A Parliamentary panel has slammed the judiciary saying it was giving “preference to high-profile corporate disputes” over cases concerning common people leading to long delays of several decades in disposal of cases.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which is currently examining the government proposal to increase the number of Supreme Court judges from 26 to 31, said corporate tussles were taking away a lot of precious time of courts. It is likely to place its recommendations in the Monsoon session of parliament.
“The government proposal to increase the judges number has some merits, but clarity is required why was there a need to have more judges? If it means that high profile corporate disputes would get preference then there is no use of doing it,” committee chairman E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan said.
“The appeals by parties unhappy with decisions of tribunals set-up through special enactments like TRAI, SEBI, Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, etc., were consuming a lot of time of the Supreme Court”, he said.
The increasing trend of frivolous Public Interest Litigations filed by big industrial houses to settle scores with their rivals was responsible for rising number of pending cases, Natchiappan said.
Nearly 50,000 cases were pending in the Supreme Court alone and majority of these cases have been in various courts sincethe last 20 years. Poor people who do not have access to highly paid lawyers keep suffering for decades, he said.
The committee is of the view that Supreme Court be asked to fix a higher court fees for corporate cases before these are admitted for hearing. “Why should the common man pay for cases involving money and other disputes between big industrial houses which incur a huge cost to the nation by taking a lot of precious time of courts”, Natchiappan said.
The committee has felt the need to set-up a special corporate bench in the Supreme Court for deciding such cases. “The Supreme Court should set an example by delivering quick justice to the common people. The notion that only rich and powerful can get relief from the highest court of the country needs to be dispelled at the earliest”, he said.
The committee is likely to recommend steps for out of court settlements of corporate disputes by having clear guidelines for arbitrations. It has asked the law ministry for a fresh arbitration policy with regulations for arbitrators, who should be decided by the CJI.