The judiciary constitutes the arm of government that interprets the law of the state and applies the existing law to individual cases, In any modern state, the liberty of individuals depends upon the fairness of the courts in protecting against the tyranny of Overzealous members of the government.
In Nigeria, for example, the judiciary is made up of a large number of courts, ranging from the Supreme court, Appeal courts, High courts, and down to magistrate and customary courts. The judiciary consists of judges who are honest and impartial with sound legal knowledge.
FUNCTIONS OF THE JUDICIARY
1. Interpretation of laws: The judge interprets the laws of the state and applies the existing law to individual cases.
2. Settlement of disputes: The courts deal with cases between private individuals and the government. Both criminal and civil cases are settled in the courts.
3. Punishment of offenders: The courts have the power to punish those that have offended the laws of the state.
4. Prevention of wrongful acts: Utilizing writ and restraining order, courts act to prevent violation of the law.
5. Safeguarding the rights of citizens: The judiciary safeguards the rights and liberties of individuals, by way of entertaining complaints from aggrieved people.
6. Protection of the constitution: The Judiciary has the power to determine whether the constitution has been violated or not.
7. Power of review: The judiciary is vested With the power to review some of the activities of the executive and the legislature.
THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
Meaning: An independent judiciary is one that is free from the interference of the other two arms of government, the executive and legislature. Judges should be free when interpreting the law of the land, they should work without fear or favor.
Unless the judiciary is independent, it will not be able to pass judgments impartially. Besides, it will not be able to defend citizens against wrongful use of power by an unpopular Head of state. Therefore, the independence of the judiciary is necessary if people are to enjoy their rights and freedom.
Essentials for the independence of the Judiciary
1. Appointment: Judges and magistrates should not be appointed by the executive or the legislature; they should be appointed by a neutral body such as the Judicial Service
2. Independence of the judiciary: Judges must be independent of the absolute control of either the executive or the legislature. The judiciary should be free from arbitrary control.
3. Promotion of judges: The promotion of judges should also be done by an independent body.
4. Remuneration: The salaries and allowances of judges should not be subject to frequent alterations and must be sufficient.
To promote this, they are paid from the consolidated account.
5. Security of tenure: No other arm of government should have the power to remove a judge. He has to remain in office as
long as he is of good behavior and free from Corruption.
6. Immunity: Judges must be immune from the law to discharge their duties without fear or favor.
PROBLEMS/ENCROACHMENT ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
1. Political appointments: In some countries, the appointment of judges is influenced by the executives. The executive has often
used their power to appoint persons known to support their policies.
2. Decrees: Military regimes promulgate decrees that cannot be challenged in the law courts.
3. Disrespect of court decision/ orders: Sometimes, the decisions of the law courts are disobeyed by the executive.
4. Governments based on dictatorship: Dictatorial governments can interfere in the activities of the judiciary Such government comes up at times With obnoxious laws.
5. Political interference: Often, the decisions of the court may unduly be influenced by the other arms of government.
6. Backdating of laws: In Britain, for example, no court can question the acts of parliament because of its supremacy. The Parliament can even backdate laws to favor a particular individual, e.g.apoliticianand thereby rendering decisions of courts useless.
7.Insufficient personnel: There are few judges to deal with large volumes of cases, leading to delays in the treatment of cases.
8. Bribery and corruption: Bribery and corruption lead to a lack of confidence in the judiciary.
Also read the meaning of executive arm of government. And Legislative arm of government.
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