Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Importance of Separation of Powers in Indian Democracy

Importance of Separation of Powers in Indian Democracy

#GS2 #Judiciary # Separation of Powers between various organs Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and Institutions # Judicial Activism

Context: Recently, the Supreme Court said that the judges should not behave like emperors and summon government officials instantly without a good reason.

What did the Supreme Court say?

  • The SC bench noticed that a practice had developed in certain High Courts to call officers instantly to exert direct or indirect pressure.
  • The SC has prescribed modesty and humility to judges by asking them not to cross the line of separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive and call officers to court unnecessarily.
  • It observed that summoning of officers frequently is not appreciable at all and it is liable to be condemned in the strongest words.
  • It noted that at times, when officials have to travel great distances and wait for hours in court, their official work was delayed, creating an extra burden on the officer.
  • It argued that the courts have the power of the pen, which is more effective than the presence of an officer in Court. If any particular issue arises for consideration before the Court, and the advocate representing the State is not able to answer, it is advised to write such doubt in the order and give time to the State or its officers to respond.

The Doctrine of Separation of Powers:

  • Separation of powers is the division of the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government.
  • Since the sanction of all three branches is required for the making, executing, and administering of laws, it minimises the possibility of arbitrary excesses by the government.
  • The constitutional demarcation precludes the concentration of excessive power by any branch of the government.

Instruments of Checks & Balances

  • Legislature Control:
    • On Judiciary: Impeachment and the removal of the judges. Power to amend laws declared ultra vires by the Court and revalidating it.
    • On Executive: Through a no-confidence vote it can dissolve the Government. Power to assess works of the executive through the question hour and zero hour. Impeachment of the President.
  • Executive Control:
    • On Judiciary: Making appointments to the office of Chief Justice and other judges.
    • On Legislature: Powers under delegated legislation. Authority to make rules for regulating their respective procedure and conduct of business subject to the provisions of this Constitution.
  • Judicial Control
    • On Executive: Judicial review i.e. the power to review executive action to determine if it violates the Constitution.
    • On Legislature: Unamendability of the constitution under the basic structure doctrine pronounced by the Supreme Court in Kesavananda Bharati Case 1973.

Articles in the Constitution facilitating Separation of Powers are as follows:

  • Article 50: State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive. This is for the purpose of ensuring the independence of the judiciary.
  • Article 122 and 212: Validity of proceedings in Parliament and the Legislatures cannot be called into question in any Court. Also, Legislators enjoy certain privileges with regard to speech and anything said in the Parliament cannot be used against them.
  • Judicial conduct of a Judge of the Supreme Court and the High Court cannot be discussed in the Parliament and the State Legislature, according to Article 121 and 211 of the Constitution.
  • Articles 53 and 154 respectively, provide that the executive power of the Union and the State shall be vested with the President and the Governor and they enjoy immunity from civil and criminal liability.
  • Article 361: The President or the Governor shall not be answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office.

Issues with Judicial Activism:

  • In many recent judgments, the Supreme Court has become hyper-activist in making judgements that are deemed as laws and rules. This transgresses the domain of legislature and executive.
  • The line between judicial activism and Judicial Overreach is very narrow. When judicial activism crosses its limits it lead to Judicial Overreach.
  • It may interfere with the proper functioning of the legislative or executive organs of government.
  • It destroys the spirit of separation of powers. Thus damage balance between various organs of government.
  • Judicial activism may lead to inactivity of legislature and executive, leading to running away from duties and responsibilities which they hold for people of India.


Repeated interference by one organ in another’s functioning can diminish public confidence in the integrity, quality, and efficiency of those other organs. This undermines the spirit of democracy as too much power is accumulated in government organs.

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