NEW DELHI: The Modi administration is planning widespread legal reforms to reduce the backlog of cases, slash the volume of intra-government litigation and streamline various tribunals.
A new national litigation policy will spell out strict arbitration requirements for government departments in cases where they are appearing against each other, law minister DV Sadananda Gowda told ET in an interview.
“Around 35-40 per cent of all litigation in the country is various government departments appearing against each other,” he said. “The new national litigation policy envisages that this will not be encouraged to reach the courts, and resolved by arbitration before that happens.”
The law ministry has already passed an order asking that specialist lawyers — at least one in each government department — be deployed to rein in such instances, people aware of the development said. The minister said arbitration laws and procedures are also being amended to make it easier for such processes to take place in India.
The policy will help unclog the courts, Gowda said. “This will have a huge effect on pendency of cases, which lies at 2.64 crore cases across the country,” he said.
He confirmed that his ministry had got a Law Commission report on ways in which various quasi-judicial tribunals could be streamlined. “We will be bringing a Cabinet note on this soon,” he said. “We want to bring a comprehensive law on tribunals as it has been seen that there are delays due to legal challenges to rulings, unimplementable rulings by tribunals and unnecessary delays. There should be a uniformity in their working and that is what the new law will deal with.”
He did not elaborate on the shape of the new law, but added that it would hew to Modi’s vision. The PMO had sent a note a few months back seeking ways in which to avoid the duplication of mandates by tribunals and also merging some of them. This could involve removal of a layer of appeal in litigation, as was done for some tribunals, but it remains a controversial remedy.
Gowda defended the new system of picking judges under the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) system.
“The NJAC is not ultra vires of the Constitution and was passed by Parliament in unanimity,” he said. “Therefore, there is no question of it being a challenge to independence of the judiciary.” The matter is being heard by a Supreme Court constitutional bench.