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FOCUS - Reflective Judiciary N. 5 - 09/11/2018

 Diversity and the Judiciary in India: Supreme Court judges in Indian society

The Supreme Court of India sees itself as the guardian of fundamental rights and constitutional principles, and many consider it as one of the most powerful Supreme Courts in the world. Its jurisdiction is very wide and it has strong powers over other state organs. The higher judiciary as a whole, including the Supreme Court and twenty-four high courts, played a prominent role in the evolution of Indian law after Independence. Judicial activism is a well-known feature of the Indian legal system; the development of public interest litigation, promoting access to justice for the protection of fundamental rights, has further enlarged the Supreme Court’s prerogatives. The higher judiciary has in many cases built from scratch or entirely changed parts of Indian law, virtually writing new legislation in judgement shape. The Supreme Court and the high courts have been called to judge on a number of difficult issues spanning ever more intricate and significant questions concerning Indian society and institutions – conflicts with the legislative and executive powers have arisen around specific issues and in more systemic terms when the limits of the power to amend the Constitution were involved or the independence of the judiciary was at risk. Even though the work of the Supreme Court of India, and generally of the higher judiciary, has been criticised, according to most scholars these courts have consistently moved towards the realisation of constitutional values and norms, following the “revolutionary” inspiration of the Indian Constitution, and have been successful in assuring a functioning rule of law. In addition, in a country where the judiciary as a whole is often slow and ineffective, citizens’ trust with regard to the Supreme Court is high, notwithstanding the fact that many important decisions inevitably raised discontent in some parts of Indian society… (continues)



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