The concept of judicial independence is rooted in the principle of separation of powers which is a cornerstone of democratic governance. Judicial independence means that judiciary have the freedom to decide each case on its own merits, without fear or favour or influence
Reasons why constitutionally guaranteed judicial independence is a pre-requisite of democracy:
- Separation of powers: Judicial independence is necessary for preventing the executive and judiciary from becoming too powerful and violating rights and dignity of citizens.
- Rule of law: Impartial application of laws and adjudication of disputes is essential to protects citizens faith, regardless of political influence.
- Public Trust: An independent judiciary is essential for citizens to trust in the legal system and democratic institutions.
- Protection against majoritarianism: Judicial independence allows judiciary to protect citizens even in the face of robust majoritarian policies against minorities.
- Respect of judicial pronouncements: An independent judiciary will not enjoy public trust.
- Consistency: An independent judiciary provides consistency and predictability in legal decisions, crucial for stability.
However, independence of judiciary should not mean that judges are free to do anything they wish. Being non-elected but trusted with the duty of defending the constitutional values, judiciary should display highest level of self-accountability to serve democracy and its ethos.
Thus, the Indian Constitution provides various provisions for judicial independence like security of tenure and fixed salaries charged on the constitution, immunity from discussion of judiciary’s conduct in Parliament, power of contempt of court to enforce its directions. This has further been expanded by collegium system of judicial appointments and judicial independence recognised as part of basic structure of the Constitution.