COUNTER VIEW: Judiciary must stick to its turf

There seems to be no end to the debate over how much the judiciary should intervene in the affairs of the legislature and the executive. Fresh remarks made by Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan are only going to further fuel this debate. The Chief Justice asserted that it was the job of the apex court to intervene whenever citizens’ fundamental rights were under threat. If other organs of the state were offended by it, too bad. Those in favour of judicial activism would echo the Chief Justice’s views that when the executive fails to deliver, the judiciary must intervene. Chief Justice Balakrishnan has defended the judiciary’s interventions by saying “…it is incumbent on the Supreme Court to take necessary steps to alleviate the dismal conditions of the people”. There is no denying that the highest court of the country is the guardian of citizens’ rights. However, judicial overreach goes against the provisions of our Constitution, which mandates that the three organs of the state must be separate and independent. By treading on the toes of the legislature and the executive, the judiciary goes against the spirit of the Constitution which it is meant to safeguard. The Chief Justice has also said that the apex court is the “doyen of public interest litigation” (PIL) and that it is crucial to safeguard civil liberties. However, there is the serious problem of frivolous PILs admitted by lower courts. Rabble-rousers on the lookout for cheap publicity often file these. This clogs the judicial system and in the process, speedy disbursal of justice in legitimate cases is the casualty. Let’s not forget all those times when the courts have stepped into areas where its expertise does not lie, for instance the height of speed breakers. For the healthy functioning of our democracy, it is imperative that the three organs of the state stick to their turf. We have the fourth estate to serve as a watchdog.
14 Jun 2008, 0001 hrs IST, Kaurvaki Rao


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