It is well known that an independent judiciary, free from interference of the executive or legislative organs of the Government is an essential prerequisite of a democracy which is wedded to rule of law and public welfare. Independence, however, does not allow the Judges to act in an arbitrary manner, but they are to interpret laws in accordance with the settled principles of law and the dictates of their own conscience.
A variety of courts function under the judicial system of a country. The main among them are the civil courts, the courts for criminal trials and the revenue courts. The task of administering criminal justice is performed by the criminal law courts comprising the Magistracy and the Court of Session. The High Court and the Supreme Court have only appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases.
These courts are generally engaged in dispensing abstract and even-handed justice in terms of principles set forth in an absolute law. It therefore, follows that the courts must impart justice within the limits of the law so as to maintain uniformity and impartiality in the determination of guilt and punishment of the accused.
It cannot, however, be denied that despite these legal limits prescribed by the law, certain degree of personal discretion of the judicial authorities does play a significant part in influencing their decision as to the guilt of the accused and the sentence awarded to him. Thus the sentence passed for a particular offence may vary, of course, within the prescribed legal limits, from Judge to Judge depending on his personal perceptions, belief, faith, temperament, attitude of mind, likes and dislikes and own life experiences.
One Judge might take a serious view of the offence and award the maximum sentence prescribed for that offence while the other might take a lenient view of the matter and award the minimum sentence prescribed for that offence.
What actually happens is that the presiding Judge forms a definite opinion about the guilt or innocence of the accused during the course of trial and finally delivers his judgment which is nothing but a statement of his personal opinion expressed within the framework of legal provisions. That apart, the public opinion and socio-cultural considerations also influence the legal thinking to a certain extent which eventually find expression through judicial pronouncements.