ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'I'll Be Judge, I'll Be Jury'

In a rather unprecedented show of solidarity, angry parliamentarians are indicting the judiciary for assuming the role of cunning Old Fury of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Annoyed with the Supreme Court for staying the operation of the law on quota for Other Backward Classes, they seem to be moving towards a collision with the judiciary – uneasy signs of which have been in the air for quite some time. Coming fast on the heels of these developments, in a polite standoff at a recent New Delhi conference of state chief ministers, both the prime minister and the chief justice of India reiterated their respective claims to their areas of jurisdiction – leaving us none the wiser about the borders that demarcate them.

Even as prime minister Manmohan Singh frowned upon “judicial overreach”, Supreme Court chief justice K G Balakrishnan welcomed its outcome as a desirable “tension” between the judicial and the legislative and executive branches. The source of the tension, however, lies in the vacuum created by the lapses of both the legislative and executive branches. Widespread revulsion at the performance of venal and intractable legislators on the floors of Parliament and state assemblies and outside, as well as an equally strong pervasive public frustration with a laggard and corrupt executive, have combined to produce a social void. Of late, the judiciary is giving the impression of stepping in to fill the vacuum by often forcing the executive to take action (against the privileged sons of politicians, as in the Jessica Lal case) or compelling Parliament to enact laws (for example, to curb sexual harassment at workplaces). This has encouraged the Indian urban middle class to repose its faith in the new-found concept of judicial activism, and to wish that the judiciary replaces the corrupt legislature and bureaucracy as the benevolent authority.

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