NEW DELHI: "The judiciary spends its maximum time on us. Us does not mean Modi, but the government.” This is how Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31 had summarized the government major role on a clogged judicial system.
Modi’s comment wasn’t out of the blue. In the backdrop, his office is quietly working on Judicial reform and recently, a Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister Office (PMO) wrote to various concerned ministries seeking suggestions on various steps with a view to bring down pendency and reduce the government litigation.
According to top sources, the Ministries have been told to take up the task-consider to be one of the most significant pushes of 2017-on priority.
" The PMO is pressing hard for providing information expeditiously," the note reviewed by the Express said.
Since, the government litigation constitutes nearly 46% of all the court cases, the PMO is pushing the judicial reform and national litigation policy under the supervision of Law Ministry.
Time to Re-write The Rules
PMO has also received suggestions from various groups, stakeholders and policymakers. The Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry in a letter to Prime Minister Modi has asked for amendments in the food adulteration act and making civil and economic crimes punishable by a special police force as done in the metro cities.
“ Supreme Court and Law Ministry should sit together to evaluate the system of working by the courts…The limitation of time is given for filing the suit in the court, but no limitation of time is given for finalizing the cases by the courts…overhauling the legal system is the single most important reform the economy needs and it’s multiplier effects will be dramatic,” Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & industry wrote to PM further adding that all pending cases up to Supreme Court level should be settled within a period of two years.
According to a note prepared by the Ministry of Commerce, the commercial lawsuit between businesses in the Indian Courts is among the lengthiest costly and complex. It takes 1,420 days to enforce a contract in India and costs about 39.6 % of the claim value and 46 procedures owing to long gestation period from filing to final judgment.
“ The trial and judgment in India almost takes about 1095 days and enforcement of the judgment takes 305 days. A high cost of engaging lawyers and other court costs increases the burden on the businesses,” The ministry note said recommending a framework where in time limits for taking decision are to be prescribed like Slovak republic where a new legislation was introduced for disposal of cases in less than 60 days.
Another recommendation to ease the burden on judicial system is to set up specialized commercial fast track courts similar to that of tax, certain employment matters etc. to expedite the enforcement and a definite and predictable time frame for rehabilitation and liquidation process.
“ The district courts presently have to deal with a broad range of civil, criminal and commercial cases,” the note said while suggesting that government may examine the provisions of not more than one adjournment for each party and enforce it.
Remove Contradicting Laws
A suggestion submitted to PMO said there is little internal harmony or consistency among plethora of laws, rules, orders and administrative instructions and many laws contradict each other while some areas are over-regulated resulting in end number of court, tribunal and quasi- judicial cases.
“ There is a need to make time barring provisions in all civil and criminal laws to enact the judgment by each and every court like Taluka & district court, Session’s District & Judge Court (Appeal), High Court and the Supreme Court,” the note said.
“Debate over judicial reform besides controversy over appointments has been simmering at the top level the government in recent few months and has often been discussed in the cabinet meetings chaired by the Prime Minister. The effort is to make the judicial justice quick and just,” top sources told the Express.