Only an independent judiciary key for good governance: SC judge BV Nagarathna
“The independence of judges is most crucial in achieving good governance under the Constitution,” said Supreme Court judge BV Nagarathna, as she delivered a lecture on “Revisiting the Judicial Trajectory on Good Governance”.
Only an independent judiciary can achieve good governance in a democracy, said Supreme Court judge BV Nagarathna, emphasising that citizens place their trust in the judiciary for guarding the flame of democracy and keeping it burning bright.
Justice Nagarathna is in line to become the first woman Chief Justice of India (CJI) in 2027.
“The independence of judges is most crucial in achieving good governance under the Constitution,” said the judge, as she delivered a lecture on “Revisiting the Judicial Trajectory on Good Governance”.
She pointed out that the ideal of good governance relates to all men and women manning constitutional and administrative posts and therefore, functionaries of the political executive, the bureaucracy or the judiciary, must display independence and integrity.
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At the same time, she underlined a more prominent role of the judiciary.
“While it is the duty of every constitutional functionary, public servant, and, every citizen, to strive towards securing good governance, the role of the judiciary in securing good governance stems from its assurance to the common man/woman that he/she can continue to look to the constitutional courts for vindication of their rights,” said Justice Nagarathna.
Addressing the lecture at Symbiosis Law School, Pune in memory of former CJI YV Chandrachud on Saturday, she delved into how the judiciary has over the years breathed life into the concept of good governance.
“Good governance is to be ensured through public servants who can deliver such services responsibly, responsively and equitably. It is in courts that citizens place assurance that the judiciary will guard and nurture the flame of democracy and keep it burning bright,” said the judge.
She added: “Courts will continue to demonstrate compassion, innovation and fairness to ensure that justice is not jejune (superficial).”
Stating how rule of law is fundamental in advancing democracy, Justice Nagarathna said: “The rule of law, defended by an independent judiciary, plays a crucial function by ensuring that civil and political rights and civil liberties are safe and that the equality and dignity of all citizens are not at risk.”
Besides, it also protects the effective performance of the various agencies of electoral, societal and horizontal accountability from potential obstructions and intimidation by powerful state actors, she added.
Tracing the track record of the Supreme Court in meeting this aspiration of citizens, the Supreme Court judge spoke about how the top court expanded the horizons of fundamental rights through the instrument of public interest litigation (PIL) and later built on it as a governance tool to secure rights of citizens against oppression and deprivation of resources.
“PIL jurisprudence provides insights into the judiciary’s role in securing accountability and transparency in governance, inter-alia, by way of the far-reaching effects of its decisions. Courts have used PIL tools to assure timely policy intervention, and also as a means to supervise and monitor governance,” said.
Crediting former CJI Chandrachud for being one of the pioneers of the concept of PIL by which the portals of Courts were thrown open to the common man, she said: “In my view, judicial decisions can change assumptions through their power to grant legitimacy to certain claims. The Court can also change citizens’ and civil society’s perception of their rights.”
Her speech further discussed the expanding paradigm of judicial activism to address crucial governance failures in human rights, environmental policy, police custodial violence, and police reform—areas in which the Central Government failed to legislate or provide guidelines.
“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hence, it is necessary for all persons who are at the helm of affairs to be mindful of the checks and balances underlined in the Constitution and govern according to the sacred and sacrosanct values of the Constitution which the makers of the Constitution have so painstakingly formulated and dedicated to our country,” the top court judge said.