Judiciary must be allowed to make decisions based solely on interpretation of the Constitution and other laws, Supreme Court judge Justice Hima Kohli said last week..It is this interpretation that offers a guarantee for the Constitution to remain a living document that evolves with time, while also being rooted in its fundamental values and principles, she said.Independence of judiciary is not only a fundamental right of citizens but also an essential condition for maintaining a vibrant democratic social order, the judge opined."We are all aware of the critical role that an independent judiciary plays in upholding the rule of law and protecting the fundamental rights of citizens. The judiciary is known as the conscience keeper of the Constitution. Its independence is pivotal for the smooth governance of a democratic system," she said..Various organs of the State while engaging in meaningful conversation should respect each other's independence, she underscored."The judiciary must be allowed to interpret the Constitution and make decisions based solely on the Constitution and the laws. It is this interpretation that offers a guarantee for the Constitution to remain a living document that keeps on evolving over time, while remaining rooted in its fundamental values and principles. Therefore, having a robust constitutional dialogue in India, where all the branches of the State engage in a meaningful conversation with each other and at the same time, respect each other's independence and the respective delineated roles, is the best thing for a vibrant democracy," the top court judge said. .She was speaking at a symposium organized on March 4 by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in collaboration with Bharat Chamber of Commerce and the Indian Council of Arbitration in Kolkata, on the topic Independent Judiciary: Critical for a Vibrant Democracy..She explained that the concept of independence of the judiciary is two-fold.(i) Institutional independence of judiciary: - Institutional or collective independence of judiciary means that the judicial set up or the judicial institution is independent as a collective whole or a unit.(ii) Individual independence of judiciary:- This term implies that every judge is free to decide matters before her in accordance with her assessment of the facts and understanding of the law, without any improper influence, inducement, or pressure, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason..Further, she highlighted the judiciary's role in providing checks and balances on the other branches of the State as a key aspect of democracy."The judiciary's role of acting as a check and balance on the other wings of the State is a key aspect of democracy. Its power of judicial review allows it to declare legislative enactments as unconstitutional and strike down executive actions that are in violation of the law. The judiciary's ability to interpret and apply the law impartially promotes the legitimacy of democratic institutions and protects citizens' rights and freedom," she stated..The apex court judge further said that independence of the judiciary is not just a principle, but a moral imperative, especially in a country like India, which is described in the preamble to the Constitution as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.Summing up, Justice Kohli underscored that the judiciary plays a critical role in ensuring government and public institutions remain accountable, transparent, and adhere to constitutional principles.To discharge its constitutional duties effectively, the judiciary must be independent and impartial, free from any external or internal influences, Justice Kohli emphasised.