While emphasising that everything possible should be done to preserve and protect the judiciary, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday cautioned that judicial activism should not lead to erosion of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

The separation of powers was equally a principle of restraint. While the exercise of powers of the legislature and the executive was subject to judicial review, the only check on the judiciary’s exercise of powers was self-imposed discipline and self-restraint, he said, delivering the valedictory address at the sesquicentennial (150 years) celebrations of the Madras High Court.

He dealt with issues that have dominated the legal discourse in recent times such as judicial independence, judicial activism, judging the judges, speedy disposal of cases, filling of vacancies in courts and improving the quality of legal education.

The judiciary’s independence was widely recognised and was a matter of pride. The judiciary had enlarged the scope of fundamental rights and increased the space for democracy, while maintaining the quality of justice, he said. “We must do everything possible to preserve and protect the independence of our judiciary from any form of encroachment. At the same time, the judiciary, as an important pillar of democracy, must keep reinventing itself through a process of introspection and self-correction,” said Mr. Mukherjee, who was on his maiden visit to the city after becoming President.

On judicial activism, he said judicial pronouncements should respect the boundaries that separated the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. “Judging the judges is a delicate and sensitive topic and one which has been viewed with some concern by jurists.” Legislation that carefully balanced the judiciary’s independence with the need to protect and preserve its credibility were a useful complement to the judiciary’s own efforts.

The judiciary’s credibility would depend on the judges’ quality. Therefore, selection and appointment of judges should conform to the highest of standards and should be based on well established principles, he said.