Begin by explaining the concept of separation of powers. In the body of the answer, discuss the significance of separation of powers. Subsequently, delve into the Indian model of separation of powers, highlighting its distinct characteristics. In the final part of the answer, explore the constitutional provisions that uphold the separation of powers in India. Conclude by emphasizing the effectiveness of the Indian model in ensuring the efficient functioning of the government.

The separation of powers entails a governance model where the executive, legislative, and judicial powers are distributed among different branches of the state, rather than concentrated in a single entity. This doctrine, advocated by the French philosopher Montesquieu, aims to prevent the concentration of power in any individual or branch of government.

It is essential for the functioning of a state due to the following reasons:

  • Effective Checks and Balances: The separation of powers ensures a robust system of checks and balances. For instance, the judiciary is empowered to review and prevent the arbitrary use of power by the legislature and executive through judicial review.
  • Enhanced Accountability and Equality: Dividing powers among the executive, legislative, and judiciary enhances accountability and equality in governance, thereby strengthening the rule of law.
  • Restriction of Arbitrary Actions: By clearly demarcating powers in the constitution, the scope for arbitrary actions by any branch of the government is reduced, serving as a safeguard against such actions.
  • Power Sharing and Decentralization: Overlapping functions promote power sharing and power decentralization, which contribute to effective governance and help prevent malpractices.

While the concept of separation of powers necessitates a strict demarcation and exclusiveness, the Indian model differs in the following ways:

  • Interdependence: In the Keshavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court emphasized that separation of powers is a basic structure of the constitution. However, the Indian model focuses more on interdependence rather than rigid separation of powers.
  • Overlapping Personnel and Functions: The Indian polity/constitution experiences both personnel and functional overlaps. For example, the Council of Ministers is derived from the legislature and is collectively responsible to the lower house (Lok Sabha/Vidhan Sabha).
  • Checks and Balances: The Indian constitution establishes a robust framework of checks and balances, which prevents arbitrariness without hindering the smooth functioning of the government. For instance, the judiciary exercises review over executive and legislative actions, while the legislature can impeach judges in case of proven misbehavior or incapacity.

Although the term “separation of powers” is not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, several provisions indicate the intent of our constitutional framers to make it an inherent part of the constitution. These provisions include:

  • Article 50: The state is required to take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive to ensure judicial independence.
  • Articles 74 and 163: These articles restrict courts from questioning the advice tendered by the Council of Ministers to the President and the Governor.
  • Article 122 and 212: These articles declare that the validity of proceedings in Parliament and the legislatures cannot be called into question in any court. Additionally, legislators enjoy certain privileges, and anything said in the Parliament cannot be used against them.
  • Articles 121 and 211: These articles prohibit the discussion of judicial conduct of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court in the Parliament and State Legislature, respectively.
  • Article 361: The President or the Governor is not answerable to any court for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of their office.

Conclusion/Way forward:

A constitutional system with an inflexible separation of powers is neither feasible nor desirable for a diverse society like India. However, judicious functional overlapping in the constitution allows for democratic collaboration among the three branches of the state. Mutual cooperation bridges the gap between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, facilitating the smooth functioning of the government.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish December 21, 2023