Judicial Branch of Government: Powers, Functions and Limitations of Judiciary

The Judicial arm of government can also be called the Judicial branch or organ of government.

The Judiciary is a branch of government which interprets the law in order to administer justice in line with the law. The main function of the Judiciary is to administer justice by way of interpreting the law. Courts are supposed, as such agencies must act independently to ensure the strict dispensation of justice.

The Judiciary is the only organ of government which does not go by election. Instead, the Justices, Judges, Magistrates and other court functionaries are constituted by appointment. Due to these appointments, the Executive exercises it’s powers against it; where the Justices are appointed and also removed by the President. For this reason, countries advocate for the Independence of the Judiciary. However, besides the depnedece of the Judiciary, it still performs it’s functions adequately.

Read more about the Independence of the Judiciary.

In this article, we shall examine the functions of the Judicial arm of government including their limitations.

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Roles and Responsibilities of the Judiciary

Interpretation of the law

The main function is to administer justice and deliver it as expeditiously, efficiently or in any other manner by way thereof which does not violate rights of others. It does this by looking at the law, interpreting it literally or connotatively to get what the law wants.

The legislature makes the law, the Judiciary interprets it, while the Executive enforce it.

The law, most times, is actually different from what it appears to be. One cannot understand it literally. This is why some people say “Lawyers are liers“. Lawyers and judges scrutinize a particular law before applying it to case to ensure that it does the justice which it is meant to do.

Judicial Review | Judicial arm of government

Judicial review is the process in which the Court validates or invalidates the laws made by the legislature. Whenever it embarks on Judicial review, it scrutinizes the laws to ensure that it’s consistent with the Constitution of the country. If the the Judiciary finds any of the laws inconsistent, it recommendeds its repeal or amendment at once. It will, then, be the function of the legislature to amend the law or repeal it.

Protection of the fundamental human rights

The Judiciary protects the fundamental human rights using the Constitution. When a person feels his right has been infringed upon, he can proceed to the Court to restore his rights.

Humans cannot exist without the fundamental rights. This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights outlined the human rights. The most important human right is the right to life. This is because it deals with human life. You can only claim other rights when you are alive.

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Punishment of law offenders

The Judiciary punishes the law breakers after interpreting and weighing the crime or offence committed. After weighing it, it strikes (gives punishment). It gives punishment according to what the law says. The law has a punishment attached to each offence or crime.

Checks on other arms government

All the arms of government checkmate on each other to ensure the moderate exercise of powers. The Judiciary checkmates on other arms by declaring the actions of either the Executive or Legislature unconstitutional.

It has the power to declare the actions of the President or his ministers unlawful. After that, it applies the necessary measures as the Constitution states.

Judicial arm of government in Nigeria | Powers

The roles and responsibilities of the Judiciary in Nigeria is not different from that we have above. However, there appears to be differences in the structure though with the same function in all places. For this reason, I found it important to comment on it a little.

The Judiciary is established by section 230-296 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria. It also established courts in Nigeria in section 6(5)(a)-(I). Section(j) allows the legislature to establish other relevant courts.

Moving on, functions of the Judicial arm of government in Nigeria is to ensure and promote fair administration under legal order. It has four functions which include:

  1. To enforce judicial orders.
  2. Receive a copy, but do not verify it at any point (on request), collect evidence from witnesses for trial or adjudication that provides support on an existing prosecution claim against another party with which the parties are amicably settled.
  3. Promote settlement agreements by accepting payments made directly as payment towards costs incurred relating other litigation between Parties through arbitration proceedings only.
  4. Provide guidance regarding dispute resolution procedures involving administrative action including injunctions related thereto.

Courts are established in different levels including the local government level to ensure justice in the grassroots.

Limitations of the Judicial arm of government

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The functions of the Judiciary as it has some impediments. In other words, it has some roadblocks which seems to stop it from doing somethings. However, such limitation is for the good of all the citizens and the government itself.

Some of these limitations include:

  • The Constitution
  • Other arms of government
  • Control by the executive arm

These factors affect it in different ways. To see full details on this, check the post, restrictions of the Judiciary.

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