Saturday, October 17, 2015

Judicial independence vs judicial integrity

Supreme Court's judgment invalidating the 99th amendment to the Constitution and restoring the Collegium system with an attempt to remove the warts in the Collegium system has naturally attracted plenty of comments.

Ram Jethmalani is happy that the Supreme Court has regained its prestige and primacy. Ministers in the central government have viewed the decision as expressive of tyranny of the unelected over the elected. That the NJAC Bill was passed unanimously by the Parliament is mistakenly interpreted as the unanimous view of the citizens of the country. This only manifests the arrogance that citizens have no right to think differently from their representatives.

Participants in this intense debate are fixated on independence of the judiciary. True, the separation of powers among the executive, legislature and the judiciary is sacrosanct and cannot be meddled with lest the basic structure of the Constitution (apropos the Keshavananda Bharati case) is disturbed. The requirement of judicial independence mandates non-interference by the other two wings in its processes. But it is debatable whether this desideratum empowers the judiciary exclusively to choose its members (judges) and obligates the legislature and the executive to abstain from this selection procedure / process.

Be that as it may, what is more important and unfortunately more missing is the integrity of judges. Indian judiciary is what it is today (Justice Markandey Katju says it is beyond redemption) more because of the integrity factor than the independence factor. It is time that we demand the judges to correct themselves.

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