Day 9 – Q.2 The doctrine of separation of powers is one of the most important cornerstones of India’s constitutional democracy. Elucidate.

  • IASbaba
  • December 6, 2022
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GS-2, Polity, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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The doctrine of separation of powers is one of the most important cornerstones of India’s constitutional democracy. Elucidate.

शक्तियों के पृथक्करण का सिद्धांत भारत के संवैधानिक लोकतंत्र के सबसे महत्वपूर्ण आधारशिलाओं में से एक है। स्पष्ट करें।


A simple straightforward question where candidates need to write doctrine of separation of power and how this is important cornerstone  of India’s constitutional democracy .


The separation of power is model of governance in which power are distributed among various units of governance. vibrant democracy always longs for clear demarcation of power .


The principle of separation of powers states that the executive, legislative, and judiciary powers of government should be divided into different branches and not concentrated in one.

  • These departments should be separate and distinct because of the corrupting nature of power. If the body that made the laws could also enforce them and adjudicate disputes, it would likely do so in a preferential manner, undermining the rule of law and basic fairness.
  • Power, in other words, must be checked, or it will be abused, and it is important to be imperative for the smooth functioning of a vibrant democracy.
  • Democratic government is characterized by the separation of powers:
  • There are ‘checks and balances’ within our political system that limit the power of each branch in order to prevent the abuse of power.
  • This system divides the state into three branches – the legislative, executive and judicial branch – and gives each the power to fulfil different tasks. These branches are also known as the ‘organs of government’.
  • Tasks are assigned to the different branches and their institutions in such a way that each of them can check the exercise of powers by the others. As a result, no one branch or institution can become so powerful as to control the system completely.
  • In Indian constitution, the separation of powers is supported through Article 50, Articles 121 and 211 and Article 361. Such steps, along with presence of checks and balances, help in creating a vibrant democracy in the following ways:
  • No single branch can act as a hegemony over the others, by influencing their members.
  • No single branch can endanger the democratic principles of the country
  • It provides a channel of grievance redressal for the citizens through an independent judiciary.
  • The executive remains accountable to the legislature for the implementation of policies and consequent results.
  • Helps in creating a feedback channel to the executive where the citizens can put forward their demands in the Assembly, without being afraid of the authorities.
  • The separation of powers is important because it provides a vital system of ‘checks and balances’:
  • Firstly, it ensures that the different branches control each other. This is intended to make them accountable to each other – these are the ‘checks’;
  • Secondly, the separation of powers divides power between the different branches of government – these are the ‘balances’. Balance aims to ensure that no individual or group of people in government is ‘all powerful’. Power is shared and not concentrated in one branch.

Judicial Pronouncements Upholding Separation of Powers Doctrine-

  • Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973): In this case, the SC held that the amending power of the Parliament is subject to the basic features of the Constitution. So, any amendment violating the basic features will be declared unconstitutional.
  • Swaran Singh Case (1998): In this case, the SC held the UP Governor’s pardon of a convict unconstitutional.
  • In Indira Nehru Gandhi V Raj Narain, Ray, CJ observed that in the Indian Constitution there is a separation of powers in a broad sense only. A rigid separation of powers as under the American Constitution or under the Australian Constitution does not apply to India.
  • In P Kannadasan V State of Tamil Nadu, it was held, “the Constitution has invested the Constitutional Courts with the power to invalidate laws made by Parliament and the state legislatures transgressing Constitutional limitations.
  • Where an Act made by the legislature is invalidated by the Courts on the basis of legislative incompetence, the legislature cannot enact a law declaring that the judgement of the Court shall not operate; it cannot overrule or annul the decision of the Court.
  • But this does not mean that the legislature which is competent to enact the law cannot re-enact the law. Similarly, it is open to the legislature to alter the basis of the judgement.
  • The new law or the amended law can be challenged on other grounds but not on the ground that it seeks to in effectuate or circumvent the decision of the court. This is what is meant by “checks and balance” inherent in a system of government incorporating separation of powers.

Checks and Balances-

  • The strict separation of powers that was envisaged in the classical sense is not practicable anymore, but the logic behind this doctrine is still valid. The logic behind this doctrine is of polarity rather than strict classification meaning thereby that the centre of authority must be dispersed to avoid absolutism. Hence, the doctrine can be better appreciated as a doctrine of checks and balances.
  • The doctrine of separation of powers in today’s context of liberalization, privatization and globalization cannot be interpreted to mean either “separation of powers” or “checks and balance” or “principles of restraint”, but “community of powers” exercised in the spirit of cooperation by various organs of the state in the best interest of the people.


The separation of powers doctrine also intends to improve the energy and efficiency of government by allowing each branch to specialize, in effect, in order to fulfil its unique function. That is why we also often refer to the ‘separation and balance of powers’. The main purpose of the separation of powers is therefore to prevent the abuse of power.

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