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Court Governance & Vigilant Citizenry

At times when the legislature and the executive fail to perform their duties responsibly, the judiciary had intervened to protect democratic values and provide justice to the people. So basically the judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the State. Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary is empowered to put checks on the arbitrary functioning of the legislature and executive. Undoubtedly therefore the judiciary is vital for democracy to thrive and sustain. And we have seen how the judiciary in India has played the role as the arbiter of fair play and justice. Courts with the power of judicial review may even annul the laws and rules of the State when it finds them incompatible with say the provisions of the constitution. All of us are aware about the recent intervention of the Supreme Court, which has put checks on the abuse of power so much so that it is the judiciary which is almost like governing the day to day affairs of the State. We cannot blame the judiciary for this but rather such activism is as a result of the government’s failure to perform its assigned duty of governance based on the rule of law. The Supreme Court had to even come down on the government over the way it handled Army Chief General V.K. Singh's age row, saying the entire process of deciding his year of birth was “vitiated”. Similarly in the case related to the 2G auction in the telecom sector the court found defects in the decision-making process. There are numerous other instances when the court had to restore justice because the government failed in upholding the rule of law.

While the credibility of our governance system is under question even here in Nagaland, the tragedy for us is that we still do not have proper separation of power and the state of affairs in our judicial system is far from healthy. We claim ourselves to be a democracy of having free and fair election, free press, rule of law and an independent judiciary but all of us know that in practice we are far from these ideals. We do not have a healthy system of checks and balances. There is abuse of power and complete disregard for the rule of law yet there is none to safeguard democracy. It is not that we do not have the judiciary only that we need to strengthen it more into an independent organ because the sustenance of democracy and the rule of law depend on an independent judiciary. Finally if we want the judiciary (checks and balances) to work in Nagaland it is equally vital for citizens to play their part—that of informed, vigilant and active participants in the democratic process. As in the 2G telecom scam, it was a few conscious citizens who went to court and taking cognizance of their petition the judiciary was able to deliver justice. So no matter what, the task of enforcing accountability rests ultimately with citizens. Citizens in Nagaland should likewise remain informed—of rights, of laws, of policies and of current affairs—and exercise their rights, including the right to vote. The ability of the judiciary to act independently against poor governance, human rights violations, corruption etc will actually depend on a vigilant citizenry.

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