NEW DELHI: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday cautioned judges against the perils of “judicial activism”, saying the equilibrium in the exercise of authority must be maintained at all times and self-restraint should be used when confronted with such a situation.
“Judicial activism should not lead to the dilution of separation of powers, which is a constitutional scheme. The balance of power between the three organs of the state is enshrined in our Constitution,” the President said. He added that the Constitution is supreme and each organ of the country’s democracy must function within its own sphere and not take over what is assigned to others.
The President, while inaugurating the fourth retreat of the judges of the Supreme Court at the National Judicial Academy, said the exercise of powers by the legislature and the executive was subject to judicial review. “However, the only check possible in the exercise of powers by the judiciary is self-imposed discipline and self-restraint by the judiciary itself,” Pranab said.
Pranab, however, maintained that the independence and integrity of the judiciary were of the highest importance, not only to the judges but also to people at large who seek judicial redress against perceived legal injury or executive excess.
“For the enforcement of our developing country, our judiciary has enlarged the scope of justice. For the enforcement of fundamental rights, the Supreme Court, through judicial innovation and activism, has expanded the common law principle of ‘locus standi,” he said.
“In the support of rights, courts have found a postcard written by a citizen or newspaper article to be material enough to set off judicial action. This has helped to bring justice closer to the common man,” he said.
The President said the judiciary, which is one of the three important pillars of democracy, is the final interpreter of the Constitution and laws. “The faith and confidence of people in the judiciary must always be maintained. For justice to have meaning to the people, it must be accessible, affordable and quick,” he said.
The President also expressed concern over overburdened courts on account of the large number of pending cases and said, “There are over three crore cases pending in various courts throughout the country. Out of these, about 38.5 lakh cases are pending in 24 High Courts. The pendency of cases in the high courts has slightly declined from 41.5 lakh in 2014 to 38.5 lakh in 2015, but we still have a long way to go.”
Pranab said pending cases must be cleared through multi-dimensional efforts, using statutory and procedural norms in areas such as process service, adjournments and delivery of judgements. Talking about vacancies, he rued the High Courts were functioning with only 60 per cent of their sanctioned strength and lauded Chief Justice T S Thakur for speedily filling up vacancies in the High Courts and the apex court. Total 145 appointments have been made in April so far.