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The Judiciary In India: Its Concept And Functions

The judiciary represents a distinct realm, embodying the cradle, the arena, and a manifestation of law and justice as an entity independent from external interference. This independence ensures the rights of citizens are safeguarded without prejudice or partiality. However, impartiality does not equate to arbitrariness, as the judiciary is a foundational component of democracy, adhering to the principles set forth in the country's constitution. This accountability serves as a bulwark against the corruption of power.

Structure of the Judiciary:
Traditionally, the judiciary is likened to a pyramidal structure with the Honorable Supreme Court at its apex, followed by the Honorable High Courts in the states, and beneath them, the District and Subordinate Courts.

However, in practical terms, it resembles a balanced scale/Tarazu, where the Honorable Supreme Court stands at the pinnacle, the High Court's offer substantial support, and one side represents District and Subordinate Courts while the other encompasses various tribunals, service, tax, consumer, labour, and other forums and courts.

The Honorable Supreme Court of India:
Currently, the Chief Justice is Honorable Mr. Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, serving as the 50th Chief Justice of India, alongside 30 other Judges, all appointed by the President of India. Succeeding him is Former Honorable Mr. Justice Uday Umesh Lalit with a term of office from 27 August 2022 to 8 November 2022. Preceding both of them, Honorable Mr. Justice Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana held the esteemed position from April 24, 2021, to August 26, 2022.

Supreme Court Judges retire upon reaching the age of 65. To be appointed as a Supreme Court Judge, an individual must be an Indian citizen and have served as a Judge of a High Court for at least five years or as an Advocate of a High Court for a minimum of 10 years or be recognized as a distinguished jurist by the President. Provisions also exist for the appointment of High Court Judges as Ad-hoc Judges of the Supreme Court, and for retired Judges from both Supreme Courts and High Courts to act as Judges of the Supreme Court.

Honorable High Courts of the States:
Each High Court comprises a Chief Justice and additional Judges appointed as needed by the President. The Constitution does not specify a maximum number of High Court Judges. Presently, the Delhi High Court has 43 sitting Justices under the leadership of Honourable Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma. According to Article 214, each State must have a High Court, with the provision for Parliament to establish a common High Court for multiple States or a combination of States and Union Territories under Article 231(1). High Courts hold a paramount position in the State's judicial hierarchy.

District and Subordinate Courts:
Beneath the High Courts are subordinate civil and criminal courts, whose existence and jurisdiction are determined by state-specific enactments. Although jurisdictional matters of subordinate courts vary between states, there is a degree of uniformity in their organizational structure nationwide.

Article 236 of the Constitution defines 'district judge' to encompass various judicial roles, and appointments and promotions are made by the State Governor in consultation with the relevant High Court. The subordinate judiciary, being in close contact with the people, necessitates safeguarding its independence to ensure efficient law and justice administration. Although the Constitution includes provisions to protect the subordinate judiciary, it may not be entirely free from executive influence.

Functions of the Judiciary:
The courts are entrusted with maintaining the rule of law and ensuring that the government operates within legal bounds. In a country with a written Constitution, the courts are additionally responsible for upholding the Constitution's supremacy by interpreting and applying its provisions, thereby holding all authorities accountable to the constitutional framework.

An impartial and independent judiciary enhances the legal system's vibrancy. The Indian judiciary is often regarded as a creative one, and the credibility of the judicial process hinges on its administration.

Among its multifaceted functions, the primary roles of the judiciary include:
  • Administration of justice: Courts resolve disputes and apply the law, determining facts based on presented evidence, and imposing penalties for law violations.
  • Creation of precedents: Judges, at times, must interpret laws based on their wisdom, contributing to a body of case law that forms legal precedents.
  • Guardian of the Constitution: The highest court, the Supreme Court, serves as the guardian of the Constitution, resolving jurisdictional conflicts and declaring unconstitutional any laws or executive orders that contravene constitutional provisions through judicial review.
  • Ensures Fundamental Rights: The judiciary safeguards individual's rights, ensuring that state and other entities do not infringe upon them by issuing writs.
  • Supervisory functions: Higher courts oversee the work of subordinate courts.
  • Advisory functions: The Supreme Court provides advisory opinions on constitutional matters in the absence of disputes.
  • Administrative functions: Courts engage in non-judicial and administrative tasks such as granting licenses, managing estates, and registering marriages.
  • Special role in a federation: In a federal system, the judiciary settles disputes between the central government and states and acts as an arbiter in state-to-state conflicts.
  • Conducting judicial inquiries: Judges may lead commissions investigating errors or omissions by public servants.

The Indian judiciary has played a pivotal role in addressing electoral issues and ensuring transparency in the political sphere. While it has commanded public respect, no institution can take its reverence for granted. In a time of rapid social change spurred by scientific and technological advancements, the judiciary is required to adapt to new challenges.

In the case of "Supriyo @ Supriya Chakraborty vs Union of India" on October 17, 2023, the Supreme Court of India ruled, by a 3-2 majority, against legally recognizing same-sex marriage, asserting that the decision falls within the purview of parliament. Nevertheless, the court emphasized the need to prevent discrimination against queer relationships by the state and accepted the government's proposal to establish a panel to consider extending legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Neeraj Kumar Rohilla
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