In a country that has no real constitutional authority, judges are not seen as an independent force but a political entity.
While they are a vital part of the judiciary system, they are often considered to be a mere political appointment.
They also have little clout.
They are expected to rule on matters ranging from criminal cases to judicial appeals.
However, the role they play in the governance of the country is inextricably linked to the power of the BJP-led government.
The judiciary, which is supposed to be independent of political parties and serve the interests of all citizens, is seen as a bulwark against the rising tide of populism.
“Judges are not really independent.
They can be bought off, and even the Supreme Court has been influenced by the BJP,” said Sanjiv Dixit, professor and director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies, a Delhi-based think tank.
While the judicial system is largely controlled by the Congress-led NDA government, the judiciary has also come under attack from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the recent slew of cases in which judges have questioned the impartiality of the courts.
The government has sought to distance itself from the judiciary and has issued a directive to appoint a new judge.
The BJP, on the other hand, has blamed the ruling parties for allowing the judiciary to become “frozen”.
In response to the criticism, the government has made several attempts to revive the role.
It has promised to appoint judges from all states and regions, including those that are currently ruled by the ruling NDA coalition.
The appointment of judges from the Centre and the states is also on the agenda, as is a call for the appointment of “judges with a common language” and “judge mentors”.
“They (judges) are not part of any political party.
They don’t belong to any particular party, and they are not elected.
They should not be used for any political purposes,” said M Venkatachalam, professor of law at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.
But there is no denying that the judicial appointment process has been plagued by problems.
A report published in 2017 by the Supreme Judicial Appellate Tribunal found that “frequent, repeated and inadequate” delays in the appointment process and the lack of a clear system of accountability led to “serious irregularities”.
“Judges who are not candidates for judicial posts are sometimes denied appointment and are denied appointments,” the report said.
“In some cases, they were denied posts because they have no credentials to serve as judges,” it added.
In December 2016, the BJP government made the appointment system a matter of high public concern.
The BJP had earlier claimed that the judiciary was a “paradox of power”, with its “anti-people, anti-poor and anti-working class agenda” pushing the judicial process to the margins of the society.
However, there is a growing perception among some lawyers and judges that the process has not improved since the 2015 elections.
“The appointment process is still not functioning properly, and there is an absence of checks and balances on judges’ power,” said Pratibha Sen, former president of the Bar Council of India, a non-governmental body that represents judges in India.
An official of the Bharat Karnataka State Bar Association (BKSBA), which represents lawyers in the state, also said the current system was not working and could be considered to have “the worst of both worlds”.
“The government has been pushing the system to the edges.
The judicial appointments are done in secret and there are no accountability mechanisms,” he said.
It is not just the judges who are worried.
In October 2017, the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office (SJPO) issued a report saying that “a majority of the cases being investigated by the police and courts are not pursued or referred to the courts”.
In a scathing assessment, the report warned that the current process of judicial appointment could be “a source of disquiet”.
The SJPO report said the system was “completely corrupt” and that the “power and influence of judges are becoming more and more apparent”.