Law Commission marred with increasing vacancies

Body struggles with delays in preparing reports following lag in picking members; key issues before it relate to review of criminal justice system

Published: 21st August 2016 03:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st August 2016 03:22 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: THE Law Commission of India, which has been tasked with the work of looking at changes in law relating to Uniform Civil Code, sedition laws, revamping of bail laws, repeal of old laws, is unavailable to draft reports due to increasing vacancies.

The Commission, which had been headless for over six months since earlier chairperson Justice A P Shah’s tenure ended, had appointed Justice B S Chauhan in March 2016 and since then, the law body is struggling hard with delays in preparing reports. The lag in appointing members is hampering the process of drafting the reports.

In April, G Narayana Raju, a senior officer in the Indian Legal Service, was appointed as the interim Law Secretary, who is also a member of the Law Commission of India. Justice Ravi Tripathi and Dr Pawan Sharma, Secretary to the Commission, are the other two members. However, a few positions, including a member secretary, remains vacant.

As per norms, the Commission should have a chairperson, four full-time members and five other part-time members. Until these vacancies are filled, drafting of reports will take time. The 21st Law Commission of India, which was constituted in September 2015, has been asked by the government as well as the Supreme Court to hold consultations amongst various stakeholders on issues like sedition laws and Uniform Civil Code to name a few and submit the report at the earliest.

As and when it does start functioning to its capacity, the Law Commission will have its hands full. Among other issues, two key topics before the Commission relate to the review of the criminal justice system in India. Amid allegations of abuse and arbitrary use of sedition law, the Law Ministry has urged the Commission to look into section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, and a possible revamping of bail laws to provide a set of guidelines to judges while granting bail. The Supreme Court too has asked the Commission to examine whether tribunalisation was obstructing effective working of the apex court and to conduct a study and submit a report within a year.

Under Justice A P Shah’s chairmanship, the 20th Law Commission set the record and submitted 19 reports in two years. The reports and recommendations were on arbitration law, death penalty, commercial courts and electoral reforms. Of these, the commercial courts and amendments to arbitration law have already been incorporated in the country’s laws.

Five crucial tasks

  • Uniform Civil Code
  • Sedition laws
  • Tribunal functioning
  • Revamping of bail laws
  • Repeal of old laws
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