NCERT Class 8 Civics Judiciary

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Chapter 5


A glance at the newspaper provides you a glimpse of the range of work done by the courts in this country. But can you think of why we need these courts? As you have read in Unit 2, in India we have the rule of law. What this means is that laws apply equally to all persons and that a certain set of fixed procedures need to be followed when a law is violated. To enforce this rule of law, we have a judicial system that consists of the mechanism of courts that a citizencan approach when a law is violated. As an organ o the State, the judiciary plays a crucial role in the functioning of India’s democracy. It can play this role only because it is independent. What does an ‘independent judiciary’ mean? Is there any connection between the court in your area and the Supreme Court in New Delhi? In this chapter, you will find answers to these questions.

What is the Role of the Judiciary? 

Courts take decisions on a very large number of issues. They can decide that no teacher can beat a student, or about the sharing of river waters between states, or they can punish people for particular crimes. Broadly speaking, the work that the judiciary does can be divided into the following: Dispute Resolution: The judicial system provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between citizens, between citizens and the government, between two state governments and between the centre and state governments. Judicial Review: As the final interpreter of the Constitution, the judiciary also has the power to strike down particular laws passed by the Parliament if it believes that these are a violation of the basic structure of theConstitution. This is called judicial review. Upholding the Law and Enforcing FundamentalRights: Every citizen of India can approach the Supreme Court or the High Court if they believe that their Fundamental Rights have been violated. For example, in the Class VII book, you read about Hakim Sheikh, an agricultural labourer who fell from a running train and injured himself and whose condition got worse because several hospitals refused to admit him. On hearing his case, the Supreme Court ruled that Article 21 which provides every citizen the Fundamental Right to Life also includes the Right to Health. It, therefore, directed the West Bengal government to pay him compensation for the loss suffered as well as to come up with a blueprint for primary health care with particular reference to treatment of patients during an emergency [Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity vs State of West Bengal (1996)].

What is an Independent Judiciary?

Imagine a situation in which a powerful politician has encroached on land belonging to your family. Within this judicial system, the politician has the power to appoint and dismiss a judge from his office. When you take this case to court, the judge is clearly partial to the politician. The control that the politician holds over the judge does not allow for the judge to take an independent decision. This lack of independence would force the judge to make all judgments in favour of the politician. Although we often hear of rich and powerful people in India trying to influence the judicial process, the Indian Constitution protectsagainst this kind of situation by providing for the independence of the judiciary. 

One aspect of this independence is the ‘separation of powers’. This as you read in Chapter 1 is a key feature of the Constitution. What this means here is that other branches of the State-like the legislature and the executive - cannot interfere in the work of the judiciary. The courts are not under the government and do not act on their behalf. For the above separation to work well, it is also crucial that all judges in the High Court as well as the Supreme Court are appointed with very little interference from these other branches of government. Once appointed to this office, it is also very difficult to remove a judge.


1. You read that one of the main functions of the judiciary is ‘upholding the law and Enforcing Fundamental Rights’. Why do you think an independent judiciary is necessary to carry out this important function?

2. Re-read the list of Fundamental Rights provided in Chapter 1. How do you think the Right to Constitutional Remedies connects to the idea of judicial review?

3. Keeping the Sudha Goel case in mind, tick the sentences that are true and correct the ones thatare false.

(a) The accused took the case to the High Court because they were unhappy with the decision of the Trial Court.

(b) They went to the High Court after the Supreme Court had given its decision.

(c) If they do not like the Supreme Court verdict, the accused can go back again to the Trial Court.

4. Why do you think the introduction of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the 1980s is a significant step in ensuring access to justice for all?

5. Re-read excerpts from the judgment on the Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation case. Now write in your own words what the judges meant when they said that the Right to Livelihood was part of the Right to Life.

6. Write a story around the theme, ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’.

7. Make sentences with each of the glossary words given on the next page.

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