Judicial independence is a concept that upholds the belief that the judiciary should be kept away and not mixed with other government branches. This means that the courts should not be subjected to any improper influence by other government branches, partisan or private interests. Judicial independence is extremely important and vital to the thought of separation of powers.
Different countries have varying ideas of what judicial independence is and this is reflected in the selection of judges and the judicial selection. One way through which independence can be promoted is nu granting long or life tenure for judges freeing them to make rules and decide cases in accordance to rule of law of their judicial discretion. This also makes it possible for them to make decisions that are unpopular politically or opposed by powerful interests.
In majority of countries, the judiciary’s ability to check legislature is enhanced through judicial review power. This same power can be put to use for instance to mandate certain actions when the judiciary perceives a branch of government is not carrying out its constitutional duty or by declaring that certain laws be passed by legislature.
Basic principles that govern judicial independence
There are basic principles that should govern judicial independence regardless of the country and they include:
- The state shall guarantee the independence of the judiciary as it is enshrined in the law of constitution of that country. It is also the duty of all institutions and governmental bodies to observe and respect judicial independence.
- The judiciary should decide matters in an impartial manner and base the decision on facts in accordance to the law without any improper influences, restrictions, pressures, interferences, threats or inducements whether indirect or direct from any quarter or for whatever reason.
- The judiciary should have jurisdiction over issues of judicial nature and they shall enjoy exclusive right to decide in an issue that is submitted to it for decision within its competence as it is defined by law.
- There should be no unwarranted or inappropriate interference with judicial independence nor shall decisions made by the court be subjected to revisions.
Judicial independence also requires that members of the judiciary should also enjoy freedom of association and expression without any interference. However, when exercising such rights, judges should be able to conduct themselves in a manner that preserved their dignity as well as that of the office they uphold. Their conduct should also ensure that the independence and impartiality of the judicial system.
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