The Judiciary



What is the Judiciary?

The judiciary is one of the three branches of the government, alongside the executive and the legislative. Its main role is to interpret and uphold the laws of the country.

Structure of the Judiciary:

The judiciary in India is divided into three levels:

·        Supreme Court: This is the highest court in the country. It is composed of the Chief Justice of India and 34 other judges. The Supreme Court has the power to review the decisions of all other courts and to interpret the Constitution.

·        High Courts: There are 25 High Courts in India, each with jurisdiction over a particular state or group of states. They hear appeals from lower courts and have the power to issue writs (orders) to enforce fundamental rights.

·        Subordinate Courts: This is the lowest level of the Judiciary. It includes district courts, session’s courts, and other specialized courts. They deal with a wide range of cases, from petty offenses to civil disputes.


In India, we have an integrated judicial system, which means that the decisions made by higher courts are binding on the lower courts. The appellate system exists in India, which means that a person can appeal to a higher court if they believe that the judgment passed by the lower court is not just.



Role of the Judiciary:-

Work of the judiciary can be divided into the following:


·        Dispute Resolution: The judicial system provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between citizens, between citizens and the government, between two state governments and between the centre and state governments.

·        Judicial Review: Judiciary has the power to strike down particular laws passed by the Parliament, if it believes that these are a violation of the basic structure of the Constitution. This is called judicial review.

·        Upholding the Law and Enforcing Fundamental Rights: Every citizen of India can approach the Supreme Court or the High Court if they believe that their Fundamental Rights have been violated.


What is an Independent Judiciary?

An independent judiciary is a legal system where the courts and judges are free from inappropriate interference from other branches of government, such as the executive or the legislature, and from private or partisan interests. This independence is crucial for ensuring that the law is applied fairly and impartially, and that the rights of individuals are protected.

The Independence of Judiciary means:-

1.     Other branches of government – the legislature and the executive – cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary. The courts are not under the government and do not act on their behalf.

2.     Independence of the judiciary allows the courts to play a central role in ensuring that there is no misuse of power by the legislature and the executive.

3.     Independence of the judiciary also plays a crucial role in protecting the Fundamental Rights of citizens.


What are the Different Branches of the Legal System?

Go through the following table to understand the significant differences between criminal and civil law.

Criminal Law

Civil Law

Deals with conduct or acts that the law defines as offences. Eg, Theft, harassing a woman, dowry, murder.

Deals with any harm or injury to the rights of individuals. E.g, Disputes relating to the sale of land, purchase of goods, rent matters, and divorce cases.

It usually begins with the lodging of a First Information Report (FIR) with the police who investigate the crime, after which a case is filed in court.

A petition has to be filed before the relevant court by the affected party only.

If found guilty, the accused can be sent to jail and also fined.

The court gives the specific relief asked for.


Does Everyone Have Access to the Courts?

All citizens of India can access the courts in this country. This means that every citizen has a right to justice through the courts. The courts are available for all, but in reality, access to courts has always been difficult for a vast majority of the poor in India. Legal procedures involve a lot of money and paperwork as well as take up a great deal of time. In response to this, the Supreme Court in the early 1980s devised a mechanism of Public Interest Litigation or PIL to increase access to justice. It allowed any individual or organisation to file a PIL in the High Court or the Supreme Court on behalf of those whose rights were being violated.

The phrase ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ is often used to characterise the extended time period that courts take. However, in spite of this, there is no denying that the judiciary has played a crucial role in democratic India, serving as a check on the powers of the executive and the legislature as well as in protecting the Fundamental Rights of citizens.


Importance of the Judiciary:


Upholds the rule of law: The Judiciary ensures that everyone, including the government, is subject to the law. This prevents arbitrary and unjust actions.

Protects individual rights: The Judiciary safeguards the fundamental rights of citizens and provides a remedy if these rights are violated.

Promotes social justice: The Judiciary plays a crucial role in promoting social justice and equality by ensuring that the law is applied fairly and equally to everyone.

Maintains checks and balances: The Judiciary acts as a check on the power of the Legislature and the Executive, preventing any one branch of government from becoming too powerful.

Strengthens democracy: A strong and independent Judiciary is essential for a healthy democracy. It ensures that the government is accountable to the people and that the rule of law is upheld.


Challenges faced by the Judiciary:


Backlog of cases: The Indian Judiciary faces a huge backlog of cases, which can lead to delays in justice.

Corruption: There have been instances of corruption within the Judiciary, which undermines public trust in the system.

Underfunding: The Judiciary is often underfunded, which can lead to a lack of resources and infrastructure needed to function effectively.

Need for judicial reforms: There is a need for reforms to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Judiciary.