India cannot have two parallel legal systems, one for the rich and resourceful and those who wield political power and the other for small men without resources and capabilities to access justice, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
The apex court also said the 'colonial mindset meted out to the district judiciary' must change to preserve the faith of citizens and stated that judges are 'made targets when they stand up for what is right'.
The top court made these crucial observations while cancelling the bail granted to Madhya Pradesh BSP MLA's husband, who was arrested in over two-year-old murder case of Congress leader Devendra Chourasia.
Observing that an effort was being made to shield the accused from administration of justice, the apex court directed transfer of BSP MLA Rambai Singh's husband Govind Singh to another jail under directions of the DGP to ensure fair criminal proceedings.
With regard to apprehensions expressed by the Additional Sessions Judge, who is conducting trial in cases involving Singh, the top court said that it should be duly enquired into by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on its administrative side so that if they are found to be true, necessary action should be taken in order to secure the fair administration of justice.
An independent and impartial judiciary is the cornerstone of democracy and it should be immune from political pressures and considerations, the top court said.
India cannot have two parallel legal systems, one for the rich and resourceful and those who wield political power and the other for small men without resources without capabilities to gain justice.
The existence of dual system will only chip away the legitimacy of the law, the top court said.
The duty also falls on the State machinery to be committed to the rule of law and demonstrate its ability and willingness to follow the rules it itself makes, for its actions to not transgress into the domain of governmental lawlessness, the apex court said.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hrishikesh Roy said judicial independence of the district judiciary is cardinal to the integrity of the entire system as district judiciary is the first point of interface with the citizens.
"If the faith of the citizen in the administration of justice has to be preserved, it is to the district judiciary that attention must be focused as well as the 'higher' judiciary the bench said.
The top court said trial court judges work amidst appalling conditions, lack of infrastructure, inadequate protection and there are examples of judges being made targets when they stand stand up for what is right.
Also there is sadly a subservience to the administration of the high courts for transfers and postings which renders them vulnerable, the bench said.
The colonial mindset which pervades the treatment meted out to the district judiciary must change. It is only then that civil liberties for every stakeholder be it the accused, the victims or civil society will be meaningfully preserved in our trial courts which are the first line of defense for those who have been wronged, the bench said.
The apex court said function of the judiciary as an independent institution is rooted in concept of separation of powers.
Individual judges must be able to adjudicate disputes in accordance with law unhindered by any other factors and for that reason independence of judiciary and of each judge is a must, the bench said.
Independence of individual judges also encompasses that they are independent of their superiors and colleagues, it said adding that our Constitution specifically envisages the independence of the district judiciary.
This is implicit in Article 50 of the Constitution which provides that the State must take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State, the bench said.
The district judiciary operates under the administrative supervision of the High Court which must secure and enhance its independence from external influence and control.
"This compartmentalisation of the judiciary and executive should not be breached by interfering with the personal decision-making of the judges and the conduct of court proceedings under them, the bench said.
The top court said "there is no gainsaying that judiciary should be immune to political pressures and considerations.
"A judiciary susceptible to such pressures allows politicians to operate with impunity and incentivises criminality to flourish in the political apparatus of the State."
The apex court said that judges, while being undeterred in their commitment to follow the law and do justice, should be wary of launching into a diatribe against the State authorities without due care and reflection.