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India’s Constitutional Democracy- What Role do the Courts Play?

The journey of India post-independence has been a collective endeavour to establish a democratic framework built on the tenets of liberty, equality, and fraternity. This journey reflects India’s commitment to constitutional ideals and the challenges faced in realizing them.

This topic of “India’s Constitutional Democracy- What Role do the Courts Play?” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Historical Context and Constitutional Foundations

The Promise of Independence

  • Tectonic Shift: Independence marked a significant transition from colonial rule and an end to a deeply entrenched system of inequality.
  • Shared Challenges: Preservation of gains against systems of oppression and realization of shared aspirations.

The Role of the Constitution

  • Transformation: The Indian Constitution played a transformative role in transferring political power.
  • Vision: To achieve a just society through its guiding principles.
  • Doubts: Initial scepticism about the longevity of India’s constitutional democracy in the absence of foundational democratic conditions.
  • Remedies: The Constitution anticipated perils and assigned democratic institutions the task to rectify these inequities.

Sustenance of Constitutional Democracy

  • Reasons for Survival: India’s constitutional democracy has withstood challenges due to entrenched constitutional values and robust institutions of governance.
  • Focus on Institutional Integrity: It’s essential for institutions to strengthen their constitutional role for the future growth of democracy.

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The Role of Courts in Democracy

Vital Functions

  • Protectors: Courts defend individuals/groups against societal injustices and ensure governance within constitutional bounds.
  • Sites for Democratic Participation: Courts serve as platforms for citizens to address systemic inequalities and foster a just society.
  • The Supreme Court: As a constitutional court and final appellate court, it fosters a structured constitutional dialogue.

Ensuring Access and Breaking Barriers

  • Challenges: The main obstacle is enhancing the accessibility of courts.
  • Technology: Harnessing tech to improve access, e.g., making court files and websites accessible for the differently-abled.
  • Infrastructure: Audits to make courts physically accessible to all, focusing on inclusivity to enhance public confidence.

Innovations and Transparency

  • Demystifying Courts: Initiatives like live-streaming of proceedings, machine-assisted translation, and transcriptions have enhanced transparency.
  • Broadening Access: Video conferencing can democratize access, allowing nationwide participation.

Maintaining Quality and Integrity

  • Judicial Conduct: In the digital age, every action of a judge is scrutinized, making their impartiality paramount.
  • Addressing Bias: Efforts to sensitize judges about biases stemming from social conditioning.

Emphasizing Compassion

  • Approachable Justice: Courts should appear welcoming rather than intimidating.
  • Empathy: Laws should be applied with empathy and common sense to ensure justice remains human-centric.

Way Forward

  • Citizen Participation: An accountable and transparent constitutional regime is facilitated by active citizen involvement.
  • Judicial Efficiency: A versatile approach in dealing with a diverse range of cases is essential.
  • Embracing Technology: From November 2022 to August 2023, the Supreme Court leveraged digital tools to dispose of 38,261 cases.
  • Innovation: Collaborations with educational institutions and start-ups can lead to novel solutions and improved civic landscapes.

Conclusion

The evolution of India’s constitutional democracy and judiciary highlights the nation’s unwavering commitment to realizing the ideals of justice, equality, and liberty. As the nation moves forward, it’s imperative for the judiciary to continuously adapt, innovate, and answer its constitutional conscience.

Practice Question for Mains

What is the court’s role in ensuring constitutional democracy in India? Discuss. (250 words)

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