Judicial Accountability

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Someone had rightly said that “accountability” is the essence of Democracy. Technically In a democracy, every public institution is subject to “public scrutiny” or in other words it is accountable to the nation. Accountability can rightly be termed as sine qua non of democracy. But this accountability cutting across borders is often in confrontation with “Judicial Independence”. Advocates of Judicial Independence ardently argue that as Judiciary has got a role of an arbitrator and adjudicator it should not be subjected to any sort of scrutiny. Well in my opinion, because of its exceptional and paramount role and also for the cause of Justice, Judiciary should be open to every kind of scrutiny. In a democratic setup no public authority should be exempted from public scrutiny though the level and kind of scrutiny may vary.

Judiciary is an important organ of state and as such has a pivotal role to play in the administration of state, but this role is no exemption from accountability. We all are aware of the corruption and malpractices which have crept inside our Judicial System. “Impartiality” is the hallmark of Judiciary and to make this quality more firm our constitution has accorded various safeguards to the Judiciary so that it remains independent and plays an impartial role of an adjudicator. The best example of such a safeguard is the tough and cumbersome process of removal of judges of the Higher Judiciary, which has been termed as impeachment. The basic contention here is that we try to compare independence and accountability on the same platform. Accountability and Independence are two different notions and both are equally important for smooth functioning of democracy. Today with growing legal awareness and increasing judicial activism, judiciary has emerged as the most important institution in our country and with this increase in power, judiciary has also seen degradation in professional ethics and code of conducts of some judges which has greatly hampered the cause of justice. Recently only an ex Chief Justice of India was blamed of corruption charges and having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, and more recently a Chief Justice of a High Court was charged with charges of corruption and misconduct and it was after much pressure that he resigned from his office, all these examples reflect the sorry state of affairs through which our judiciary is going through.

I believe in such a sorry state of time and otherwise also, every organ of government should be open to every kind of review and scrutiny and should be accountable to the people of this country. Judges are also human beings and they are also part of the same system, of which more or less commonality is sceptical. With full respect and regards for the judiciary, I believe in this scenario, accountability and scrutiny will not limit the power of Judiciary but it will in a way give more legitimacy to the “Decisions” of judiciary. Justice is not only in delivering Judgements but also in ensuring that “Judgement” had followed the right path.