Recent developments have exposed deep fault lines in the Indian judiciary. In January 2018, a press conference was addressed by four senior judges of the Supreme Court. The trigger for the unprecedented step was apparently the arbitrary allocation of benches by the chief justices, with cases being ‘selectively’ assigned to particular judges to obtain particular outcomes.
A critical power that can be wielded by the CJI is to be a prime mover in the appointment of judges. Unfortunately, several chief justices have not pushed the matter with the government by issuing a mandamus on the judicial side or hauling up the government for contempt. Perhaps this reluctance is a result of pressure exerted by the executive on judges through the use of investigative agencies or due to the lure of post-retirement jobs.
The role of the judiciary is critical for the realization of all rights since the judiciary is ultimately the institution where people can seek redress for injustices they have suffered, particularly if other channels of seeking such redress have failed. The lack of transparency and accountability in the functioning of the judiciary erodes public trust in the institution and ultimately hampers its ability to uphold democratic principles and deliver justice.