Concept of Judicial Accountability
The article 'Concept of Judicial Accountability' is a well-researched study about the significance of the judiciary and its impact on society.
The article 'Concept of Judicial Accountability' is a well-researched study about the significance of the judiciary and its impact on society. The concept of accountability implies that an individual, group, or nation accepts responsibility for its actions to avoid punishment or by providing justification. Judicial accountability is the idea that judges should be held responsible for their actions. This could take many different forms, such as being accountable to the public in order to win the approval of voters during an election or to a political institution like the legislature or governor.
It is necessary to judge judges in order to prevent judges from abusing their authority. Internal disputes in the judiciary that have an adverse effect on the judiciary's function are harmful to the entire country. Stronger judicial accountability is required in light of the rise in these disputes to ensure that the delivery of justice is not jeopardised. The method of judicial accountability needs to be well-imparted in society.
Justice is said to be blind, thus, it is up to the judges to decide how to administer it while keeping in mind that each and every citizen of the country should receive justice. Because the judges' decisions determine the fate of the parties engaged in a case being heard by the court, it is necessary to hold them responsible for their decisions. Any democratic country is said to require accountability in order to uphold the rights granted to its citizens and administer justice that is intended to be equal for all. The judiciary must establish a balance in order to control its function and encourage impartiality among the judges. Any nation's judicial system is an independent and impartial structure designed to address injustice.
Meaning of Judicial Accountability
Judicial accountability refers to the idea that judges are accountable for the judgements they render. It also entails that judges must answer for their behaviour. The judicial branch of the government is not held to the same standards of accountability as the executive or legislative branches. Judicial independence and accountability are essentially at odds with one another due to their different objectives, as shall be discussed further.
Judges are solely responsible for the choices they make. Accountability is guaranteed by the decision-making process being transparent. Every public authority has a duty to account to the people for the actions it takes and the duties it performs. The level of accountability varies depending on the tasks completed and the duties carried out by the public body. Similarly to this, the judiciary, which is a branch of the government, must also be held accountable. The judicial branch of the government is not, however, held to the same standards of accountability as the executive or legislative branches.
Provisions that guarantee Judicial Accountability
- Articles 124 and 217 of our Indian Constitution allow for the impeachment of judges of the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts on the grounds of misconduct and incompetence, respectively.
- According to Article 235 of the Constitution, the High Court has "control" over the subordinate judiciary. It offers a strong enforcement mechanism to hold the lower judiciary accountable.
- The Restatement of Values of Judicial Life is a charter that was adopted by the Supreme Court of India in 1997. The actions and conduct of the higher judicial branch must restore public confidence in the judiciary's objectivity.
Requirement of enhancing Judicial Accountability:
Following are some of the reasons which make it imperative to enhance judicial accountability in India:
1. Constitution’s Guardian- Judicial accountability is especially crucial since the court is responsible for protecting our constitution, making it considerably more harmful for ideals to be violated there than in any other branch of government.
2. Public Confidence- The judiciary must work to keep the public's trust in the established courts if it is to maintain its independence as an institution.
3. Speedy Justice- Fast justice is not only a fundamental human right but also a requirement for upholding the rule of law and providing effective government.
4. No Legal Obligation- The judiciary is not required by law to create yearly reports or present them to Parliament or the State Legislature, in contrast to the government.
5. Impartial Functioning- It will contribute to ensuring an unbiased operation that will increase public confidence in the courts as an institution.
6. Narrow Scope of Right to Information- The range of data that courts are willing to divulge under RTI is not very broad.
Following are some of the challenges that are encountered while imparting and guaranteeing judicial accountability:
- Other than impeachment, there is no other mechanism to remove a judge from office. The procedure of impeachment has many obstacles. This is thereby the judiciary's obstacle to implementing judicial accountability.
- The court faces additional difficulties in carrying out its duties with integrity due to the influence of politics in the legal system. If the judges are heavily influenced by the political bodies in the nation, their judgements will not be transparent or fair. It does become difficult for the judiciary to establish accountability while maintaining its independence.
- The fact that the court is an independent body and that judges' independence cannot be eliminated presents the biggest obstacle to the regulation of judicial accountability. According to Article 235 of the Indian Constitution, any High Court has authority over the Subordinate Courts, which gives a clear indication of the efficient process required to compel responsibility.
Need for stronger Judicial Accountability
"All power is a trust –we are accountable for its exercise – that from the people and for the people, all springs and all must exist.”
Making the judiciary accountable is undoubtedly necessary since doing so is significantly more harmful than doing so in any other branch of the government because the court is responsible for protecting our constitution. The idea of judicial responsibility and the judges' answerability is not new. A number of nations already guarantee the judiciary's accountability in their constitutions. Specifically, in nations where judicial activism interferes with and intrudes into the territory of other organs, this is done to prevent the accumulation of power in the hands of a single governmental organ. But judicial independence is also a requirement for every judge because his oath of office requires him to behave impartially.
Every public office holder in a democracy is portrayed as being accompanied by responsibility and held perpetually responsible to the people, who hold the source of political sovereignty. By the use of courts, the judicial system deals with the administration of justice. The human beings who preside over the courts are called judges. They are the courts' actual representatives in the real world, not just outward emblems of the courts. The way judges carry out their responsibilities affects how well-respected courts are and how trustworthy the judicial system is. In India, judges have always been held in great regard.
Judicial Independence and Judicial Accountability: Balance
Judicial independence is essential to ensuring the effective administration of justice to the nation's working class. Judges are expected to uphold the law and address injustice without regard for personal gain or apprehension. Judicial accountability, as previously indicated, also entails arguing with judges, who serve as the legal system's regulators, about their judgements and verdicts that have an effect on the entire country. When viewed from a microscopic perspective, both of these concepts might be considered to be in opposition to one another. But both are equally important for the nation's justice system to have them both. Striking a balance between judicial responsibility and judicial independence is one of the reasons for having higher judicial accountability.
Both of these ideas support the legal system's superiority over all other human beings or the rule of law. Although judicial independence promotes fair and transparent hearings and does not benefit the judges as has been perceived in numerous cases, further judicial accountability is required to bring about fair and unbiased hearings by the judges. They could be seen as complementing one another. The purpose of both of these ideas is to strengthen the effectiveness of how the legal system functions by fostering judicial courage and integrity. Finding the right judges who can work with courage, dedication, and justice to properly carry out their duties is the first step in both judicial independence and judicial accountability.
Doctrine of Separation of Powers
All three of the government's branches are expected to be accountable for performing their specific functions and duties because India is a democratic nation. It is impossible to maintain an absolute and unaccountable judiciary. According to the idea of the separation of powers, each of the three branches of government is independent of the others and accountable to its own mandates. The government's organs in India are depending on one another because the doctrine is weak there. The government's organs can only allow the doctrine of separation of powers to be in effect through the mechanism of checks and balances.
In order to create a fair relationship among the three organs of the government and limit the arbitrary use of power by any one organ, checks and balances should be applied to one organ by the other two organs. The concept of separation of powers aids the judiciary in holding itself strongly accountable for upholding the legitimacy of the judiciary. Instead, the theory makes it simpler for tighter judicial oversight to materialise. Therefore, if the doctrine of separation of powers is successfully implemented, a need for greater judicial accountability can be satisfied.
The following cases are some of the landmark cases related to ‘judicial accountability’:
1. K. Veeraswami v. Union Of India and Others, 1991 SCR (3) 189
The issue of judicial responsibility was rendered more difficult by the Supreme Court of India. The Chief Justice of India must give his written consent before a judge from the Supreme Court or a High Court can conduct an inquiry into a civil or criminal offence, the Supreme Court ruled. In fact, the entire judicial system suffered from this court's decision. As a result, the idea of judicial responsibility is also eliminated. The court's ruling in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India and Others, AIR 1982 SC 149, was reversed by this judgement. The only method to remove a judge from office is through impeachment, as is well known. But so far, this procedure hasn't worked.
2. Sarojini Ramaswami vs Union Of India & Ors, Writ Petition (Civil) 514 of 1992
Due to an absence of a majority vote from the Houses of Parliament, the impeachment order given by the supreme court failed miserably. Despite being accused of misusing the court's funds, Justice Ramaswamy was not impeached because one of the parties refused to cast a ballot. This case highlighted the flaws in the judicial system and the requirement for strict judicial responsibility to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future. Stronger judicial accountability is a good thing, as evidenced by the decisions that have been mentioned above, as it ensures that the people receive just and accurate justice. Justice must not only be served but also seen to have been served, according to great thinkers.
3. S.P. Gupta vs President Of India And Ors., AIR 1982 SC 149
The Central Government's request to extend protection against the publication of confidential documents to the general public was denied by the Supreme Court in S.P. Gupta v. Union of India. The court made it quite plain that only materials that go against the interests of the public at large are exempt from the restriction on document disclosure. The court noted that it is crucial for the public to be aware of the transfer and appointment of judges in this case. Judge Bhagwati made a crucial decision emphasising the importance of strict judicial accountability in this judgement. The court acknowledged that they must respond to inquiries from the public regarding the decisions they make.
The operation of the high courts should fall under the direct control of the Supreme Court. Only then can the Supreme Court be held accountable for judicial administration for the entire nation, as it ought to be, and the highest court becomes an effective apex court. Judges of the court are required to submit yearly financial disclosure statements, not secretly to their individual chief justices but in public, as is the case in the USA, the longest democracy in the world. Judges must be role models for all high-ranking government officials, including federal and state ministers, members of the Parliament and state legislatures, and other judges. By passing legislation modelled after the American one, judicial accountability should be secured. Key responsibilities have been delegated to the courts for execution. The justices who serve as the court's representatives must adhere to two key principles: transparency and fairness. The judiciary should have a more robust and developed system of accountability to bring clarity to the decision-making process in order to improve public trust in the judiciary.
 Oishika Banerjee, ‘Need for stronger Judicial Accountability’, Available Here
 Kunal Jha, ‘Judicial Accountability’, Available Here
 Anuradha Dhadhge Girme, ‘Judicial Accountability and Comparative Approach’, Available Here
 Prem Chandra, Ashutosh Garg, ‘Judicial Accountability and Transparency in India: Flaws and Road Ahead’, Available Here
 Dr Jay Kumar Bhongale, Dr Ujwala Bendale, ‘Judicial Appointment, Accountability and Constitutional obligation of Judges in India’, Available Here