With 3 crore cases pending, courts shouldn’t spend time on topics outside their purview.
The Indian judiciary has become proactive in bridging the governance gap due to executive and legislative inaction. While this violates the doctrine of separation of powers, the real problem with judicial overreach is its economic costs.
Three recent areas where the overreach has created more problems than it set out to address are as follows:
The impact of judicial involvement in governance of the BCCI is a classic example of why judicial intervention in governance and administration will lead to further complications and more problems rather than solving the existing situation. Despite the BCCI being an independent association and enjoying the right under section 19 (1) (c) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court compelled the association to reform itself as per the Lodha Committee report. The reforms initiated by the Supreme Court were an attempt to nationalise cricket associations in the country.
These reforms have led to a judiciary-run cricket body, which has thrown several state cricket associations into disarray. A good example of this is how the Rajasthan Cricket Association is now characterised by infighting and excessive government intervention. The association is run by retired judges who have limited knowledge about the sport or its administration. The infighting and excessive government intervention has resulted in the RCA struggling to organise its district-level selection tournaments. Without these tournaments, RCA will find it hard to identify and promote fresh tournament first at the state level and later at the national level.
Then, there is the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). A petition was filed by a noted environmentalist on the alarming levels of pollution in the NCT of Delhi. The judgment was significant because it resulted in the court ordering the entire DTC fleet to convert to CNG. The decision was taken to ensure a reduction in pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution levels did reduce for a brief period of time; however, the decision didn’t find a long-term solution to the problem of pollution faced by citizens of Delhi. Moreover, due to the swift conversion of the entire DTC fleet into CNG-based vehicles, the government of Delhi and the DTC had to incur huge costs.
The switch required the government to construct new ISBTs while also ensuring that inter-state buses didn’t operate within the city. The transition resulted in DTC facing a dead mileage of 13,000 kilometre per day since the number of CNG filling stations were inadequate compared to the number of CNG buses in Delhi.
This specific example illustrates how the court more often than not fails to consider the governance and administrative constraints faced by the executive and the legislative. This lack of consideration to constraints results in an incomplete understanding behind the reasons for a governance gap and thus, any judicial action may not necessarily improve the situation.
As a result of this decision, the DTC had to face numerous costs and it was forced to augment its fleet to 10,000 buses within a small amount of time to comply with the orders passed by the court. The decision to add fresh buses should ordinarily have been that of the DTC. It would have added them based on economic or developmental criteria.
Another good example is the coal allocation case judgment whereby allocations by the executive to private entrepreneurs were quashed by the court. The allocations may have been arbitrary and there may have been quid pro quo, but simply squashing coal allocations would not solve the fundamental problem of graft in the country. But it did lead to an acute shortage of coal in the country.
The recent tussle between the NGT and the government regarding the redevelopment of South Delhi again demonstrates the costs of judicial involvement. The key question to ask is if the government followed proper procedures in obtaining necessary permissions and environmental clearances. If all procedures were followed, then why should the court stay the project once it is already commenced?
The concerns regarding the reduction in Delhi’s green cover can be addressed by making a long-term plan to plant a greater mix of trees over the next few months. Given that the project has already started, the stay in construction would only add to escalated costs of the project, which will have to be borne by the citizens of Delhi. The court can evaluate the rigour of the procedures followed but to stop or delay such development projects is expensive for the government, the project developer and the citizens.
The larger question that we must ask is that given that nearly 3 crore cases are pending in various courts of India, should they be spending their limited and precious time in being involved in domains which are clearly outside their purview?
The author is a Research Associate with the Pahle India Foundation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @karanbhasin95.