing their duties. There shouldn’t be any partiality or arbitrariness in any situation and they have to be neutral in their approach.
• Promote justice: Promoting justice should be their primary objective. Every nation in this world strives to promote justice and in this process, the judges play the most vital role by setting examples and principles that can be followed by the people as well as the judges of the future.
• Honesty: The judges have to be honest and fair in analysing each and every case that is presented before them. They are expected to give their honest opinion without any prejudice.
• Equal opportunities: The judges should not favour any person or group and all the parties have to be given equal opportunities to be heard. They have to follow the principles of equity and keep in mind that every individual is equal before the law.
NEED FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY:
Judicial Accountability is essential for any democratic country in the world. The judges have to be accountable and responsible to the public. There has to be certain rules or principles to restrict the judges from misusing their power as they are mere individuals who represent the court which time and again reminds everyone that no person or individual is above the law.
In the case of Central Public information officer vs. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, the Apex court has stated the importance of Judicial Accountability. It has observed that Judicial Independence cannot be used as a byword for avoiding Accountability. It further stated that accountability is not only necessary to uphold the virtues of a democracy as enshrined in our constitution but also to maintain its Independent character, as there can be no independency if the public does not have confidence in the judiciary.
There should be a balance between judicial independency and accountability which is ideal for a democratic country like ours and both goes hand in hand. In the case of E.Giri Yadav vs. Union of India, the court has stated that the act of balancing Judicial Independence and accountability might be difficult but has to be tackled. The judges cannot be allowed to wander around freely and unaccountable for their actions.
There are certain provisions under the constitution to keep a check on the actions of the judges. Impeachment or removal of the judges can be considered as the only process to induce responsibility among them. This process proves that the power of the judges is not absolute and they cannot take power in their own hands. Article 124(2) and (4) of the constitution provides the process for removal of judges of the supreme court of India and Article 217 for the removal of judges of the high court. Also, the judges inquiry act, 1968 was enacted to regulate the procedure for investigation and proof of the misbehaviour on the part of any judge of a high court or the supreme court.
The judges can be removed through a motion in the parliament with a minimum of two -thirds majority in each house. The motion has to be admitted by the speaker or chairman depending on where the motion is initiated. After the motion is admitted, an inquiry committee is set up to investigate the grounds for removal of the judge. This committee should comprise of a Supreme Court judge, a high court chief justice and an eminent jurist. If the committee finds that the judge is guilty, then a motion for removal will be passed in both the houses of the parliament. For the successful removal of the judge, the motion has to be supported by a majority of the total membership of the house and a majority of not less than two-thirds of members who are present and voting. After the success of this motion in both the houses, the parliament will request the President for the removal of the judge.
There are various hardships and challenges faced to make judges responsible for their actions, inactions or misbehaviour. Despite all the challenges faced, Judicial Accountability is essential for the governance of the country and to maintain its democratic character. Given below are some of the challenges faced in implementing Judicial Accountability:
• Lack of transparency: Lack of transparency in appointment of the judges is one of the reasons for the difficulties faced in implementing judicial accountability. At times, people who lack integrity and honesty are appointed through an arbitrary process of selection and even after being found dishonest by a committee of judges, they are not removed.
• Limited mechanism for removal: Impeachment is the only mechanism through which a judge can be removed and there are many limitations found in this process making it very difficult in bringing judicial accountability. When there is no majority to oust a judge in the parliament, the judge cannot be removed.
In the case of Justice v. Ramaswamy, the former chief justice of Punjab and Haryana high court, the inquiry committee found him guilty on most of the charges but he was not removed from his office as the motion did not attain the required majority in the parliament.
• Contempt of courts Act: One of the major reasons for lack of Judicial Accountability in India is the misuse of the provisions of the contempt of courts act. The judges use this as a weapon to escape accountability and also reduce the essence of freedom of speech and expression. This is clearly evident in Arundhati Roy’s case, where she was held in contempt and sent to jail for criticising the court.
• Politics: The influence of politics is another challenge in implementing judicial accountability. There are instances where the judges are dishonest and favour corrupt politicians which lead to injustice in the country.
Judicial Accountability is a need for the success of democracy. The judicial system of the country plays a major role in contributing to the advancement in justice, fairness and equity. There has to be transparency in all the activities of the judiciary so that it can gain and maintain public confidence which ensures its independency. There should be a balance between Independency and Accountability so that the judiciary can have unrestricted freedom and at the same time have a certain sense of responsibility towards the public. Therefore, only a nation with a strong judicial accountability can bring about a positive change in the judicial system.
Author: Ronald Philips,
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