Monday, October 2, 2023

Judicial independence demands judges to be impartial, insulated from political pressures: Justice BV Nagarathna

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Supreme Court judge Justice B.V. Nagarathna, while noting that the independence of the Judiciary was one of the most cherished ideals of the Constitution, observed that judicial independence demanded the judges to remain impartial and insulated from political pressures.

Speaking during the launch of a book titled ‘Constitutional Ideals’ organised by DAKSH, the Apex Court judge said that in her personal view, ultimately it was the personality of the judge which mattered. She said that every judge left his imprint on all the verdicts he/she delivered.

The book is a volume of essays curated by DAKSH that describes how the judiciary has interpreted and enriched the Constitution in diverse political, social and economic circumstances.

The Book divided into four parts and explores the manner in which individuals engage with the Constitution to demand citizen-centric justice; the navigation of group identities (such as religion and caste) in constitutional litigation; the significance of procedural rigour in ensuring substantive justice, including in the context of insolvency, preventive detention, and public consultations before executive decisions among others.

She said a nation could only be as independent as its institutions, noting that the Judiciary, the Central Bank, the Election Commission and the UPSC must be independent and autonomous, adding that lesser the external influence, the higher will be the scope for autonomous functioning. All these institutions must act within the bounds of law, she noted.

The Judge further said that the Central government should have an impartial approach to all the states, whether it was a small state or large, industrialised or not, having more of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes or less of such population; each state should be considered on an equal footing with every other state.

She said the Central government should play the role of ‘parens patriae’ and ensure that there was no discrimination among the states themselves.

Justice Nagarathna further explained how the Courts cannot question the Parliament as to why a law was made and how Parliament cannot criticise the Courts for passing a judgement.

The Supreme Court judge said that no executive or government could question a court as to why it decided (a case) in a particular way. Similarly, a Court had no right to question the Parliament as to why it made a particular law. This was ultimately left to the wisdom of the authorities concerned.

The only thing was whether the law was in accordance with the Constitution and the rule of law. Similarly, a judgement could be criticised only if it was not in accordance with the law and not as to why a particular view has been taken. These were the checks and balances within the Constitution added Justice Nagarathna.

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