The events of the past week have shone a stark light on the workings of one of the four pillars of our democracy: Judiciary.
For all its powers, the judiciary rarely receives the public scrutiny it deserves. Sure, the people to groan in unison when a high-profile guy is acquitted in a high-profile case after the court observes that the key witness who died years ago is not wholly reliable and had not been cross-examined; but we go about our own lives the very next day.
Quick Tip: If you want to cross-examine witnesses while they are alive, maybe don’t take 5 years to begin the trial…
Equality before law is such a cute thought, is it not?
Interestingly enough, while judges spend their entire lives judging actions of us lesser mortals, they themselves are uniquely isolated from all accountability.
- Whom does the judiciary serve? The people.
- Who pays the judges’ salaries? The people.
- Who selects the judges? Other judges
- Who can remove errant or incompetent judges? Other judges.
Now, you have to admit that something does not add up.
In November, during a debate over a plea seeking an SIT probe into alleged judicial corruption in a case, the bench of the Supreme Court stated the following:
“—this controversy has been set at rest that even when there is an allegation against Hon’ble CJI, it is he, who has to assign the case to a Bench, as considered appropriate by him.”
Well, it sounds fishy. The Chief Justice can choose which judges judge him. Do I get the same choice? Well, not really…
But as long as this enormous power is wielded responsibly, there is no reason to complain, right?
Well, apparently, at least four Supreme Court judges do believe there is reason to complain.
The problem does not lie in one individual, but in the system at large.
Of course, the judiciary needs to remain independent of the other branches of the government.
After all, we wouldn’t want our judges to be strong-armed into clearing political leaders of murder, rioting, criminal intimidation, witness tampering, destruction of evidence, corruption, and other colourful charges with a fair trial, would we? Well, never mind…
The point remains that an institution as powerful as our judiciary, running with little to no accountability, is symptomatic of an oligarchy, not democracy.
Now, are we living in an oligarchy? That is a question for another day.