A Case in Point
A Case in Point
Judicial independence needs a fresh look in the context of jurisprudence of checks and balances.
Manish Tewari

The enormous difference between former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s nomination and previous selection-elections of retired Supreme Court judges to the Rajya Sabha need to be evaluated in the context of the vast increase in powers of the office of the CJI before and after the Advocates-on-Record versus Union of India case in 1993, Re–the Second Judges case. This case tripped both the intricate doctrine of balance of power between the executive, judiciary and the legislature, as well as the theory of checks and balances that lies at the heart of the Indian constitutional scheme.

With the institutionalisation of the collegium system post the Second Judges case, the chief justice, being the de facto head of the respective Supreme Court collegiums, has become the fulcrum that has the propensity, given an inclination, to exercise weight upon the entire judicial apparatus of the country from a civil judge to a high court Chief Justice.

India’s judicial apparatus is divided into three distinct levels. At the bottom are the district courts and its subordinate infrastructure—the tehsil/ munsif courts on the civil side and the magistracy courts on the criminal side. These judicial organs are the origin point of adjudication of most civil disputes and criminal matters. These include both civil courts wherein a party/individual first goes to report a dispute or where minor criminal offences are prosecuted, followed by the district and sessions courts where, in most cases, the first appeal lie. The two most important individuals in a district court are the sessions judge and the chief judicial magistrate. The sessions judge is senior most officer in the district and it is his/her prerogative to distribute work amongst the different courts under him/her. Judges in a district, be it a sessions judge or a judicial magistrate first class, are selected by a written examination and are transferred once every three years.


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April 07, 2020