The law ministry has begun working on an ambitious project that could sharply reduce the burden on courts over the next few years and shift the focus from backlog of cases to the quality of justice delivery, top sources in the ministry of law and justice told Hindustan Times on Monday.
One of the top proposals being considered by a high-level committee is to place officials of the ministry and the Indian Legal Service (ILS) as advisors in every important government department to impart legal advice and pre-empt litigation at the point of origin.
“Administrative orders are often passed unmindful of the principles of legal justice or jurisdiction leading to writs and litigation. The idea is to make these orders legally watertight at the point of origin rather than tackling litigation in courts,” an official said. Right now, ministries and departments seek the law ministry’s advice on different matters but the ministry’s plan is to place its officials as law officers in each department to offer in-house legal advice faster and more frequently.
Other proposals include amending existing legislation and increasing the cadre strength of the ILS. Explaining the rationale of the exercise minister of state for law and justice PP Chaudhary said, “The government and the judiciary’s goal is to make the delivery of justice better and faster. We will look at how to amend existing legislations and offer relief to the courts.”
The multi-pronged strategy is being given shape by a group formed last week that includes Chaudhary and secretaries of the departments of justice, legal affairs and legislation among other top ministry officials.
The committee will suggest changes in existing laws and procedures to reduce the burden of litigation, an official said. “Currently, of the 3.28 crore pending cases in the courts nearly 2.3 crore pertain to offences under the Motor Vehicles Act or the Negotiable Instruments Act. We will look at the two legislations and suggest changes to tackle this burden,” a member on the committee who attended its first meeting last Wednesday said. A possible route would be to create separate courts for traffic offences and cases pertaining to cheques bouncing which form a bulk of the backlog.
As of now, the backlog of cases is attributed to lack of manpower in the courts and not because of poor implementation of laws. The government’s plan is to plug the causes for excessive litigation, sources said.