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“Bedrock of democracy: an independent judiciary”
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“Bedrock of democracy: an independent judiciary”

Madusha ErandiAn independent judiciary has long been endorsed as one of the three pillars of good government, writes Madusha Erandi, 21, a Correspondent from Colombo in Sri Lanka, but society must be vigilant to safeguard the rule of law. 

Blackstone, the famous English Jurist, summed up his ideas about the independence of a judiciary within a country by stating that “the main preservation of public liberty in England consist in the distant and separate existence of the Judicial power in a peculiar body of men, nominated indeed, but not removable at the pleasure of crown.”

There are many more concepts and different ideologies about the independence of the judiciary from academics, practitioners and civil society organizations. Although this seems to be a deep legal concept, it has a vital importance in day-to-day life because the outcome of a properly independent judiciary without undue interference plays a major role in the proper functioning of a society.

Judicial independence is mostly concentrated on protecting the individual liberty of people and protecting civil and political rights as well. It will be important to line up the nature of judicial independence, what it is ought to be and the current situation. Most importantly, necessary remedies should be looked upon to safeguard the independence of the judiciary for the future, and the way the young generation should work to safeguard the liberties of the people by protecting the independence of the judiciary.

In any country, a government stands on the three main pillars of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.  In simple terms, the legislature make laws for the good governance of the country and the judiciary implement laws in case of wrongdoing. The executive carries out those laws or in other words executes the laws. Out of all three branches, the judiciary of a country is the most vulnerable because its integrity can be disturbed through many means.

Legislature can interfere with the judiciary through retrogressive legislation and banning the judicial review of bills. When the parliament enacts laws which affect the individual autonomy of people, or which are unconstitutional, the judiciary can strike down those laws and can protect the constitutional supremacy of a country.  For example, the primary objective of a constitution is to protect the sovereignty, to ensure the separation of powers and most importantly the rule of law. What happens when the parliament enacts an arbitrary bill? It can negatively affect not only the civil and political rights of people but also the economic, social and cultural rights.

Legislatures will become the ultimate arbitrators, people will have to suffer in their general activities, and it can be an obstacle in achieving many of the development goals within a country.  As an example, what would happen if the government enacts legislation banning all free health services in a country? If it passed by a majority of the parliament, people with a lower income level have to suffer and their health would deteriorate. Although there are development goals regarding health, attempts to attain them will not be a success. Similarly an unchecked legislature can create anomalies in different aspects of a country’s governance.

Rule of law means that everyone is under the law, irrespective of their status or position. It protects the superiority of the law. It’s only through the independent of the judiciary that concepts like rule of law and democracy for the people can be protected.

The Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held at Milan in 1985 and endorsed by General Assembly resolutions later that year, states that the independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the state and enshrined in the constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary. Secondly, the judiciary shall decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason. This underlines the importance of the independence of the judiciary and the way it has been internationally recognized.

However, the importance of this concept has not been appreciated to its fullest standard in many countries of the world today. That may be because of the large amount of power concentrated in some individual leaders. When this happens some people vested with power are apt to abuse it. Therefore, administrators of the country should understand the importance of social values and the dignity of the people. Moreover, the younger generation should be trained to protect values such as human dignity, integrity and democracy – and most importantly to safeguard the rule of law in order strengthen the rights of people.    

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About me: I am determined and ambitious; ready to take up any challenge. A former journalist, I’m studying law at University of Colombo and doing freelance writing. I believe the youth is the fruitful future of any country and the positive anticipation of the developing world.

I love observing people, their nature and writing about them. I am a wannabe photographer. I swim, do athletics, and sing. I consider myself as a genuine social worker. Writing is simply my passion. 

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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